Sunday, April 8, 2012
Shining the Spotlight on Background Dancing
While you may think you only need to know a certain style, such as hip hop, for this sort of work, diversity and versatility is key. When you show up to audition for a rap video, everyone is going to know how to dance in a hip hop style. What else do you have to offer? In addition, classical training in ballet, tap, and jazz will improve your overall understanding of technique, such as proper body alignment.
Although an agent is not required to secure backup dancing jobs, having one can be invaluable in supporting your career. He can negotiate contracts, guide you to available auditions and ensure that you are properly paid for your work. However, dancers should realize that an agent will have dozens if not hundreds of clients, and is not solely responsible for their success. If you want someone to devote herself totally to you, then you're really looking for a personal manager rather than an agent. In addition, dancers should use caution in selecting an agent. Be wary of agencies that approach you. Most agencies have enough potential clients without seeking out more. They typically take on new dancers through a formal audition process or by accepting headshots and resumes. You should also avoid agencies that ask you to pay upfront for services. Agents should get paid when they find you work, by receiving an established percentage of your income from dance.
Auditions offer you a chance to show casting directors what you have to offer. You need to arrive ready to perform, with a headshot and full body photograph, if requested. The term "cattle call" is often used to refer to large-scale auditions with hundreds of dancers hoping for their chance. Dancers with agents may be able to secure a spot in smaller, more exclusive casting calls. If you are successful, it can be a long day of callbacks as you progress from one stage of the audition process to the next. No matter what technical skills you bring to the dance floor, backup dancing also requires a certain amount of style. Overall, this can be the personality and spirit that you bring to your dancing, showing everyone that you love what you're doing and you feel the beat of the music.
On another level, this also means presenting the right style for a particular performance. If you look too casual or too chic for the director's vision, audition staff may not even give you a second glance. Experienced dancers even recommend bringing additional clothes with you, including shoes, so you can make last-minute changes once you've had a chance to scope out the audition scene.
Backup dancing is hard work, and what may seem like a constantly exciting job can get tedious and boring. If you're working on a video, you may spend the entire shoot repeating the same 30 seconds of moves. You will also likely work long days and nights, with lots of time sitting around waiting for your turn in front of the camera. Dancing for tours is the best way to secure steady, well-paying work. However, this also means going on tour, which can have its own downsides. Nonetheless, despite the difficulties, there's nothing quite like getting paid to do what you love.
Los Angeles and New York City are the key locations for backup dancing gigs. Serious dancers have more opportunities if they relocate to one of these cities.
Backstage Has numerous job/audition listings.