For many, attending dance conventions is the cherry on top of their training—the boost that takes them from talented dancer to bonafide artist. But it's not just the dance classes that make the difference. It's opportunities like informal networking and industry seminars that give you a leg up. What's offered, and how can you take advantage of these extras?
You Better Sing
At Ignite Dance Live, a "Music-Live" class is offered for dancers to learn how to dance and sing for film and television. Two cameras are set up in the ballroom, and dancers are taught the chorus of a song to sing while performing choreography. By the end, students know a one-minute song and dance, and how to sell it to the cameras. The instructor also teaches proper set etiquette and the intricacies of show business.
Industry Dos and Don'ts
At Launch, The Competition & Convention, a range of workshops is offered on how to break into and succeed in this profession. Dancers can take courses like "The Road to Professional Representation," where they learn how to choose and create performance opportunities that are worthwhile in the eyes of managers, agents and casting directors; or "Interview Techniques," where dancers can learn how to appropriately represent their talents to decision makers.
The convention also offers a workshop on how to network. "If there is a moment for dancers to interact with teachers, judges and choreographers, it's important that they are confident in knowing when and how to speak," Launch Talent director Leesa Csolak says. Dancers can also take classes on promotion, including resumé writing and headshots. "We teach the dancers what a real headshot is, and what the image should say," says Csolak.
Let's Get Digital
These days, most conventions encourage dancers to use social media to stay in touch, and interact with their brand. At Ignite, teachers help students understand not just how to grow their audiences, but how to stay connected with their favorite choreographers. "We tell students to post their weekend choreography on Instagram, use hashtags and tag their teachers," says Rachelle Rak, the co-creator of Ignite along with Sandra Coyte. "Most choreographers are really flattered by that, and it can help you stay connected."
Those who win first place at Ignite's competition are offered private, one-on-one instruction with a teacher (rather than a trophy), where they can learn even more about personal marketing. "It's about learning to present yourself as a young entrepreneur," Rak says.
Capitalize on Seminars
To soak up what special workshops have to offer, come prepared. "Dancers should let go of their inhibitions," Csolak says. "These sessions are a safe space to ask questions. Notes are always a good idea, and for most workshops, downloadable worksheets are available as well." Depending on the venue, Csolak says it might be appropriate to bring a small, energy-boosting snack with you for added focus.
Leave an Impression
At Showstopper, dancers are given 10 to 15 minutes after each class to make personal connections with their teachers. Director of marketing and media relations Nikki Cole points out that it's an incredible opportunity to run your questions by some of the most experienced artists in the industry. The teachers love it, she says, and are more than happy to share their experiences.
Take the time to get to know new dancers, and don't be afraid to hit "follow" on their Instagrams. Cole says, "Once you leave, you'll create a really solid, supportive dance community online."
Remember, choreographers tend to hire dancers they already know when casting—and often trust their dancers' recommendations. Making connections now might just be laying the foundation for your future dream job.
Conventions also offer a chance to strengthen existing relationships. Take advantage by going to dinner together, or even just hanging out at the pool.