Have you ever wanted to have in writing tips from someone who began dancing at 24 and then ended up working for Beyonce? Phillipe Witana is creating an exciting new book titled, Dance To Success, a no nonsense kind of book that tells it exactly like it is. Featuring interviews from industry heavy weights such as Jason Gilkison, Ashely Evans (Squared Division), Natalie Weir (Expressions Dance Company), Stephen Page and Yolande Brown (Bangarra Dance Theatre), P.J. Clarke (Jeep Management), Leanne Cherney and Leah Howard and many more, Dance To Success, is set to give dancers a complete look at the industry and provide an answer to everything professional within it’s pages.
Phillipe Witana left his hometown of Auckland and moved to Brisbane in 2003, taking regular classes at Mad Dance which he attributes to really fast tracking his dancing. “I had touched on dance a little back home but it wasn’t till I reached Queensland that I was really exposed to it’s culture. In many ways I’m a self taught dancer, I’ve trained but never had any formal training. All I did was take as many classes as possible from anyone and everyone. Commercial dance was always where I sat best. I understand and appreciate all forms of dance, but for me travelling and working with big music icons was my dream,” says Phillipe.
Since his move to Brisbane, Phillipe went on to have career highlights such as being a final 4 dancer in the 2010 season of So You Think You Can Dance and working with Beyonce on her film clip Mine featuring Drake. “Only few could understand what it was like to work for such a musical influence in today’s pop music. It looked amazing and was one of the few actual things I did in dance where I was happy to look back and feel appreciative for where I was.” Phillipe counts touring with Timomatic as another career highlight and is now working on a contract in Shanghai, China and using his time there to contract more work for more Australian talent, all while compiling Dance To Success.
“Dance To Success is a book. Plain and simple, no fancy new gadget, just a good old fashioned book. I wanted to come up with something that was able to help the dance community with some of its major issues. As I was researching, I found what students and parents wanted to know in order to help them relieve some of the stress, money and time they spend so much on,” Phillipe states. “Within this research I found what they wanted to know wasn’t about dancing but it was more about the professional side of the industry. Where was their career going to take them? How do they know if they are being trained well? Can they get scholarships? Who are the best agents for them? What about dancing overseas? In Dance To Success I have formulated all this information and broken it down into an easy step-by-step guide to make the dance industry winnable for everybody regardless of your history. It’s a guide to be as best prepared for the working industry as you can.”
For young Australian’s aspiring to work professionally in the dance industry, Phillipe points out that this book is from the perspective of Australian professionals who are all based in Australia compared to a generic book with an overseas target market. “The great thing is the people in the book are all Australian, working in Australia or having a sold reputation with the Australian industry. I wanted to make this book as specific to the Australian market as possible and really cover that niche. Within the book you have access to all of these people as if they were all sitting there in front of you to find out everything you need and give you the best head start into the industry. That type of accessibility just didn’t really exist until now.”
And parents, don’t think this book is just for your children. Phillipe outlines that Dance To Success answers many questions for parents of young dancers. “I think that it’s just as important that the parents are also getting educated. This education can start at home, and then in the studio is where you learn your ABC’”.
So when asked what is the hardest thing about the dance industry right now, Phillipe gives a refreshingly honest answer, which I think can be expected from the entire book. “Just becoming a working professional is hard enough let alone to keep working once you’re there. A huge chunk of commercial dance revolves around the growth of the music industry. If there are emerging artists all the time, chances are they need dancers.”
Without giving away the best part of the book, I was interested in knowing the most useful piece of advice Phillipe had collected in his research. “The most useful thing I learned didn’t come from an expert, it came through the process of writing this book, and that is that dancers are always willing to help each other. We all want to succeed. We are a very small voice in the human population, but we are a voice and must band together and support each other. The idea of ‘kill or be killed’ is definitely over.”
Dance to Success is currently still in publishing and is due out at the end of September. You can keep up with Dance to Success on Instagram at @dance.to.success or preorder your copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Elle Evangelista of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Phillipe Witana, creator of ‘Dance to Success’. Photo courtesy of Phillipe Witana.