TOP 10 LIST of THINGS TO DO TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL DANCER

Menina Fortunato, is a seasoned professional with many years of experience as a professional dancer in all areas of entertainment. She began her professional career in Vancouver and has been based in Los Angeles for over a decade.  Image

She has had the pleasure of working with the world’s biggest stars including Britney Spears, Beyonce, Earth Wind & Fire, Carmen Electra, Rain (Bi), Luis Miguel, Jennifer Garner, Carrie Underwood, Paula Abdul to name a few. She has toured the world & seen my millions on TV & film. Select credits include America’s Got Talent, Star Trek: Enterprise, Alias, MAD TV, Guy’s Choice Awards to name a few. Most recently she transitioned behind the camera in casting & production on several productions including The X Factor & America’s Got Talent. Go to www.meninafortunato.com to learn more about her career. 

 
 
After a long performing career, it is her time to give back to the next generation of dancers. She created THE HOLLYWOOD SUMMER TOUR, a dance career intensive for aspiring professional dancers with the intention to education, prepare & inspire dancers to realize their dreams. Go to www.thehollywoodsummertour.com to learn more.
 
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Here is her TOP 10 LIST of THINGS TO DO TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL DANCER

 
1 – Diversify Your Training
In this ever changing dance industry, a dancer must keep up with the current trends in order to stay competitive. There  was a time when dancers specialized in only one form of dance and that was sufficient. In the last decade, thanks to TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance, a dancer has more opportunities if they are well versed in multiples styles of dance. Both choreographers & agents love to work with versatile dancers. 
 
2 – Get an Agent
If a dancer wishes to work in all areas of media, including commercials, TV, film, live shows etc, getting a dance agent is essential. Dance Agencies have access to castings that are typically unavailable to the public. A dance agent will negotiate contracts with the intention to protect the dancer’s rights and ensure appropriate wages. Dance agents are typically paid 10-15% commission on the contracts they negotiate for their clients. 
 
3 – Get Professional Photos
Professional photos are the business card for all talent, especially dancers. They are used for agency submissions, casting submissions as well as auditions. The industry standard is an 8×10 photo with the name on the bottom. Some dancers might use a collage of 2 or more images on the same 8×10 print in order to showcase multiple looks. A poor headshot could cost a dancer an audition or a job, so it is critical to choose a photographer that can produce high quality images with proper lighting that captures the “best you”.
 
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4 – Prepare a well formatted Dance Resume
A dance resume is not formatted like a “traditional job” resume. It should be well formatted with the dancer’s name, contact information, stats including height, weight, eye color, as well as credits separated in sub categories (ie. film, tv, stage, theatre, videos, industrials etc), training and special skills. 
 
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5 – Create a Professionally Designed Website
Since we are in the digital age, a professional website is very valuable and useful. Like any business, it has everything one needs to know about a dancer’s career – photos, resume, bio, videos, press, contact etc. It allows a dancer to showcase all their work in one place that is easily accessible and viewable by anyone in the world. It can also be integrated with a dancer’s multiple social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc) and casting profiles (IMDB, Casting Networks, The Casting Workbook etc).
 
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6 – Create a Dance Demo Reel
A dance demo reel is a short 1-3 minute montage of video clips showcasing a dancer’s body of work. It should be professional edited with captivating music, titles etc. It should entice and intrigue the viewer. It is a useful marketing tool that can be used for submissions for potential work.
 
 
7 – Broadcast your professional work on Video Sharing Networks 
Once you have video content worth sharing (ie. professional work, class footage), it is a smart idea to post it on video sharing sites (ie. YouTube, Vimeo etc). It’s also valuable to “tag” the video with key words, so viewers can easily find it. Video sharing allows for anyone around the world to see your work, which could result in booking work worldwide.
 
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8 – Be proactive & seek work opportunities
Even if a dancer has an agent, they should not rely on their agent to find all their work. A dancer should be pro-active and submitting themselves for work, whether it’s blind submissions to potential companies they wish to work for or daily submissions through casting websites.  
 
