Dance is steeped in tradition. Ancient tribal dance was often used to bring rain or a healthy crop. Many years later, European royalty birthed the beginnings of formalized classical dance to entertain themselves. Rebellious ex-classicists eventually broke away from centuries ruled by classical dance to create modern dance. Looking at this loose history, it is apparent that tradition in dance can take long periods of time to evolve and change. It is no wonder that it has taken the dance world a while to transition from the time of typewritten resumes and glossy, exposed headshots into the age of technology.
Throughout years and years of auditions, there has been a traditional way of finding work. A dancer gets their headshots taken and they compile a list of their greatest accomplishments into a CV, or resume. After spending all of this time preparing, they empty their savings and fly wherever their dreams have drifted to find a rare success or a common failure. Resume after resume. Headshot after headshot. Travel after travel, dancers spend great amounts of time, energy, and cash trying to show employers that they are right for the job.
Times have changed since ballet companies started settling down in cities across the country and Broadway shows started popping up in Manhattan. But in the typical ways of the dance world, it takes time for stubborn traditions to change or improve. Many companies still have filing cabinets overflowing with paper resumes and headshots. Often, the only way to land a job is to be seen in person, commonly multiple times. This adds up to companies losing money renting studio space and paying for costly audition tours, while often the unemployed or underemployed freelance dancers drain their already depleted savings trying to obtain their dreams.
As technology has improved, the dance world has taken small steps towards a more contemporary approach. Instead of learning choreography off of VHS tapes, more and more companies are using DVDs. Sometimes, directors will prescreen dancers through a performance reel that has been posted on Youtube. This evolution has allowed directors to help dancers save their money for auditions where being hired is truly a possibility. But in the end, the way that dancers seek work remains, mostly, the same.
As things slowly evolve, little traditions are being broken and the ability of dancers to gain visibility are changing. Youtube and social media have greatly expanded a dancers reach to be seen. While most dancers still have to seek out a director’s attention, at times, directors may see a dancer online that piques their interest. This could field an audition. But even with a reel on a video-sharing site or tweeting a great review, dancer’s web presence can be scattered. This lack of consolidation can slow down or halt the process of recognizing and seeking out an artist that is the perfect fit for a job.
For all of the previously mentioned reasons, it is becoming more and more important for dancers to have a professional, consolidated data-base where they can constantly update their achievements, growth, and talents. From a resume to photography to performance footage or reviews, the best way to wrap these promotional tools into one enticing package is to obtain your own website.
Websites offer many advantages over more traditional ways of promoting oneself. First off, a dancer can save hundreds of dollars in printing fees. Not sure which photo to send to be screened for a certain project? Just direct this potential employer to your photo gallery on your website where you can show off that you are not only a beautiful contemporary dancer, but you also have strong pointe work. If a director was impressed by a resume and a dance shot, they don’t have to contact a dancer to see if they have any recent footage of their dancing. Switching from a resume to a photo to a dance reel only takes one click. In the end, the dancer actually benefits most from this tool. Not only do they save money by having an easy, pre-screening process to make sure that they are going to auditions where there is interest. They also now have a web presence that is searchable. If an employer has become comfortable enough judging a dancer through their online resources, a dancer could receive job offers directly from their website.
Even dancers that are already under contract can benefit from having their own web presence. Stars of companies should have a website for the obvious reason of providing a resource for their fans to keep up-to-date with what they are doing. But lower ranked dancers can also find a website helpful. Through exposure and experience, dancers that may not have been considered true contenders for promotion can find themselves up for consideration after gaining outside experience. Very few companies work 52 weeks a year. There are often periods of time where company dancers can seek outside work and a website can help make this happen.
Change is rarely pushed forth by those in charge. It is usually great numbers of those in the lower ranks of society that urge the leaders to move forward. The dance world can be financially draining and difficult to navigate. Many of our old traditions keep these practices in place, even with the knowledge that auditioning and finding work can leave one’s resources on empty. Now that more and more people are utilizing the vast possibilities of the internet, more and more people are getting websites, writing blogs, and tweeting to gain exposure and work. It is only a matter of time before those who are the pioneers of web exposure become leaders in the dance world and lead the age of paper resumes, glossy headshots, and pricey flights into the history books of tradition.