Dance Advice

Making the Most of your Full Time Dance Graduation

BEST OF 2013: A favourite article from the January Edition

By Rebecca Martin of Dance Informa.

After all the blood, sweat, tears, hairspray, blisters, bruises, melt downs, costume changes and fun, it’s time to graduate from full-time dance training.

Now what?

You may have dreams of Broadway or West End, Paris Opera Ballet or The Australian Ballet, the world stage or opening your own dance school, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to achieve these dreams straight out of training.

Here are some tips to help you reach your dreams.

Get experience – Loads of it

Fill your CV with as many different things as possible, and say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Saying yes to job offers can strengthen connections with key industry players who can get you a step closer to your ultimate dream.

For all the thousands and thousands of dancers in Australia that want a job in their industry, very few of them will be fortunate enough to earn a living from dancing. There are limited companies with limited places, and directors want a performer that has treaded the boards a few times and can be relied upon to carry a show and handle the strenuous life of performing.

Get an agent

Many auditions are by invite only and must be done through an agent. Find yourself a good agent who knows your strengths and weaknesses who will source work for you.

Think outside your comfort zone

If you’ve trained in ballet, consider musicals. Phantom of the Opera has roles for ballet dancers. If you’ve trained in jazz, take some acrobatic classes and audition for a cruise ship. Consider working behind the scenes in choreography and production. Audition for TV commercials and TV shows. Teach other dancers, perform at theatre restaurants, try character roles at Movie World and other theme parks around the world, put on your own show, travel, experiment, don’t stop learning and don’t turn down any opportunity. You don’t know where it may lead.

Dance Informa spoke to some dancers who have had varied and fulfilling careers since graduating from full-time dance schools:

Hayley Uberti
Graduate of The Space Dance and Arts Centre

What are some of the things you have done since graduating?
Since graduating I have been very fortunate to be able to work with some great choreographers and experience different performance avenues. I have worked for Grayboy Agency (William Forsythe’s choreography) on a Princess Line Cruise Ship that sailed the world, I have been a part of three pieces performed by Vertical Shadows that were directed and choreographed by Stephen Agisilaou, [and] performed in various corporate shows, events and video clips. I have had small acting roles with Opera Australia, short films and TV commercials and worked around Australia and Singapore with suit work contracts. I have been teaching for over 10 years and have recently ventured into professional choreography, including corporate events and fashion shows.

What advice do you have for new graduates who are embarking on a dance career?
Be patient, attend as many auditions as possible to gain experience and expose yourself to various choreographers who may not cast you today but will always remember faces. No doubt you will come across them again.

Don’t let your full-time training go to waste, keep up classes and commit yourself to continually building your craft and keeping in shape. Keep those ballet classes up!

Australian dancer Robert Kelly

Robert Kelly

Robert Kelly
Graduate of Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts

What are some of the things you have done since graduating?
While training at WAAPA I was fortunate enough to take an original piece I created to rural areas in Western Australia. Then later I danced in the corps de ballet with West Australia Ballet.

After Perth I went on to dance as a guest for the National Theatre Ballet School in Don Quixote and Le Corsaire, both of which went on tour all around Victoria. I ended up dancing in three other touring companies in Australia all of which were a great artistic experience and also a paid experience…which is not so easy to find these days.

I have taught company classes and student workshops for people from all over the world. I’ve also created major works locally and overseas to audiences of more than 2000 and was employed by the Catholic Church to create a surprise work for a congregation.

Aside from being a dancer I’ve been a choreographer, teacher, costume designer and director of my own company.

What advice do you have for new graduates who are embarking on a dance career?
If you start with an open mind but a solid discipline you can kick a few goals. Most importantly be fair to those who were even 50 percent as fair to you.

If new graduates are planning to use their Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Dance or Diploma of Education for a career in Australia they are on solid ground for entry into arts psychology, physiotherapy or other positions that are not directly movement related.

Always be polite in the audition process to everyone. Use this opportunity to make friends, contacts and evaluate situations. The dancer has to be out for themselves first and foremost as it is a ‘cut-throat’ industry but that does not mean that you can’t make a good friend or two.

dancer Katie Hurst-Saxon

Katie Hurst-Saxon

Katie Hurst-Saxon
Graduate of International Ballet Academy NZ

What are some of the things you have done since graduating?
After graduating at 16 I was offered a contract with the Royal New Zealand Ballet straight away. By the age of 19 I had my first Principal role. I spent nine years with RNZB, dancing many lead roles and also different styles of dance. Along with the pure classical ballets we performed, we also did a great amount of contemporary and neoclassical works. After nine years I decided I needed a break, so I headed back home to Christchurch and did a bit of teaching. I choreographed a few dances for students doing competitions too. After about a year I realised that I did still want to dance and I have been freelancing for the past year. I did Angelina Ballerina with RNZB (as Angelina), Giselle with Melbourne Dance Theatre (as Giselle) and am now rehearsing for the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty (as Carabosse and Aurora.)