9 – Attend Dance Related Events
Attending dance related events is a great way to see other dancer’s work, be inspired, and also network with other dance professionals who also might be attending the event. There is a saying in the entertainment world – “out of sight, out of mind”. If potential employers don’t see you, they might forget about you. 
 
10 – Make Friends
Building relationships is very important. “Who you know” and “who knows you” can lead to potential work opportunities. Friends like to hire their friends. It’s not uncommon for a casting director or choreographer to hire someone they know. You can’t afford to burn bridges. Your reputation can & will follow you. A good dancer with a wonderful work ethic and positive attitude is more likely to work than an extraordinary dancer who is unreliable and has a bad attitude. Your like-ability can be just as important as your talent. The dance world is small and building a positive reputation is important for a long lasting career. 

David Cooper-Photographer

In 1978, with an interest in photographing dance, I was fortunate to receive a Canada Council grant to travel to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I spent two weeks in their studios photographing the morning class and rehearsals. At night I set up a small darkroom in a friends bathroom and made contact sheets from the days work. I would post them on the board and get the dancers feedback. I learned the language of ballet there. Jeté, arabesque, plie, demi, turnout, were all terms new to me. Even though I have never taken a dance class, I can now give notes to a ballet dancer when I see something that is wrong during a studio shoot. You will hear me say “let me see that back arm”, “flatten the line to make the legs longer”,  “drop your shoulders”, “can you match that arm to your leg.” It’s a constant barrage of notes to get the lines perfect. A lot of dance does not translate well when frozen in a still. What is needed for the still camera is much more specific than what is presented on stage during a live performance.

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EVELYN HART (1980) Photo credit: David Cooper

There is a beauty and striving for perfection in ballet that I found in Evelyn Hart who was a soloist with the company in 1978. It was only two years later that she won the gold metal at International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria.

Performance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_ycPIV4hEQ&feature=share

I was invited back to the RWB in 1980 to shoot their promo photos and souvenir book. This began a 30 year relationship with the company.

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Evelyn was the only dancer who would discuss lighting before a shoot. She would suggest silhouette or back light and have a clear idea of what she wanted in her photographs.

 

She brought tremendous energy and a sense of humor to the photo sessions that demystified how big a star she was. Here she is during a photocall for Giselle goofing around with a big nose and glasses.

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(Evelyn&Emily)

 

In July of 1985 my daughter Emily was born. A month later I had my annual trip to the RWB to set up a studio and shoot the company. I brought the family with me and Evelyn presented us with the smallest pair of ballet slippers for our 5 week old daughter. She held Emily over her head on pointe and my daughter was introduced to the world of ballet being partnered by one of the greatest ballerinas of our time.

 

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 Evelyn was a very passionate dancer, like a great actress. She was very sensitive to music too. I remember she was once reviewing a contact sheet from Giselle. There were these blurred images during the mad scene where the light was too low to get a high enough shutter to freeze the motion. I thought I had messed up technically but she got really excited when she saw those frames and said the blurs felt exactly like she feels in that moment. The motion and blurs were perfect according to her. The camera was in sync with her emotions. She felt things in a very deep way through dance and I was responding to them with my camera.

There is a permanence to a still photo that lives on forever so ballet dancers are by far the most critical of themselves in pictures and by nature very hard to please.  But I love the challenge. To this day, I love shooting during the morning class and hanging out in the wings during a performance. 

David Cooper

 

Website: http://davidcooperphotography.com/

Blog made possible by Impact Dance Productions, Founder&CEO Danielle Gardner, http://www.daniellelgardner.com and David Cooper

Advice from a beautiful mind by Rachael Poirier

Danielle Gardner and Impact Dance Productions are humbled to share a blog by the one and only  Rachael Poirier Founder and Artistic Director at Danzmode Productions.

Rachael Poirier has greatly impacted many dancers and choreographers around the world including mine (Danielle Gardner). Sit back,enjoy and learn from one of the most amazing choreographers Canada has had the opportunity to call its own.

Dance is fun but mostly hard work, exhausting at times, rejuvenating and exciting at other times.  But we dance because we love the music, the movement, that sweat trickling down our backs, the discipline, the satisfaction of a great performance, rare but attainable, the perfect high.  Dance becomes part of our existence and is hard to let go once it is a part of you.  My biggest advice would be this – always be grateful to the ones that help you whether teachers or family.  We can’t be successful all alone.

