In preparation for when you move here you should start researching and connecting with companies and choreographers NOW. Start sending emails to choreographers to find out if they have auditions coming up, check their tour schedule to see if you can go see one of their shows. I would suggest that you even plan a trip to NY so that you can take class and/or rehearsals with choreographers that you’re interested in. It will give you the space and time to lay some ground work with them BEFORE you transition to NYC. That way (if you connect with a choreographer that you like), the transition can be smoother once you move here because you will potentially already have work lined up.
You may already know this, but you should make a dance reel of yourself. It is very much needed for auditioning in general, especially if you can’t show up to the audition in person. I have sent my dance reel out several times in the past year. That, along with a great head shot and resume, are a must have.
Don’t lay all your eggs in one choreographer’s or company’s basket. And I only say that for the freelance dancer. Most pickup company’s work-days and/or work-weeks will be sparse and random. So even you if you find a choreographer you love, in most cases you will still have to find other work to “fill in the blanks” on your calendar. So I suggest reaching out to a few choreographers that interest you so that you have options.
Also in preparation for a freelance dancer life in NYC, SAVE YOUR MONEY!!!! Because the freelance life is so inconsistent and random, there will be times that you won’t be working but rent will still be due on the 1st of the month. Hahaha! So be smart about your funds so that you can continue to do work that you WANT to do, not work that you don’t want to do (i.e. waitressing, retail, receptionist, etc). And no shade to those jobs, but I think we all would rather be dancing. 🙂
I’m finding that once you get here, it’s really about being present and SEEN. Even if you aren’t performing consistently you have to be SEEN consistently so that dancers, choreographers, directors know that you are around and available.
That means going to dance shows, not only to see work that inspires you, but to connect with other potential work colleagues who are sitting in the audience. That means taking dance workshops with people who can connect you with the choreographers of your choice. That means going to auditions (even if you think that you’re not going to get it) just in case you run into someone there that has a project going on that they’d want to hire you for or maybe the director/choreographer doesn’t think you’d be the right fit for that specific project but they want to hire you for another project that you’d be perfect for. You have to be everywhere. It’s kinda weird, but it’s constant networking. If you are wanting to be a freelance dancer in NY you’ll essentially be managing yourself which requires lots of “reaching out” and lots of networking.
Keep taking class. Keep taking class. Keep taking class. Staying in shape is hard to do in NYC because class is so expensive, but try your best to keep taking class. Not necessarily just ballet either. Take modern, take Gaga, take improv, take yoga. Plus, you never know who you’ll run into in class! Your next gig might find you standing in 5th at the barre. 🙂
Enjoy your freedom! One of the beautiful things about being a freelance dancer is that you get to decide what projects you will and won’t do. You get to decide what months out of the year you will dedicate to something that YOU feel passionate about versus always being subject to producing someone else’s vision. You get to decide when its time to hibernate and spend some time focusing on you. Having all of these freedoms is a bit scary, but completely liberating. Enjoy.
The one thing that I never could have prepared myself for in this freelance dancer life is suffering through a mild bout of depression and a personal identity crisis. Because (like I said earlier) the work is inconsistent there will be times when you won’t have danced for MONTHS. Yes, MONTHS. And in those months I would suggest that you 1) stay in class, stay in shape and 2) figure out what else makes you feel creatively happy and affirmed besides dance. I am a dancer. We are dancers. That is who we are. That is our identity. So when I wasn’t able to be who I was, to dance, to move, depression kicked in and I felt lost. Who was I if I wasn’t in ballet class every morning and in rehearsal for 6 hours every day? Who was I if I wasn’t performing 2 or 3 times a week? Who was I if I wasn’t dancing?
I realized that I am a dancer but I am so many other things as well. I am a collaborator. I am a choreographer. I am a teacher. I am an entrepreneur. The time away from dance forced me to throw myself into other creative projects that brought me joy. Now, is dance still my #1 passion? And will I continue to pursue it wholeheartedly? Absolutely. But what this last year has taught me is that I shan’t be defined solely by my identity as a dancer. I am so much more. YOU are so much more.