Kayla Kalbfleisch teaching at 24 Seven Dance Convention. Photo courtesy 24 Seven

What Does It Take to Get Noticed at a Dance Convention?

Conventions can offer myriad opportunities, from making connections to landing college scholarships. But how can a dancer stand out in a sea of talent? We turned to some of our favorite convention faculty to find out.


Kayla Kalbfleisch: Jazz teacher at 24 Seven Dance Convention

Kayle Kalbfleisch demonstrates to a room full of students

Courtesy 24 Seven Dance Convention

"A dancer who is willing to take risks stylistically will always catch my eye. In convention auditions, there are so many technical dancers in the room. The ones who pay attention to detail, yet are confident enough to bring their own individuality, a boldness to the choreography, always stand out to me."

Jason Luks: Tap teacher at New York City Dance Alliance

Tap teacher Jason Luks high fives his students

Courtesy NYCDA

"So often in a convention tap class, dancers are taking class on carpet, or sometimes even in sneakers. I always look for weight placement. You have to show me that your body is leaning into the right place. If you put the room on mute, I would still be able to know who's doing the correct footwork just by looking at where the body is and how much they're picking up their feet."

Mallauri Esquibel: Ballet and lyrical teacher at NRG danceProject

Mallauri Esquibel teaching

Robert Kelley, Courtesy NRG

"I love when dancers use their voices. We meet and see hundreds of kids a weekend. I love when a dancer introduces themselves to me after class. Those little moments make lasting impressions."

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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