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 Creative Process
A Ladies of Hip-Hop battle. Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop

Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.

Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.

On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."

Keep reading... Show less
The USC Kaufman graduating class with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Gus Ruelas/USC

Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.

Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:

Keep reading... Show less
Editors’ List: The Goods
Unsplash

What's better on your morning commute than listening to a podcast, you ask? We'd say, listening to a dance podcast!

Lucky for us, there are more dance podcasts than ever. We're here to provide a guide to our current top dance podcast picks.

Keep reading... Show less
The Creative Process
Rena Most at work backstage. Photo courtesy ABT

Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.

Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox