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[ April 16, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

How To Get In Front Of Working Choreographers

Allow me to start by stating the obvious: in order to get in front of working choreographers, you must first know who the working choreographers are. Let me say it one more time for the people in the back, do your research! Some of the most “popular” teachers in LA, who have the most views and followers on their Instagram accounts, might not be booking work as choreographers! Sure, you can receive good-quality training, make great strides in your artistry, and even walk away with amazing video footage from their classes. But are you investing your time wisely? If you dream is to be a backup dancer for Ariana Grande, and you aren’t taking Brian and Scott Nicholson’s classes because you are taking someone else’s class at that time, then you aren’t using your time sensibly.  

Think of the instructor whose classes you take the most often. You are probably very used to their movement and teaching style.  You would likely feel quite confident if they were teaching an audition combination. And you’ll want that same confidence when auditioning for working choreographers. To achieve that level of self-assurance you need to know as much about the choreographer for whom you are auditioning for, as you do about the person you take class from the most. Understanding a choreographer’s style and what they expect gives you an advantage and sets you up for maximum success.  

As we have discussed in previous blogs, some choreographers and creative directors don’t teach a weekly class in LA. Now the question is how can you get in front of these choreographers?

Conventions

One of the most common ways to take class from working choreographers is to attend conventions. Weekend conventions can be pricy, not to mention the additional money you may need to spend on accommodations, food, flights, and/or a rental car. Depending on the convention, some might announce the faculty lineup several weeks in advance, while others might release these details within a week of the convention’s start date. Some conventions allow you to stop in and take a singular class or just one day instead of the entire weekend.  One of these options may be better for you depending on your budget. Regardless, it is worth your time to research this avenue and to try a convention or two. Even if you don’t make a personal connection with a specific choreographer, at least you will become familiar with his/her teaching style and expectations. This will only better prepare you for auditions going forward.

Master Classes

The other main way to get in front of choreographers is to attend their master classes. Be sure to follow these choreographers on Instagram and sign up to receive notifications for when they post. Signing up for these post notifications will allow you to be one of the first people to find out about their classes. You’ll want to check their Instagram Stories for additional information as well. Another way to find out about master classes is to check the master class tab of a studio’s mobile app. Most studios use the Mind Body layout for their apps, and the apps are all easily accessible.  

Some choreographers and artistic directors might hold master classes only once a year. So it’s extremely important to take their classes when they’re offered. You should also keep in mind that some choreographers don’t teach at all anymore. So then what do you do? If you encounter such a scenario, then your best course of action is to find out who their assistants are. You may be able to take the assistants’ classes instead.

Getting in front of working choreographers is key to building a career in this industry. Attend their classes whenever you can. You want your name and face to become recognizable to these potential employers. And this requires consistency and dedication. It is very common to have to introduce yourself a handful of times.  Don’t take it personally. These choreographers see hundreds of dancers every week. Try your best to stick around after a class and say “thank you” to the teacher. Not only is this proper etiquette, it’s also about trying to make that personal and emotional connection with them. Commit yourself to becoming visible, and eventually your name and face will begin to stick with these choreographers. As a reminder, you cannot simply leave an impression on these professionals. Rather, you must leave a stellar impression on them. Put your best foot forward in these classes, but also bring a positive energy to the room at all times. These choreographers aren’t just looking for talent. They’re looking for personality and professionalism. You can be the greatest dancer in the room. But no one will want to hire you if you bring a negative vibe to classes and auditions. So get out there, have fun, and start making connections!

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[ April 8, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

Successful Dance Careers for Non-LA Residents

For those of you seriously considering pursuing a career in commercial dance, you likely have found that most jobs and training opportunities lie in and around Los Angeles. However, not every dancer desires to relocate to LA. So how does a non-LA resident go about making a successful commercial dance career for himself/herself? It’s an easy question to ask, but a difficult one to answer as there are many variables in play. First and foremost, a “successful dance career” looks different to everyone. That fact alone makes this a near-impossible question to answer, but I’ll attempt to do so anyway.

