Conventions can offer myriad opportunities, from making connections to landing college scholarships. But how can a dancer stand out in a sea of talent? We turned to some of our favorite convention faculty to find out.
Justice Moore, right from center, in Hamilton. Joan Marcus, Courtesy Moore
June 3, 2016, was a big day for Justice Moore: It was her 19th birthday, high school graduation and the day she found out she'd been cast in the ensemble of Hamilton's Chicago production. Her controlled, versatile approach to movement, honed on the competition circuit, has only brought her more opportunities since then. Last summer, Andy Blankenbuehler chose Moore for a workshop for his new musical, Only Gold, and this March, she transferred her much-loved "bullet" track to Hamilton on Broadway.
Assisting gave Eliah Furlong taste of the professional dance world. Photo by Beau Austin, courtesy Furlong
Adding another commitment to your already busy schedule may be the last thing you want to do as a college student. But assisting at dance conventions can offer valuable experiences you won't find in a classroom. Convention assistants help students pick up choreography and rub shoulders with industry influencers. For some, it's the perfect addition to their college experience—but balancing the demands of both isn't easy.
A panel at Youth America Grand Prix. Photo by Rachel Papo for Pointe
At competitions, the people who are scoring you can be the biggest industry leaders in the room. But is there a way to network with them with these judges? Three top competition judges share their advice on how to do it in the most strategic way—and the pet peeves that turn them off.
The iconic New York City dance studio Steps on Broadway has a new leader coming on board: Joe Lanteri. The New York City Dance Alliance founder will be Steps' new co-owner and executive director.
"For me, it's a big full circle," says Lanteri, who used to take class at Steps when he first moved to New York City, and started teaching there in the mid-1980s. The 4:30 p.m. Tuesday/Thursday Advanced Intermediate Jazz slot he held down for many years taught a slew of young talent—including choreographers-to-be like Jessica Lang and Sergio Trujillo. "As a young teacher, Steps was a platform for me to travel the world giving master classes; it became the underlying foundation for what I'm doing now in my life."
Jacalyn Tatro is headed to Juilliard this fall. Photo courtesy NYCDA/Evolve Photo & Video
Throughout her years growing up at New York City Dance Alliance, Jacalyn Tatro has dominated the podium: In 2011, she was National Mini Outstanding Dancer, in 2014 she won National Teen Outstanding Dancer and in 2016 National Senior Outstanding Dancer.
It's easy to see why: Tatro dances with a maturity beyond her years—her performance quality has the kind of nuance that usually only comes from years of experience. She is just as skilled at whipping out high extensions and deep pliés as she is at giving each step its own flavor.
"I don't wanna go to dance!" As a kid, these were my famous words.
When packing into the car for the interminable ride to the studio, I would kick and scream so much that I earned the nickname "The Hornet." I am so glad my parents put up with my sting, because looking back, it was just the going part that I didn't like. The dance part, I loved. I always have.
"It's hard not to get too hurt in this profession."
Ann Reinking got real earlier this month at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Bright Lights Shining Stars gala. She was being honored as a 2017 NYCDA Foundation Ambassador for the Arts, and her speech was so moving that we had to share the entire thing with you.
Our favorite part?
"It is as Bob [Fosse] said: Our profession is as important as saving a human life. Because for two hours we get the privilege of taking someone's mind off their problems, of making them laugh, making them cry, if that's what the story is about. But to flush their emotion through their own inner spirit so that they can go out and face the world again and solve yet another problem."
For a young dancer, a job as a convention assistant can be career-making. As you travel and demonstrate alongside your favorite teachers, you have the chance to show top choreographers you're hire-worthy, actively build professional skills, and gain access to classes and connections that are truly priceless. That's why conventions are looking for the cream of the crop to fill these coveted roles on the convention circuit.
Of course, some conventions only award assistantships as part of title wins. But there are other ways to land the job—if you have versatility, maturity, charisma and a good amount of patience.
YAGP competitor Bianca Scudamore. Photo by VAM, courtesy YAGP
By itself, a competition trophy won't really prepare you for professional life. Sometimes it is not even a plus. "Some directors are afraid that a kid who wins a lot of medals will come to their company with too many expectations," says Youth America Grand Prix artistic director Larissa Saveliev. "Directors want to mold young dancers to fit their company."
More valuable than taking home a title from a competition is the exposure you can get and the connections you can make while you're there. But how can you take advantage of the opportunity?
When I saw Kele Roberson dancing at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's college scholarship audition, I only had to watch a deep plié before writing down a 10 out of 10 on his score sheet and scribbling a giant star next to his name. Before he even had a chance to show off his incredible lines, I was mesmerized by his nuanced grace in even the simplest of movements.
He walked away from that audition with NYCDA Foundation's Dance Magazine College Scholarship worth $25,000 to the college of his choice, which happened to be Juilliard, where he was planning to attend this fall.
But shortly after winning, it turns out, his plans changed. I caught up with him earlier today to find out what happened.
Jakob Karr says that dressing comfortably is key. PC NYCDA/Evolve Photo
Whether you're attending your first convention or your 20th, spending a weekend in a crowded ballroom with hundreds of other dancers can be equal parts exciting, intimidating and overwhelming. Conventions are a chance to learn new styles, take classes from top teachers and network with the people who may someday hire you. So how do you take advantage of this opportunity and stand out from the crowd?