I’m a pretty fortunate dancer. I’ve been a lucky member of several prestigious teams, and performed at some of the best venues. I’ve been across the world and back again teaching and performing hip hop and made a pretty good chunk of change doing so. But here’s the real plot twist: I suck balls at dancing.
Okay – if anything, I’m a mediocre dancer at best, and no, this isn’t one of those, ‘I’m one of those modest, really good dancer jerks that say I’m bad, but in reality am amazing’ situations. Trust me; if I showed you videos, you would know. In a nutshell, when I first started dancing, I was extremely passionate and took any classes I could find during the summer. That’s about as intense I got. And somehow in the short amount of years I’ve been dancing, I’ve built a pretty good resume as far as dance goes. I have (to my own surprise) managed to consistently book teaching gigs, been asked to perform at events, and even landed a dancing role on the Disney Channel. How do I do it? Did I learn some super secret algorithm? Is it some sort of sorcery? Perhaps a little.
After some studying (yuck) and refining, I’ve outlined three main things you need in order to get to a beneficial start. And for sharp minds, this also doubles as a way to better yourself in other areas of your life as well, be it career or personal. So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, these three skills are (drumroll at your desk to add dramatic effect as necessary):
1) Find your mentor and be cool about it:
You may have heard that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. The real trick is, how do you then build a strong network? One of the first things you can do is pretty simple, but requires some time and effort. It’s a two-phase effort. There’s a saying: “When the student is ready the master appears”, and sure, that’s probably all good and well, but it only really applies if you have other factors on your side such as time and luck. In the movie The Karate Kid, Daniel-San does have luck on his side, but also puts forth effort in asking Mr. Miyagi to teach him. Similarly, as soon as I started dancing, I sought out choreographers I really liked and took their classes. It was definitely a tough commitment, but the payoff was that eventually they would remember my face and I began to develop a friendship with them. First phase complete.
The second phase is what sets you apart from everyone: you need to actually talk to the choreographer. This seems like a no brainer, but I see people go up to the choreographer they idolize after every class in hopes to get in good with them, to no effect. What you need to do is express to your teacher that you want to become their pupil the right way. Often, people who idolize the choreographer automatically separate themselves from ever being on the same level, and it makes sense, but walking on equal ground with someone is how you earn their respect. If done right, you’ll start getting invites when projects or gigs come up.
2) Create a web of networks (like Spidey does).
Even if you’re not the best dancer, you should have other things you can do to contribute. When I worked at Apple, I spent most of my time at work learning all that I could when it came to fixing products. I was proactive. Whenever there was an issue, I would ask if I could help out, or at least shadow the ‘Genius’ as they talked to and helped customers. I took notes, and studied their demeanor. Eventually I gained a great understanding of what I needed to know, and became an expert at my craft. My end goal was to get to a point where I could help people, and assist where necessary. You should be selective about who you help, but you also should not let key opportunities pass – it’s a tight-rope walk. I began to help out mechanics, cinematographers, real estate salesman, etc. and then made sure to keep their contact information. Instances would arise when a choreographer would need help getting something filmed, or a construction worker would need some help getting a good home. I became the center of an intricate web of hook ups. I controlled those webs with the intricacy of Spiderman, and I still do so today. You want to get to a point where your webslingers are always at the ready to fire off when the time is right.
When you hook people up, make it apparent that it’s a give and take. People will always try to get what they can for nothing. If you approach each interaction in this manner, it will help get what you want immensely. It can help you get into that concept video, or those classes for free, we all know those add up. The key factor is find what you can do to contribute, become proficient at it, and let people know you can offer that service. Build your hook ups, and you’ll see it become easier to get the things done that you want. Keep your tabs, and call in your chips when you need to.
3) Learn to Become the Center of Attention.
I read somewhere that people are statistically more afraid of public speaking/interactions than they are of death. It is absolutely essential that you make an attempt to become a people-person in order to network effectively. Growing up, I was as introverted as they come, but for those who know me, I am now as far away from introverted as can be (they might even tell you I’m annoyingly extroverted. Don’t believe their lies). I’m a pretty logical person, so I began studying outgoing people. I found many types of factors people are attracted to, but one underlying characteristic nearly all of them possessed was humor. It dawned on me that there are people that base their whole career on being personable and funny: Stand-Up Comedians. Once I came to this conclusion, I would study multiple skits, watch interviews, and try to emulate their habits. It wasn’t long before I started seeing openings to use their material in everyday life, and making others laugh. Learning to be funny is an art, but knowing your audience is key, and you will see cues to clue into these depending on the situation. The easiest way to make this transition, is to find something that interests you and seek out groups of people that share that interest. If pursuing a career in dance is something you are leaning toward, start by taking classes. Don’t make getting in good with the choreographer your only end goal; use these classes to spark conversations with others and begin your networking. You never know who may be helping you out in the future! I think I’ve landed more gigs by making friends in classes than with choreographers themselves.
There you have it. The three things you can do to start your journey toward making your dream your career. It will take some work but once you start implementing these skills, you’ll start seeing changes. They won’t come all at once of course, but if you do it properly you’ll notice gradual changes. After you start getting these steps down, you’ll be ready for the next step: booking gigs as a dancer!
Are you trying to make dancing your career as well? Share what helps you book gigs by leaving a comment below!
You don’t want to get paid for something you’re only kind-of-maybe-only-sometimes good at, so click here and here for some tips on improving your craft!