There are a lot of people that help and inspire us along the way.  Like yourself, love yourself, respect yourself.  Work hard but at the same time, know what feeds your soul whether it’s spiritually, a walk in nature or spendingtime with your family…Find peace and silence, a calm, beautiful place to go frequently.  Keep good associates, friends, and make sure they are driven and inspired.  Stay free of alcohol and drug use.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  You are unique.  Embrace that, nurture that and fly with that thought.  No once can be compared to you and that is a wonderful special feeling because you are simply yourself.  Don’t try to be like someone else.  Remember art is not valued by a price tag, or a sales pitch, or a great resume.  You simply like it or you don’t.

Embrace difference, whether in people or art, keep creation moving and changing, don’t get stuck. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box.  Don’t worry about what people say, allow yourself to shine and to fail.  So many are driven by the fear of failure, but if you do fail, it usually just means you’ve done something different, and people as much as they profess to love difference, more often than not, it takes a while to accept it or to have the right person doing something different, example; someone famous.  Try hard not to be that person.  Most people arefollowers, try hard to be a leader.  Don’t believe everything you hear, most people feel a great need to over sell themselves, which to me just shows their lack of experience, because the dance industry will always humble you in one way or another.

To the dancers; you must have a great desire to improve and learn from everyone you meet.  Some teachers I disliked I needed the most as they were the ones that were tough, not complementary, they pushed until you cried, they’re the teachers I remember.  Don’t be a dancer that only dances to win an award, or dances for only admiration, you’ll be disappointed.  The ones that have made it (which I consider paying your bills through performing dance), they are tough, humble, hardworking and usually aren’t the ones talking about how successful they are and how much they’ve done or are doing.  Beware that you treat other dancers, studio owners, choreographers as you’d like to be treated.  As soon as you think you’re great and have nothing to learn, you will stop improving.  We are always learning.  Respect your fellow dancers and teachers.  Next time you win a trophy ask yourself where you won it and was there any competition.  Win an international competition like N.Y.C.D.A. or Y.A.G.P. then be proud, then go back to the barre and practice more because really nobody cares if you have bragging rights.  The dance community is small, have many friends that don’t dance.  As lovely as we are, our conversations tend to get a bit boring.

To teachers: treat your dancers like they’re your own children, care that much and they will be successful. Dancers need discipline and direction, they want it, and of course a bit of love.  The dancer you consider the worst in class, challenge yourself if you can make that dancer great, you’re a good teacher, remember that when you want to strangle them.

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“Don’t dance unless you have to.  If you can let it go and do something else that makes you just as happy do it, because it’s tough, it’s hard work, and your body will eventually tire. You must love it”

Rachael Poirier

Blog made possible by: http://www.daniellelgardner.com, http://www.danzmodeproductions.com and Impact Dance Productions

A Dancers Stance by Kamilah Sturton ( Ballet Kelowna)

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“A Dancers Stance ” By Kamilah Sturton ( Ballet Kelowna)

The arts deserve a voice. Health support for the arts is not consistent across Canada!

Under British Columbia’s compensation, Dancers are considered to be workers, but for example, Saskatchewan does not. The act that defines a worker varies across Canada. Some may say, “Well you are a BC resident why isn’t that enough to cover you?” The brief answer I’ve learned is that the “company” has to have ties to [in this case] Saskatchewan.

This past summer while teaching and judging in Brazil, I had the honor of working with Vladimir Klos; Director of Stuggart Ballet, he verified what many dancers in North America hear. Dancers in Europe are treated like gold. Vladimir told me that if a dancer in his company, cannot afford a place to live, a vehicle, food, and extra money to live by; he is not paying them enough. Dance/art in Europe is part of their culture, and everyday lives. People take in operas, ballets, art exhibits, film festivals, concerts, etc. Yes as a country Canada is much younger than Europe, but it is difficult knowing that we as North Americans struggle to fill the seats of many performances with artistic relevance.  

