DANCERS' NEXT STEPS
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Overview

Dancers' Next Steps' primary focus is on providing aspiring elite dancers with high quality resumes, cover letters, and other written materials (as needed) for a company job search, international or prestigious national competition, summer intensive program, conservatory program, or college application. Guidance as to the appropriate BFA or BA/BS in Dance programs and assistance with the applications and essays is a significant part of this process. In addition, Dancers' Next Steps continues to work with its dancers after they have achieved their initial goals so that there is continuity over the course of a career.

 

In-Depth Interview and Resume Development

The first step in working with Dancers' Next Steps is a consultation with owner Wendy Wicks to discuss the dancer’s goals and plans. Dancers' Next Steps offers a free one-hour consultation, in person or by telephone, to review the dancer’s background and determine if an association is advisable. The various programs and costs will be outlined at this time. 

Some of the questions that might be explored with the dancer include:

 
  • What are your long-term and short-term goals?
  • Are you considering a BFA or BA/BS in Dance program? Company? Both?
  • With whom are you studying presently?
  • Does the program have a noteworthy national and international presence?
  • Does the program offer an outstanding summer intensive with guest teachers?
  • Are you planning to compete at the international level?
  • Do you know which competitions you should pursue? Are you ready?
  • Do you know what to put on your resume?
  • Have you considered private coaching?

If it is determined that an association will be beneficial, the next step in the process will be the creation of a resume that will outline the key components of the dancer’s background. The emphasis for developing dancers is on the quality of their dance training. Where the dancer has studied, what international competitions he/she has competed in, what roles he/she has performed with quality companies, and any invited performances is more important than a long recitation of regional competitions. High score performances, however, can be summarized collectively. Resumes can be either one or two pages unless the organization requesting the resume specifies a one-pager. Obviously, if the information can be beautifully presented on one page, this is the size it should be. Even when organizations do not ask for a resume, one should be submitted to ensure that the dancer’s qualifications are revealed in an optimal manner. Paper choice, use of photos, formatting, and overall presentation, all come into play for the most strategic impact. Dancers' Next Steps fully draws upon The Resume Works of Pittsford’s 32-year history to ensure that each dancer is presented impressively on paper.

 

Cover Letter

Dancers need to apply for a company job with a cover letter, resume, and DVD. The cover letter should engage the artistic director with information as to why the dancer wants to dance for their particular company. This should involve attending a performance, researching the company's history, repertoire, and current season’s offerings, and discussing why an affiliation might represent a good fit.

 

Letters of Recommendation

Serious, pre-professional dancers need at least one letter of recommendation and that is typically from their primary teacher. Additional letters from secondary teachers and guest artists from summer intensives or other venues are also desirable. In the case of the latter, it is best to ask for the guest artists’ business cards at the time the program concludes so that future follow-up is readily available (people do move!). Sometimes dancers are concerned that they won’t get the best possible recommendation from their primary teachers because they are not at the top of their level and worry about asking for such a letter. My experience is that teachers typically give strong letters to even those who are perhaps not the most technically or artistically talented, but have a work ethic that is outstanding (i.e., the kind who arrive at least a half hour early for warm-up each day, give 110% in class and work up a sweat, are not disruptive with inappropriate chatter, show consideration and respect for their teachers and classmates at all times, and have a great attendance record). If there is a problem despite this type of work ethic, students have, in my experience, successfully landed where they wanted to without the primary teacher reference but I am a strong believer that every effort should be made to cultivate a positive relationship with the primary teacher, based upon honesty, integrity, and open communication.

 

Company Opportunities

Companies will at various times post open audition dates and dancers can show up at the appropriate time with resumes and photos in hand and go through their paces. Sometimes people will get hired in this manner. However, unless there is someone specifically looking out for a particular dancer, it will be very easy to get lost in the crowd and walk away empty handed. Many suggest that a far better way to go about this process is to send a letter to the artistic director of Company X with a resume, photos, and DVD and ask if it would be possible to take company class. If this is not an option, a regular audition will have to do but the class route is considered the best bet.

