Shate´ L. Edwards is a choreographer, writer, and entrepreneur. In addition to choreographing productions and teaching classes both domestically and abroad, she is also the founder of The Working Dancer, a professional development company for aspiring and early career dancers.
When you're a foreigndancer, 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.
IABD's 2019 men's ballet audition. Photo by Eric A. Smith of CREW Productions, Courtesy IABD
Since they were first offered in 2016, the International Association of Blacks in Dance's ballet auditions for dancers of color have sparked much debate within the dance community. Some believe these auditions create valuable opportunities for dancers of color while others disagree, even going so far as calling them slightly racist.
Ezra Hurwitz's videos creatively capture upcoming works for companies like American Ballet Theatre. Image courtesy Hurwitz
These days, it's hard to scroll through social media without seeing a beautifully produced dance video. While artists and companies may have once relied on flyers and posters to promote their performances, video has become the most effective way to reach the broadest audience possible. But with so many high-quality videos competing for attention online, only the most compelling content stands out from the crowd—and converts to ticket sales.
Never did I think I'd see the day when I'd outgrow dance. Sure, I knew my life would have to evolve. In fact, my dance career had already taken me through seasons of being a performer, a choreographer, a business owner and even a dance professor. Evolution was a given. Evolving past dancing for a living, however, was not.
Transitioning from a dance career involved just as much of a process as building one did. But after I overcame the initial identity crisis, I realized that my dance career had helped me develop strengths that could be put to use in other careers. For instance, my work as a dance professor allowed me to discover my knack for connecting with students and helping them with their careers, skills that ultimately opened the door for a pivot into college career services.
Here's how five dance skills can land you a new job—and help you thrive in it:
Andrew Eccles is known for his dynamic shots of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Here, Rachael McLaren.
My first dance photo shoot was an epic fail. The photographer was professional and we had a great working relationship, but I made the rookie mistake of failing to thoroughly prepare. I didn't understand the purpose of the photos and how they should serve my career, so I ended up with images that were beautiful but that belonged on a model comp card, not in a dance portfolio.
Dancers need photos that allow viewers to get a sense of their style, abilities and professionalism, and help them gain more visibility. Yet, dance shots can be incredibly difficult to get right. Avoid these five common mistakes.
When you're training, it can feel like all you need to succeed in the dance world is artistic talent and drive. But once you make the leap into the professional world, you may find out just how much you don't know about making it as a dancer.
When I started my professional career, I soon realized that all the time and money my parents and I had invested in my training still hadn't fully prepared me to make it as a freelance dancer—especially one who had plenty of bills and student loans to pay. Only after years of trial and error, failures and mega-hustle did I start to figure out how to navigate professional dance life in a remotely sustainable way. Here are a few lessons I've learned along the way.