“Your child shows much promise” “If you want this and have the passion, you can make it in this industry” “You have what it takes” “You have what can’t be taught” 

How many of you in the industry heard these or similar words of support. When did these words of belief and hope turn into mere memories of days when the ‘future’ seemed years away?

What happens to those words when you are finally in the ‘future’ and you realize you’re not only dealing with your own goals and struggles, but working against thousands of talented individuals who heard the exact same words, as well as giving the arts a voice in our artistically challenged North American society.

What happens to those words if you have one bad step, fall, or jump…do you all of sudden not have “what it takes”, and this is the end of dance as you know it? No.

When I decided to make dance my main FIRST career, I knew very well that I was choosing the life of an artist. Potentially struggling to make ends meet, not being accepted by broader society, and possibly having a short career. Unbeknownst to me, as aworker in the community, I would be invisible should an injury or sickness occur. I do not regret a single choice I have made. It is a bit frightening though that after these many years, and after this latest injury (resulting in inability to work for 4-6 months) I am left struggling to support myself.

Many Canadians don’t put much thought into their work safety coverage, thinking that since we are in Canada our health is all taken care of. This was my thought at least until this latest injury struck, Perhaps naive but I figured if a construction worker was taken care of, why wouldn’t I? I was wrong. Not only could I not receive coverage for getting injured on the job, while under contract, thus not being able to work. In the eyes of the Saskatchewan WCB (this is where my latest contract took place); I am not even considered a “worker”. The closest related job category is a theatre performer.

Dancers; you know what you are worth, know your coverage, read everything you sign, ensure the “Company” that wants to hire you pays into WCB and if so look into their provincial coverage towards Dancers, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will be in a better position in the long run, should anything unfortunate occur.

You define your own success, it is what you do with set backs and struggles that makes you stronger in the end. If your ‘ability’ to dance ends tomorrow, or 50 years from now, know that dance has given you more than most will learn or experience in their lifetime. An injury takes more than exercises, ice, and Advil. It takes patience, an optimistic mind, and believingthat dance will open up multiple doors if you stay open to all opportunities.

“Something in the Water” by Joshua Beamish

Danielle Gardner Founder of Impact Dance Productions would like to introduce the first of many blog posts that will be featured on www.daniellelgardner.com.

Blogs will be posted by industry greats, casting agents, hair and make up specialist and many more inspiring people.
We hope you enjoy these blogs as much as we have enjoyed creating them!
Team Canada Choreographers Joshua Beamish and  Director Danielle Gardner
January 1st 2013:
The journey through a career in this industry is always unpredictable. Dancers move where the work is, opportunities come and go with hype and the threat of an injury, large or small, is always looming. Many dancemakers have their calendars planned out three years in advance, while other artists are expected to drop everything in an instant to obtain a shot at that lifelong dream contract.

My own career path is perhaps one of the least traditional I’ve come across, having started a professional dance company at 17. In just under a decade, I have already experienced so many genre shifts that I’ve come to realize that many of the students I’m currently working with have no idea that I started out just like them. While I always placed a strong focus on ballet, primarily through the training from my mother Loretta Lachner, there was nothing I loved more than jazz. I was a Triple Threat scholarship student, Kelly Konno was my number one idol and I was sure that I too would end up dancing for Janet Jackson one day. When I heard students getting excited about attending Triple Threat this year it reminded me of how much I gained from opportunities like my Triple Threat, Groove Street or Harbour Dance Centre scholarships. These organizations gave me access to teachers who challenged me with new vocabulary and they put me in a room with the best of my peers. Through Triple Threat I experienced a week of private musical theatre training at Randolph Academy and had the opportunity to attend their first ever Hawaii Dance Experience. My experiences at Groove Street paved the way for my time dancing in the Source Dance Company and Harbour Dance Centre went on to give me support to enable the realization of my first two professional productions. Above all, I most realize that these institutions and instructors taught me that my individuality was an attribute to be celebrated. They made clear that my greatest offering to the dance world was the unique nature of an artistry that was particular to me. I haven’t forgotten this, as this truth has taken me to places I never expected possible.

