5 Self-Promotion Mistakes You Should Never Make
From dancers to presenters to directors, no one in dance is exempt from the task of building an audience. But keeping up with email, social media and other marketing efforts can chip away at precious time spent honing your craft. Add in the fear of coming across as vain or self-absorbed, and it can be hard to know how to begin.
Mistake: Posting Too Often
For artists used to giving 100 percent, it can take time to learn a more measured approach. "Know when to take a break and let it settle," says Maleek Washington, a performer formerly with Abraham.In.Motion and Sleep No More. "If you have a good product, you don't have to push it so much." But, he adds, there's no substitute for time spent networking offline. "If you support other artists by going to see their work, they'll support you back. Make yourself known, not just on screen, but also face-to-face."
Maleek Washington, Photo by Nomee Photography
Mistake: All Work and No Play
"People often put their work before their personalities," says Matthew Powell, creator of the instructional video Find Your Fifth. "I love to cook and go fishing. Sharing those things breaks up the 'Me! Me! Me!' aspect of what I'm doing professionally." Choreographer and marketing consultant Jamie Benson points out that the two aren't necessarily at odds: "Dancers think of branding as this ugly beast-monster, and it doesn't have to be. The more authentic you are, the more effective your outreach."
Mistake: Too Much Info
After pouring every ounce of yourself into your work, the boiled-down communication of good marketing can feel trivializing. "There is a tension between being immersed in the creative process, and then having to promote it," says Renata Sheppard, artistic director of Experimental Film Virginia. "You'll want to give so much background, and it's important to trust in peeling away and presenting what you're doing in its simplest form." Benson points out a mistake he sees all too often: taking language written for grant proposals and repurposing it for press releases, social media and marketing. "The more obtuse, vague and aspirational your copy is, the less it will matter to the people you want to reach. Engage people on an emotional level, and tell them what's in it for them."
Jamie Benson, Photo by Meghann Street
Mistake: Wasting Energy
Learn what's working. Nearly all social media platforms and communication tools offer analytics to gauge the effectiveness of your strategies. New methods aren't necessarily better than traditional ones, and even the biggest dance organizations don't have the capacity to utilize them all. "Don't think you have to have a presence on every channel," says Benson.
Mistake: Mindlessly Sharing Photos
You can never be too careful when it comes to imagery. Margaret Mullin, soloist at Pacific Northwest Ballet, admits to being "pretty neurotic" about what she shares with more than 7,200 Instagram followers. She's found that Repost for Instagram is least likely to crop photos awkwardly, or plaster unsightly banners on them—modifications likely to annoy the professional photographers who originated the posts she shares. She errs on the side of asking anyone in her photos for approval, always gives credit and is mindful of how her content and timing relates to PNB's own social media.
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.