 

International Competitions

For ballet, there are several outstanding competitions from which to choose, including USAIBC – Jackson, MS, Varna International Ballet Competition, Prix de Lausanne, Youth America Grand Prix, and World Ballet Competition, to name a few, but those should always be on the advice of the primary dance teacher and usually limited to those elite dancers who are at a high enough level of training to make the experience a positive one. These competitions offer outstanding opportunities for elite dancers, including the chance to be seen and evaluated by the world dance community’s crème de la crème, the chance to win scholarships to prestigious schools, the chance to win contracts to prominent companies’ second companies, class instruction from world-class instructors, adjudication from among the most famous dancers in the world, a chance to learn from other elite dancers, and a chance to be invited to perform in a spectacular venue. Winning, although always nice, should not be the primary focus in entering this type of competition. Just to be invited to participate in such an event is already a “win.” Due to the high level of competition, dancers need to make a commitment to spend hours and hours on top of regular class time and rehearsals to master their classical variations. It should be noted that competitions at this level can be very expensive undertakings due to the length of time involved, cost of training, cost of costumes, shoes, hotels, meals, entry fees, etc. On the other hand, it can be the most rewarding experience an elite dancer can have so if the opportunity presents itself, it should be discussed and evaluated in detail.

A good listing of dance competitions may be found at: http://www.cyberdance.org/news.html#Competitions.

 

Summer Intensive Programs

Summer intensives can be a wonderful experience for dancers who have already mastered their technique and are now ready to experience something new. High quality summer intensive programs normally procure the talent of outstanding guest artists who can be an enormous source of inspiration and training to an aspiring elite dancer. There are many programs from which to choose. Dancers who are interested in doing a summer intensive should seek out their primary teacher about recommendations as to the most appropriate program. Sometimes it isn’t always the most prestigious program that should be selected if the class size is too large to provide the dancer with a meaningful experience.

Some students begin going to summer intensives as young as age 11 and there is some question among seasoned instructors as to whether or not this is really a wise move. Several fine educators believe that the experience should not take place until after the sophomore year of high school when the dancer has the maturity to fully enjoy and benefit from the experience. Oftentimes, the dancer’s home school has an excellent summer intensive program, which brings in guest artists and this needs to be explored, as well.

 

Conservatory Programs vs. Liberal Arts Programs

Dancers' Next Steps is knowledgeable of several outstanding conservatory and liberal arts programs and will help the dancer and his/her family determine which might be the most suitable. Dancers are urged to visit each campus, meet with the faculty, take a class, meet with other students, view a performance. Not all programs request auditions, which might ordinarily raise a red flag as to its quality. However, if the overall quality and/or prestige of the undergraduate degree is present, some other considerations might come into play.

 

College Applications

Dancers' Next Steps is adept at helping dancers structure their “package,” including the letter to the Admissions Director, resumes, application essays, short and long answers questions, thank you notes, and any other correspondence that is necessary to reflect their talents in the most optimal way possible. Dancers' Next Steps is proud to state that every single student who has worked with the company has received acceptances into programs they most likely may not have otherwise, based upon the college’s own profile of GPA’s and college board scores.

 

Scholarship Letters

Dancers' Next Steps enjoys helping students optimize their financial aid and scholarship packages through the crafting of compelling cover letters to the college’s Director of Financial Aid. This is not limited to incoming freshmen. Oftentimes, upperclassmen can receive scholarships by delineating the contributions the student has made to the college dance community and the college, as a whole. Dancers' Next Steps will meet with the student to discuss these contributions and assist in the creation of a document that will tell the story in the most meaningful way possible.

 

For High School Seniors Only

The National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts sponsors youngARTS, an exciting scholarship competition to nurture, support, and recognize high school senior-aged artists at a critical time in their emerging careers. They offer over $500,000 in prize money and are affiliated with the U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts program.  Go to www.nfaa.org for more information.

 

Photographs

High quality photographs are an essential component of an aspiring dancer’s package. Dancers' Next Steps can provide referrals relative to excellent photographers whose specialty is in working with dancers. 

 

DVD’s

Ditto for DVD’s. If an individual is not able to audition in person, a well-made DVD is essential to the application process – whether for a company position, an international competition, or a summer intensive. Anyone who is seriously considering a BFA or BA/BS in Dance program must (except in very rare circumstances) be seen in person. Usually, there is a multi-city audition tour to accommodate everyone who wishes to audition.

 

Etc.

In addition to the above, Dancers' Next Steps offers specialized custom services, according to an individual’s specific needs. Please feel free to contact us at 585-385-3636 or email wwicks@rochester.rr.com if there is a special service you need but do not see listed above.