Dance Training

What It Takes to Make It As A Commercial Dancer

Pace University students. Photo by Eduardo Patino, Courtesy Pace University

The commercial dance world is full of exciting opportunities for dancers: music videos, Broadway shows, international concert tours. But how do dancers develop the skill set needed to survive in such a fast-paced industry? College is one option, and a few programs focus specifically on commercial dance. Here's how Studio School, Los Angeles and Pace University prepare students for a demanding career:


1. Versatility

Photo by Chandler Kravitz, Courtesy Studio School

Commercial dancers need to be prepared to tackle a wide variety of gigs, so students take classes like tap, circus arts, hip hop, ballroom, aerial work, improvisation and more.

2. Entrepreneurial skills

Photo by Eduardo Patino, Courtesy Pace

Image and online presence are key to landing jobs in the commercial world. Students learn about branding, marketing and social media as part of their curriculums.

3. Networking

Photo by Eduardo Patino, Courtesy Pace

Pace students can travel to Los Angeles and meet with agents, who regularly attend showcases and performances. Talent agency McDonald/Selznick Associates helped shape Studio School's curriculum, so students are learning skills that agents wish their clients knew.

4. Acting chops

Photo by Chandler Kravitz, Courtesy Studio School

Studio School students take 26 credits of on-camera acting technique, and Pace students study acting and singing.

The Conversation
Career Advice
Tony Testa leads a rehearsal during his USC New Movement Residency. Photo by Mary Mallaney/Courtesy USC

The massive scale of choreographing an Olympic opening ceremony really has no equivalent. The hundreds of performers, the deeply historic rituals and the worldwide audience and significance make it a project like no other.

Just consider the timeline: For most live TV events like award shows, choreographers usually take a month or two to put everything together. For the Olympics, the process can take up to four years.

But this kind of challenge is exactly what Los Angeles choreographer Tony Testa is looking for. He's currently creating a submission to throw his hat in the ring to choreograph for Beijing's 2022 Winter Games.

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Cover Story
Photo by Jayme Thornton

In a studio high above Lincoln Center, Taylor Stanley is rehearsing a solo from Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer. As the pianist plays Prokofiev's plangent melody, Stanley begins to move, his arms forming crisp, clean lines while his upper body twists and melts from one position to the next.

All you see is intention and arrival, without a residue of superfluous movement. The ballet seems to depict a man searching for something, struggling against forces within himself. Stanley doesn't oversell the struggle—in fact he's quite low-key—but the clarity with which he executes the choreography draws you in.

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