Without an Equity Card, You May Have Trouble at Broadway Auditions
If you're looking for your first Broadway contract, getting your foot in the door is tricky. Auditions are structured to prioritize members of the Actors' Equity Association, the union for stage professionals. There are several ways to become a member: Sign a contract for an Equity show; be a member of a sister union, like AGMA or SAG-AFTRA; or accrue "Equity points" by working at specific theaters for at least 25 weeks. But in the meantime, dancers face serious challenges.
Getting Seen Isn't Guaranteed
When a show holds an Equity chorus call (known as an ECC), union members are guaranteed to be seen. Non-Equity dancers can attend but are given the chance to try out at the creative team's discretion and only if time allows once all Equity members have been seen.
"I remember times where I would sit for hours," says Tommy McKiernan, who later got his Equity break with the national tour of Seussical. "I'd have to frantically text someone to cover my shift at work." On some days, McKiernen would finish bartending after midnight, wake up at 4 am to audition and stay there all day, only to have the moderator announce that they wouldn't be seeing non-Equity dancers. When multiple auditions he was interested in fell on the same day, it was impossible to predict which calls might have time for non-Equity dancers.
The First to Arrive Isn't Always First to Audition
Before the Equity monitor arrives, there's no set system that decides audition order for non-Equity performers. The first dancer to show up (many hours before the ECC starts) often creates an unofficial sign-up sheet. But because the list is unofficial, there can be issues. That's what former Disney Cruise Line dancer Sarah Cooper learned when she went to an ECC for Wicked. "A friend and I got there early and signed up as numbers seven and eight," she says. "Whoever volunteered to transfer the list threw it out and started their own so they could be first to audition. We ended up as numbers 80 or 90."
You May Wait With No Warm-up Space
At Equity calls, union members are given priority to holding rooms and warm-up areas. If there isn't enough space, non-Equity dancers must wait elsewhere. If your name is called and you don't hear it, you miss your chance. "There were auditions I didn't even warm up for because I was afraid of missing my name," Sarah Cooper says. "I would just pray there wouldn't be a battement in the combo."
When Timothy Cooper started auditioning, he got yelled at for trying to use a restroom reserved for Equity members. "I had to go all the way downstairs just to use the bathroom," says Cooper, whose credits include the U.S. tour of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.
Are We Asking Too Much of Dancers?
Non-Equity members sacrifice time and money—often missing shifts at their survival jobs—in hopes of being seen at an ECC. "You put all your energy into something that very likely won't work out," says Paige Grimard, who got her Equity card after a friend connected her to an off-Broadway callback. If you do make it into the room, "the Equity dancers clearly know everyone," says Grimard. "When you see a dancer hug the choreographer you think, What am I even doing here?" She now tries to make Broadway hopefuls feel welcome. "I remember how taxing it all is, so the very least I can do is be encouraging."
Most Broadway dance calls are Equity chorus calls, but they're not the only way to get cast.
• Non-Equity calls for non-Equity shows. A note of caution: They're usually packed because of the number of nonunion dancers.
• Agency-connected auditions. These are held specifically for dancers whose agents recommend them. If your agent gets you in the room, you've got a shot at being seen even as a non-Equity performer.
• Work your connections. If you have a friend involved or you've worked with a choreographer who's doing the show, you might get to attend the callback of an ECC without an Equity card.
Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.