In the years that have followed I gradually pulled away from the studio and competitive world, creating just a few solos and judging the odd competition. The demands of running my company simply required a complete focus. Everything else in my life took a back seat.
Since my relocation to New York I have ironically spent more time invested in outreach work with BC’s young dancers than ever before. The formation of our annual MOVE: the company Summer Intensive, in addition to creating works for Team Canada and Richmond Academy, reignited a passion for exploring the creativity and capabilities of young artists. In the past year I’ve actually found myself seeking out opportunities to have a hand in opening the minds of the next generation of professional artists. It’s steadily growing into a passion that equals my love for directing professionals.
I believe that there is something so uniquely special about the training of young dancers in British Columbia. Many of my greatest collaborators were groomed in BC’s local schools. One only needs to mention Crystal Pite, Tiffany Tregarthen, Simone Orlando, Celine Gittens and Amber Funk Barton among counless others, to realize how much incredible talent has emerged from the BC studio system. I’ve often wondered what it is that keeps BC consistently producing such evolved young artists. Is the importance placed on ballet training without the tunnel vision focus that it’s the be all and end all of dance? Is it the fact that we still have dance festivals and The Provincials, as well as the dance competition circuit? Is it that we’ve had so many truly great local success stories who’ve undeniably made it, and yet still return to BC to give knowledge and inspiration back to the next wave of movers.
It’s certainly some combination of these factors, among others, but I think that the real secret is that our dance studio ecosystem in BC celebrates the individuality of youth. Children are taught to dance in a group but allowed to grow as soloists. They are taught formalized techniques but are also exposed to improvisation. They are even often encouraged to enter student choreography and music interpretation categories at the festivals.
When I teach in BC I come across far fewer TV dance emulaters than I do anywhere else. This doesn’t mean they altogether ignore widespread mainstream influences, but it does illustrate that they know how to turn off stylistic conventions when asked. Danielle Gardner and Jeff Mortensen, two dancers who move between concert and tv dance careers including contracts with my own company, are perfect examples of artists who deftly balance commercial interest and artistic integrity. In truth, I respect that ability more. After all, being a chameleon is the only way I manged to fund a year of my contemporary dance company’s activities by taking a roles in commercial projects, not least of which being in a Nickelodeon TV movie musical with Kelly Konno.
Thank you for reading
Impact Dance Productions

How to find inspiration while not breaking the bank…

How to find inspiration while not breaking the bank….

Any dancer can say that inspiration is key when creating movement and honing your craft.  As professional dancers and artists know some months the money is flowing and on off seasons it is not. Here are a few tips to find inspiration that will fill your soul while staying within your budget!

GET INSPIRED:

  •  Find an open space and grab a friend that trusts you to guide them safely. Ask them to close their eyes and Lead them through a visual dance improvisation. Lead them by naming shapes, letters, objects and emotions. slowly but surely your friend is forming a dance which will blow your mind. If not now try again later. You would be surprised what people can create just by shutting there eyes.
  • Go to ladies night no charge and let loose. Being fearless and confident in your favorite outfit can get the ideas flowing.
  • Spend the day in an art gallery! Imagery is key when expanding your imagination.
  • Listen to music you wouldn’t typically listen too .There may be beats and words in the songs that will start brewing your next creation.
  • YOUTUBE! Thank goodness for the internet! Our generation of dance artists are so fortunate that we can turn on the computer  and within  seconds  be able to watch companies dance from around the world.
  • Keep it current: Here are a few companies in which I have been inspired by – Move the company,  Marie Chouinard, Le carre des lombes, Rak Tamid, Jacoby&Pronk,Jose Navaz,lalala human steps,Batsheva dance company (More to come…).
  • Grab a piece of paper and pen. Close your eyes and start leading the pen around the page without lifting it off the page. Open your eyes and use this as a guide in formations for a dance.
  • Meditation: open your mind’s eye to new thoughts. Inspiration comes when we least expect it.

To those that enjoy my blogs let me know! If there is a specific topic you are interested in hearing about Help me help you by sharing comments. Thank you for reading

DANIELLE

                                                                                                                                                                                              “Inspiration and genius–one and the same”

Victor Hugo