Do you feel like you turn up to class, train, stretch and get your lines perfect, only to realise you actually have no clue re: any of the business stuff? We got you boo. We’re launching a 6 part series of articles called Dance Industry 101 to help you level up on them business skills.
Ok first things first – the overall synopsis. Too many people, eager to get started on that dominating flow, launch straight into admin, finance and strategy without taking the time to assess where they’re at first. Always start with a birds eye view before you zoom in. Here are some great starting points:
Clock your values
Remember when you dated that absolute waste-of-time? What was it about that experience that made you think ‘never again’? What are the red flags you look out for when you’re back on the market and dating again?
Now apply that same mentality to your work.
Try this exercise:
Write out your experiences of past gigs and create a dot point of things that were both great and not so great. For example;
- That time you under quoted for something that ended up needing extra work, costuming & travel
- That client who took 6 months to pay your invoice
- That inappropriate costume
- That ‘casual’ gig which ended up using your image for years in fb ads
This becomes the basis of information that you need upfront from clients before you begin negotiating rates to charge. This flips the script from looking like a desperate dancer who will happily take on any gig, to a discerning professional who needs to know x,y,z before they can send a quote or consider negotiating rates.
Pop the bubble
A common misconception in the dance industry is that followers = booking jobs. My organisation, with a humble 6K followers on instagram, consistently books campaigns, music videos, keynote talks, workshops and movement direction gigs. Check out a little highlight reel here:
How did we first get traction? Believe it or not, it had nothing to do with social media strategies or sending cold emails. We just loved meeting awesome people and, in doing so, we popped out of the dance bubble.
In the same way, consider diversifying the groups you interact with and get yourself in front of as many different human beings as possible. Why? If you take the same classes each week, hang within the same dance bubbles and then suddenly decide you need to network to book jobs, you will come across as…a networker.
Ew. No one vibes networkers.
Diversifying your experiences of the world means that a diverse set of people will get to organically meet you. Lucky you, lucky them.
Your creativity will expand beyond the boundaries of dance, your views on the world will be challenged and your life will have no choice but to flourish in newer, unconstrained ways. So do all the things and meet all the people. This is how manifestation really works
Diversify your income streams
Can you work as an independent dancer with no supplementary income outside talent fees? Sure, I just don’t know how personally.
You see, I don’t consider myself a dancer, I consider myself an entrepreneur who happens to love dance. Look at Marko Panzic, Parris Goebel, Dana Foglia or any other established commercial dance figure and you’ll see that they are much more than dancers. They are entrepreneurs, who use their love of dance to leverage an income by running workshops, holding industry events, curating ticketed stage shows and owning dance studios.
If you’re an emerging dancer, don’t feel ashamed or too snobby to work multiple jobs. Diversifying income streams is cited as the standard for creative freelancers in the first 8 – 10 years of their working life. As you grow older and more experienced, you can step into leadership roles organically as you garner the requisite experience.
Looking into your other talents (like your uni degree, photography, video editing, accounting, retail) and leveraging them for income is a great way to build a financially stable foundation upon which you can build your dance folio without the stress of paying bills.
My personal word of advice; don’t try make money from everything you enjoy. There’s a real magic in honouring the recreational power of hobbies. Instead consider the balance between financial stability and pursuing dreams.
A lot of dancers think professionalism is about writing to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and using ‘therefore’ and ‘hence’ in every sentence. Please someone, make it stop. Professionalism is not about using Shakespearean English whilst wearing a three-piece pinstriped ensemble. Professionalism is about being a punctual, prompt, respectful, easy going, self-motivated and real human being.
This doesn’t mean turning up to a shoot and being great to work with because it was a huge exciting opportunity. This means that you consistently act with professionalism across the board, no matter who you’re working for. Your reputation in our tiny industry is king/queen.
Try this exercise:
As a great starting point, write out a hypothetical situation in which you are a choreographer who needs to cast dancers:
- What would you like to know from a random dancer who emailed you expressing interest?
- What were your dream dancers like to work with?
- Describe the vibe during rehearsal
- What would make you never want to hire them again?
Boom. Just like that, you’ve written a magic list on how to act professionally. Follow your own advice. The way you treat the least important person in the room speaks volumes about your character. Trust me, we ask our grapevine of networks about a dancer’s professionalism before we book them.
Check yourself on the self-pity narrative
I get it. X person always hires the same dancers. Y person always gets the gigs because they’re beautiful. Z clique all say hi to each other in class and ignore you. This can totally suck and I am so sorry if you have to deal with that internal monologue. Having said that, remember there is a tipping point between fuel for spurring you on vs wallowing in self pity.
Remember the world doesn’t owe you anything, but you will always be rewarded most when you are giving back to it.
Rather than feeling bummed out for not booking jobs, volunteer to help out or assist at all the organisations that inspire you. Don’t go into the situation only thinking of what they can give you, but also back yourself on all the things you can give to them. Two way streets are the best am I right?
*We will cover a break down on how to approach people and get your foot in the door of your dream industry in Article 6
CONCLUSION: Show up for the long game
Don’t read this article, go to 4 events, smile at someone in class, ask to volunteer at an organisation and then collapse into a heap of despair when you aren’t Oprah within 6 weeks.
True greatness takes countless hours of work, failures, experience and learning. I’m not even close to my full potential and I’m ok with that. You should be too. You should be strapping in for a long journey, and once you accept that it’s exactly that, a long journey, you can finally start having fun along the way.
Ok so now what? Go journal your situation re: all the above and take a step back. This is your starting point. But remember: be in it for the long game, not the short-lived fame. the universe notices.
Groove Therapy is an organisation that focuses on dance as a vehicle for mental, physical and social change. Through an unrelenting obsession to learn, unlearn and contribute to the betterment of humanity, Groove Therapy teaches beginner weekly ‘no mirror, dim lights’ classes across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia. For those who cannot geographically attend, Groove Therapy has a series of online courses. Get out of your head and into your body. Dance a little baby.