17th April 2021

Starting A Dance Career: 5 Reminders From Your Dance Mom

starting a dance career

I am probably about to sound like an annoying Dance Mom, but there are just too many mishaps that can easily be prevented in a dancer’s life. A professional dancer’s life is unfortunately not quite as long as the typical office or corporation job that may involve earning a company car or the quintessential vested/tenured position with the Rolex watch. It’s a labor of love, that includes moments of gratitude for every job landed, and every minute on the stage and in the rehearsal room.

In order to save yourself time, money and frustration on the road to success as a professional, open your ears and listen up to your annoying Dance Mom here. No one person is bigger than or exempt from this list. Your mother promises.

1) Getting experience counts.

Jobs like theme park or cruise ship shows offer a repetitive repertoire regimen that is hugely beneficial, especially to beginner professionals. When starting in the biz, most people don’t see this sort of repetition as a necessity or road to professionalism. Putting in the hours and doing what feels like a thousand shows give a dancer a seasoning that can only come with time. A dancer sees exactly how he or she fits into the bigger picture and learns truly what it is to be a professional. It is like marriage: in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, you will perform your choreography.

2) Warm up.

That doesn’t mean a cup of coffee sitting in a center split. Why? Because all it takes is one moment of a wrong ankle twist, knee torque, prop drop or head whip to end it all and stop the paychecks from rolling in. Many or most dancers end up learning the most about their bodies in specific through physical therapy. Use your education, stay in shape and warm up. Get into the fact that the rest of your life as a dancer will include a foam roller and yoga mat.

3) Don’t be a busybody.

It’s a small world. Who even says busybody anymore? Well, it applies here. Don’t be “that person.” That person who always has to voice an opinion about everything. Connections count. Sometimes the people in the cast or crew that may not be your flavor end up in very high positions in the future. You don’t want to stop yourself from getting a gig in the future because a person you were talking or gossiping about knows a person in the position of power. Also, don’t expect to “fool around” with “other people’s property” without consequences. Chances are these kinds of actions will all come back to haunt you. No, I am not preaching, I am warning. You will see all of the above happen again and again. Drama is a sure-fire way to ensure you don’t get hired the next time around. There are too many talented people out there waiting in the wings. Everyone is replaceable, and why lose a gig because you couldn’t wait to complain until you got to your room or apartment.

4) Go to every audition.

You don’t always land the gigs for which you believe you are right. You often land jobs that you had no idea that you were even being considered for. Since we already know that the most talented people do not always get the job, we need to leave room for possibilities that are beyond our control or expectation. Commit to the business and art, don’t only commit to the idea you have in your head of how you think your future will look. If the audition is a gig you see as artistically “beneath you” yet well paying, don’t judge. Make your money to support your dance and art form you love most. As your career unfolds, you will begin to see many of your experiences add up, and build on each other.

5) Save your money!

You can spend your checks on getting the latest iPhone, or designer clothes, but there may come a time when many of your friends from high school and college are homeowners, and saving for the future. It is a loose life structure, one of a performer. Especially if you are freelancing, it is necessary to create the structure of life, and that includes financial structure. If you are not a union performer or don’t work for a company that offers a retirement or 401k plan, come up with a plan. Time flies. You don’t want to come out of a contract broke as a joke because you decided to party your coins away.

Also by Jill Wolins:

Learning From Shameless Opportunists: 7 Ways To Ensure Success

Freelance Artist Gig Life: Do Something


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Author Jill Ann Wolins started dancing as a child and continued competitively at the age of 9. She extended her dance education at the State University of New York in Buffalo, receiving her BFA as a dance major. Jill was awarded numerous scholarships for dance including Duke University American Dance Festival (ADF), Giordano Chicago, and six years at Steps on Broadway, NYC, which aided her transition into the professional dance world. Her professional dance career started with Disney, Orlando. Jill continued as a NYC Radio City Rockette for ten years. Broadway National tours include The Producers and Will Rogers Follies, and regional tours include Sweet Charity and Grease! TV and Film credits include The Producers, David Letterman (CBS), Disney Christmas Special (ABC), and Radio City Christmas Spectacular holiday commercials. Some of Jill’s favorite credits include assisting the choreographer, John Dietrich, for the opening segment of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, performing in tribute to Lena Horne at Lincoln Center, and dancing with Chita Rivera at the Kennedy Center, DC. Some international dance and teaching experiences include appearances in China, Japan, Russia, UK, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates. Jill Is proud to have worked with the United Nations Association in HIV/AIDS affected areas of South Africa. Jill currently travels across the country and around the globe teaching master classes and setting choreography. She is currently a faculty member of the Wild Dance Intensive and Power Pak Dance Camp. Jill teaches the Top Gun Audition master classes at Starpower National Competitions and co-hosts prestigious dance events like the World Dance Championships. Because Jill values guidance and education for young dancers, she also enjoys being co-director of the World Dance Pageant. Jill is thrilled to share her books in the “Are You Ready?” series. “Dance Competitions: Are You Ready?” is perfect for young competitive dancers, guiding them to have the best, most successful experience possible. “Dance: Are You Ready for the Next Step?” is a must read for all dancers that want to dance in college and beyond, preparing them to be successful in the professional dance world. Jill is proud to be a part of the dance community in TheatreArtLife. We are an international community of dancers and artists, united through our love and passion for dance!

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