What advice do you have for new graduates who are embarking on a dance career?
Don’t give up! It’s likely that you’ll have rejection and criticism thrown your way, if you let that get you down you’ll have trouble surviving in this world. Use the bad to make you even stronger. Be strong, be confident, know what you want and don’t stop till you’ve done everything you can to get it.

dancer Jayden Hicks

Jayden Hicks

Jayden Hicks
Graduate of The Space and Ministry of Dance

What are some of the things you have done since graduating?
In the past two years since graduating I have performed with Vertical Shadows (Release The Stars and On The Rocks), in Stage Art’s production of Matalor, completed a secondment with Chunky Move for Keep Everything, toured with Melbourne Ballet Company in On Air and Infinite Space, was a featured dancer in Quirky Productions’ La Cage Aux Folles, performed in the burlesque piece Holy Ship at Red Bennies, appeared in a music video for singer Sam Burke and performed in Industry Nights’ Immersed and Underground, as well as Short and Sweet: Dance.

I teach for The Space, Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance, Elevator Studios, Gippsland Academy of Dance, Vicki’s Dancing Academy, Backstage Dance Studio, Pole Divas and Volar Dance Centre. I also do dance and aerial consulting including silk, hoop, pole and dance collaboration.

What advice do you have for new graduates who are embarking on a dance career?
Don’t try to follow in someone else’s footsteps. The beautiful thing about the dance industry is that there is no right or wrong way to succeed. There is no set direction that you must take once you graduate. Keep expanding your knowledge of dance and the dance community and find your own way to success. Also don’t pigeon hole yourself into a stereotype. The more versatile you are the easier it will be to find work.

dancer and yoga instructor Gina Brescianini

Gina Brescianini

Gina Brescianini
Graduate of McDonald College and The Australian Ballet School

What are some of the things you have done since graduating?
I have opened my own yoga centre called Radiant Awakening in Sydney where I teach Kundalini Yoga and Pilates. I also teach ballet to adults at Sydney Dance Company studio. I teach ballet, yoga and Pilates to the senior students at McDonald College and ballet and Pilates at Dorothy Cowie School of Dance.

What advice do you have for new graduates who are embarking on a dance career?
Give it all you’ve got everyday. Learn as much as you can from all teachers, choreographers and dancers. Have fun and enjoy it, stay focused and know that we all have good days and bad days and it is all worth it!

Australian dancer and performer Samantha Dodemaide

Samantha Dodemaide

Samantha Dodemaide
Graduate of Patrick Studios Australia

What are some of the things you have done since graduating?
You name it, I’ve most probably given it a red hot go. My ultimate dream was always to be a musical theatre performer, but I knew this was also the dream of many others and that it would take a lot of hard work (even after I had finished three years of full-time dance training). So after graduating I made sure I didn’t stop training, made sure I was attending dance class and singing everyday, taking acting lessons and working hard at the gym.

I was lucky enough to land a job performing at Witches In Britches theatre restaurant, as part of their five-person comedy show (which allowed me to sing, dance and act.) I also landed a few small-scale jobs both here and overseas, fashion parades, club free styling, kids’ shows such as A Looney Tunes Christmas in Singapore and touring pantomime shows of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I travelled to Dubai multiple times as part of a cheerleading team for the Dubai Rugby 7’s Tournament. I was working for a children’s musical theatre school teaching dance and drama most nights of the week.

Throughout all of this I was attending multiple musical auditions but couldn’t seem to break my way in. Then after what seemed like an eternity it finally happened. Since landing my first show which was Wicked at Universal Studios Australia I have also now performed in Anything Goes, The Producers and A Chorus Line. Most recently I have been performing alongside Geoffrey Rush in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

What advice do you have for new graduates who are embarking on a dance career?
Follow your dreams and they will come true! I truly believe you can make anything happen if you put your mind to it. As long as you are patient, work hard, and are 110 percent committed to your craft you cannot fail. You can never stop improving, and the more time and energy you spend improving yourself, the more success you will have.

Photo (top): Dancer Katie Hurst-Saxon.

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