How to Use Job Boards and Social Media to Find Work
Instead of relying on cattle call auditions, dancers starting a professional career are increasingly using online platforms like job board sites and social media to find work in performing, as well as choreographing, teaching and arts management. Theresa Knudson, co-founder and executive director of Ballet22, appreciates that dance companies are increasingly moving away from mass auditions with required fees to attend, which can make booking work financially and geographically challenging. “Being able to see a posting online, sending in your reel and resumé, and then being asked to come in for personal time is much more in line with how the corporate world works,” she says. Knowing where to look is key, so three college grads shared their experience on finding dance work via the internet.
Where to Find Work
Payton Millis, a freelance performer and an Oklahoma City University dance performance alum, primarily finds work through Backstage.com and Playbill.com. Since graduating in 2020, she has performed at places such as Six Flags Over Texas and Silver Dollar City. While Backstage does require a subscription, Millis appreciates how it allows performers to apply for jobs directly through the site. “It’s nice because you can upload all your videos, your resumé and your headshot to have them ready when you see a job you want to apply for,” she says.
Sarah Farnsley, a freelance dancer with credits across Europe and the U.S., danced with English National Ballet, Ballet Memphis and other companies before receiving her MA in dance politics and sociology from the University of Roehampton. She now resides in Indianapolis, where she is focusing on choreography and dancer advocacy. Farnsley finds that proactively seeking out opportunities has helped her book gigs. “I’ve found the websites that are most useful, I bookmark them, and I look daily,” she says. For performing opportunities in the U.K. and U.S., she uses au-di-tions.com and dancingopportunities.com, and has recently used Dance/USA for work outside of performing.
While some sites post opportunities from various countries, there are others that are central to one geographical area. For instance, dancersgroup.org shares performance and job opportunities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Knudson cites Dancers’ Group as the “online hub critical for finding out what’s going on and who’s providing work.” Platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed may be helpful for dancers looking for work outside of performing, such as in teaching or arts administration positions. “Indeed is also great for finding survival jobs in between gigs,” says Millis, who has used the site for booking retail work.
“Being present on social media is important when you’re a freelancer,” says Ballet22 co-founder and executive director Theresa Knudson. Ballet22 highlights men, transgender and nonbinary dancers on pointe, and the company has recruited dancers via social media by looking at relevant hashtags. She has found that many people use social media and DMs to share opportunities and encourages dancers to post their skills online. “Create a portfolio for yourself so that people can find you and, when you do reach out to people, you have a portfolio to send to show your work,” says Knudson.
Oklahoma City University offers a course in which dancers learn how to cultivate their online presences and build the portfolios they’ll need after graduation. Payton Millis, an OKCU alum, found that having an Instagram profile with her website linked on it helped her make connections and land a recent role. Freelance dancer Sarah Farnsley says that following the right groups on Facebook and joining newsletters and mailing lists can lead to commercial and modeling gigs.
If there’s a company or organization you’re interested in that doesn’t have auditions or job listings posted, send an email with your resumé and reel. Ask them to tell you more about the company and find out if you can take class. Both Sarah Farnsley and Theresa Knudson have found that reaching out and connecting with people online has led to work down the road. “Build that relationship,” says Farnsley, “and when opportunities come up, you’re on their mind.”