Building a successful dance career is not easy. The challenges of standing out in such a highly competitive industry, with more talent than jobs, would deter any young dancer. Between paying for classes, staying in shape, and going to audition after audition, one might think that dancers are a little crazy for choosing such a difficult career path. But, we do it because we love it!
Remember, difficult does not mean impossible. With excellent training, determination, and an incredible work ethic, a successful career as a dancer is within your reach.
During one of our live #MyJoffreyLife Twitter chats, some of our followers asked for advice on how to make it in the dance business. Here are some priceless industry tips from Davis Robertson, Artistic Director of the Joffrey Concert Group.
7 Powerful Tips For Building A Successful Dance Career from Davis Robertson
1. Be Honest With Yourself. @brdonoff asked, “What would be a key first step to starting a pro career as a dancer?” The first step is to identify your ultimate goal as a professional. Know where you want to go. Today, there are so many possibilities for a pro career. Identifying your desired path helps to focus you.
2. Don’t Be Discouraged If You Start Late. @makena_gera asked, “Can a teen still achieve a professional career if they started training only 2 years ago?” The answer, YES! Dance all started with Breaking for me. I’ve been a B-Boy since ’82. I was very lucky, starting late with organized dance as I call it. I received all forms equally without preconceptions or prejudice. All of the information was just more knowledge, none more important than the other. I took my first ballet class at 15.
3. Master The Art Of Auditioning. Understand that an audition is like a performance. It’s your chance to shine! Own that moment and enjoy the pressure. Just show us how much you want it. We can teach you all the how, but not the want.
4. Use Competitions In A Smart Way. @DanceCompHub asked, “What are your thoughts on the role of dance competitions in preparing dancers for professional futures?” It’s difficult to say with any confidence. Competitions are new in dance history. Some benefit from the exposure they provide, but others develop bad habits which must be undone later to be successful. Be smart, and take advantage of all of the opportunities that competitions have to offer.
5. Embrace Your Unique Path. Your journey will not be the same as anyone else’s. You must do what is right for you. @kailyn_dancer21 on Twitter asked, “How old do you recommend to start going out into the real dance world for auditions?” I’d rather not put a number on that. It’s too personal. When you can’t wait any longer, and your teacher supports you, go for it.
6. Know That Talent is Not Enough. You Must Work Extremely Hard. The ideal is scholarships for all young dancers, and some countries have that. But I remember what Misha said, “in the U.S., you pay for class, and when you pay, you REALLY work.” That inexhaustible desire is what makes the American dancer so special. Sacrifice is the life of an artist. You do whatever it takes to fund your training. I slept on a kitchen floor, danced for 8 hours, and worked for 6 after.
7. Be Confident, Yet Humble, and Take Chances. Every great dancer understands their place in the world of dance. Passion and love creates legends, not ego. Keep being brave! I’ve tried and fallen a lot, but I’ve never regretted the fall; only when I didn’t try.
Davis also shared why Robert Joffrey was a perfect teacher for him, “In every genre, there are multiple schools that have produced great results. Learning each school’s nuances should be an ultimate goal, and never think that you do not have something else to learn. That’s why Joffrey was the perfect fit for me. He challenged me to be versatile. My teachers challenged me to grow, and accept all perspectives on dance.”
“There were so many who gave and invested in me. Most teachers, when I tried to say thanks, simply said, ‘if you mean it, give it back when you too have the chance.’ That is the ultimate goal: to give back as much as was given to me as a dancer. That should be the goal of every dancer.”
What great advice have you received from your dance teachers? What would you add to this list?
Post your comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts!
If you found this post helpful, please share it on your favorite social media sites, and help inspire dancers across the world!
Davis Robertson trained at the Joffrey Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining the Joffrey Ballet in 1991, where he danced for over a decade. He also danced for Miami City Ballet, David Parsons Company, Pennsylvania Ballet, Lar Lubovitch and Twyla Tharp. Davis has appeared in film, television and on Broadway in Save the Last Dance, The Company, Law and Order, Movin’ Out and Dirty Dancing. He is also a member of the ballet company of the Metropolitan Opera, where he has worked with world-renowned directors and choreographers such as Anthony Minghella and Carolyn Choa, Julie Taymore, Christopher Wheeldon, and Alexei Ratmansky. A versatile and prolific choreographer, he has created works for the Joffrey Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Milwaukee Ballet, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra among many others. He is also the board president and Dance Director of Live Arts Collaboration.