Monday, July 14, 2014

5 Golden Keys to Help Unlock Success

Being both a well-known instructor/performer and event producer, I often get asked how up-and-coming dancers can get themselves "out there." It's particularly my job as an event producer that has helped me develop a list - usually as a result of experiencing "what not to do."

Being a professional dancer isn't just about how many hours you put in at the studio - it's about putting your best foot forward in a business sense as well: creating a brand, having your promo materials ready, and being involved.  If you think being a professional dancer means being awesome artist who just dances in her/his studio all day long, devoting every waking moment to dance, and the clients come a-knocking without ever having to do anything else - well, that is just an ADORABLE fantasy.  The reality of being professional means taking care of business - in and out of the studio.

The harder it is for you to be identified, and for a promoter to get succinct, reliable, and professional information from you, the more difficult your journey will be. So, besides obviously doing the work to advance your dance skills, I have put together a list of 5 key things to address that will aid you on your way.

Use The Google
When considering a professional name for yourself or your troupe - ALWAYS GOOGLE IT FIRST. There's been a growing trend to use given names vs. stage names, but even then, you should google it. Why? There may be a well-known person/troupe already using that name (whether it's a dancer, or a lawyer).  They may be local to you, or not at all, but that means little in consideration of searches and global context.  That name you're just starting out with, and some big name dancer has too? Don't tell yourself there's no way you'll be confused with them. You want to be easy to find and clearly identifiable as YOU - and not get incorrectly identified as being someone else, for better or for worse. (You have no idea what their reputation is really like, if you don't know them - and/or if someone hires you by mistake, that can create a really ugly situation on multiple levels.) If you're set on a certain name, and there are 3 other dancers using that name in other states/countries, you will want to brand yourself "Sparklepants of Cat City" instead of just "Sparklepants" to help define you and your market. Also, if it's a name originating from a foreign language or a fantasy invention, you may discover it means something different than you think it means out on the web. Like, it may sound beautiful but actually means "owl droppings" in Persian.  Lastly, read more than the first page of hits to get a complete idea for whatever you are googling. (Side note: be sure to say it aloud and consider how it can be mispronounced/misread. The worst I get is "Temptress"...which well, kinda works.)

Lean & Mean Biography
Your "fast and quick" biography should address who you are, where you are from, what you do/why you are awesome, and how to contact you - all in about 3-5 sentences.  This is the ideal format for websites, show programs, and introductions.  Don't list every teacher you have ever had, that you took ballet at age 3, that you once won an award in high school, are the best dancer in your area, or count that vacation cruise to Bermuda as "international performing".  Make it short, sweet, and to the point: "Tasselbottom is an award-winning Whovanese-style dancer based in Yourtown, Country.  She is well-known for her amazing lamp-balancing skills, which she presents for us this evening! She teaches weekly classes at X Studio, and performs throughout the Greater Jingly Area with her troupe FabulousShimmy.  For more info, go to" You can always have an extended biography on your website if you want to include more background. Also, use the same voice throughout, typically the third person: "Bunnyhop loves performing drum solos" versus "I love performing drum solos."

A Picture is Worth...A LOT
Professional photos are essential. Whether they are posed studio shots or active performance shots, your photos should be clear, eye-catching, and flattering. And sell what you're offering! Yes, that sexy implied "no bra" backshot with a pretty scarf draped on you is alluring - but does it sell "American Tribal Style Classes for Children"?  Are you trying to sell a Gothic Workshop when the only photo you sent is you in a bright pink Egyptian costume? Selfies are not proper headshots.  Promoters and event producers also often want high resolution images for printing, so be sure to have your photos ready for both "web" and "print" to ensure that you don't end up being that dancer with a poorly pixelated image in the program.  Also, does your photo work well in both color and black and white? It's so worth it to invest in a proper photoshoot with a professional photographer whose work you admire. And update your photos regularly! If you're still using the same shot from 10 years ago, it's time to get some new work done.

It's also important to consider the moving picture - video! As a producer, I want to see clean footage of an uncut performance - meaning, while it may have been edited for switching camera angles, I am able to see you dance in a properly lit setting to the actual music you're performing to, for the length of the piece. I despise "best moments" videos with background music laid on top, and unless I have seen you perform in person, it's a one-way ticket to my "nope" pile.  Why? Your "greatest hits" with a soundtrack and pieces that change every 5-10 seconds tells me nothing about how you put together a performance, your musicality, and overall technique. It may wow the general public and inexperienced dancers, but it tells me nothing about what you can really offer outside of a few sparkling moments.

Your Home on the Web
Do you have a website? If so, is it easy to find, navigate, and holds relevant current info? Is the URL easy to spell? Is it attractive and visually appealing/easy to look at, or does it look like it was built in 1998? There are many affordable and easy DIY - including free options for creating a web presence - even if it's just a professional page on facebook. Your website should include your quick bio + an extended biography/resume, class/workshop schedule (if you offer them), performance schedule, contact info, gallery (video/photos). Be sure to include your website when someone asks for your bio! I used to hunt them down and add them for my instructors - but I don't have the time or patience to do that anymore.  If you have multiple URLs and websites, indicate which one/s you want to use.

Be Prompt, Get Involved, Be Gracious
When you're dealing with promoters and producers, be prompt in getting information to them when asked.  Always re-read and double-check that you have included (and attached) all of the information that was requested.  If you're traveling/out of town - even just a quick reply with a date of when they can expect the material is appreciated.

Get involved in the event - if you're teaching and/or performing at an event, be sure to promote it on your social media platforms, post flyers/postcards, and share it with your students, friends, family, newsletters, etc. If it's an event you would LIKE to teach/perform it, and it's within your means to attend - then do so - and see about volunteering, introduce yourself to the producers, etc.  Take workshops. Event producers are often thinking about the next event, before the current event is even done.  However, contacting a festival two weeks before the event and asking to be added to the current year's teaching roster because you happen to be in town or think you're the next hot thang isn't going to fly. It will get you a fast ticket to the NOPE list, even if it does make us laugh.

And ALWAYS be gracious!
When you're at an event, if your schedule allows, take the time to watch the show - the pros and the students! EVERYONE IS IMPORTANT. Understand that the best events rotate some or most of their teachers/performers regularly - so don't pitch a fit publicy if you're not asked back for the next one.  Event producers work hard to bring back favorites while offering new/fresh/up-and-coming teachers/performers to keep things from getting stale.  Consider feedback when it's offered (or ask if there's something you're unsure about).  And it sure doesn't hurt to say please and thank you :)

So there you have it - 5 keys that will help you get through some very important doors. There are always more things to consider, but these are an excellent start that will help get your name out there, build a solid reputation, and signify that you're an active participant who is great to work with.

1 comment:

  1. Re: professional names - do type your proposed name and 'belly dance' into a search; if you get porn images in the first 3 pages, you may want to re-consider! (I know I did) ;)