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[ April 2, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

Programs for Dancers in LA

The endless options of available classes can be overwhelming when you first move to LA. Some of you may love having the freedom to take the classes you want, when you want, and where you want. Others of you might prefer more structure and guidance in your training. To help narrow down your options and find what’s right for you, consider the following factors: your preferences regarding class structure, your age, and your skill level. Depending on those factors, you may find that a dance program, certificate program, or a work-study position is where you need to be. There are many options, and each studio’s program is slightly different from the others. So you are bound to find a training program that suits your needs and skill level.  

Scholarship Programs

Of the programs I discuss here, the scholarship program is the most structured. Here’s the gist of how it works: program directors look at your strengths and weakness in terms of dance styles, and then they create a program for you that is unique to you. The program they design is meant to align with your personal dance goals. Most scholarship programs require an audition, usually held once a year. So you’ll have to keep your eye out for audition information. While each program is a little different, below is a list of what scholarship programs generally entail.  

  • A year-long commitment
  • A required minimum number of classes per week
  • Extra weekly seminars or master classes for scholarship students only
  • Guidance from teachers regarding class selection
  • Rehearsals for an end-of-program show
  • A private audition in front of all major dance agencies at the program’s conclusion
  • A headshot session
  • Front-desk and/or janitorial work at the studio

Circling back to those decision-making factors that I mentioned earlier, consider how this type of program might work in your life. Scholarship programs are a huge commitment. I have had friends participate in these programs in the past. Their work schedules and social lives revolved around their programs. Think of scholarship programs like college: your school/dance schedule comes first, and everything else must work around that.  

Certificate Programs

As a forewarning, I’d like to say that certificate programs are very hit-or-miss. They are meant to be configured like lower-intensity and lower-commitment scholarship programs. However, unlike the other options I present here, certificate programs not quite as well-developed. I don’t say this to discourage your enrollment in these programs. I just want to caution you to do your research before diving in. That said, the variability of certificate programs is also an advantage. For some, you can choose the length of the program. For others, there is a set number of months, but it isn’t as big of a commitment as a scholarship program. This makes certificate programs a good option for dancers who require more flexibility in their schedules. Furthermore, like scholarship programs, certificate programs offer you the resources and guidance to create a class plan suited to your personal goals. On the downside, though, you are unlikely to receive the extra perks of being in a scholarship program (e.g., private seminars, master classes, headshot sessions, etc.). Regardless, the more time you can invest in a program, the more you will benefit from it. If, however, you have only a few months to spare, then the flexibility of a certificate program may be appealing to you.

Work-Study

Though these programs are not universally offered at studios across LA, you will find that some studios offer work-study positions. What do these positions entail? Of course, work-study requirements vary from studio to studio. But the general idea is that you work for a studio, without pay, in exchange for “free” dance classes. This could mean working the front desk and/or it could mean cleaning the studios. You may be required to make a year-long commitment or you may be allowed to work for a time period of your choosing. Either way, the studio will allow you take a certain number of free classes per week. (Note: you will not be able to take or skip a class as you see fit—you will be monitored by staff and will be required to take a certain number of classes per week.)

Being a work-study participant is easier in terms of working other jobs and maintaining other commitments. Though the studio will still set an expectation for work hours and class obligations, these requirements are easier to incorporate into an existing schedule. Compare that to a scholarship program which, as I previously mentioned, is the centerpiece of a participant’s schedule. Keep that in mind when weighing your options.

Information regarding the availability of work-study positions can be found on studio websites or on Instagram. You may also find signs posted around the studio itself. If a work-study program is of interest to you, then keep your eyes open!

Before applying to any of the above-mentioned programs, here are a few more things to consider:

  • Atmosphere: if you don’t like a studio’s vibe, you aren’t going to have a good experience working or dancing there. Wherever you find a work opportunity, make sure you feel comfortable.
  • Transportation: Is there surplus of parking available? Will you have to pay a meter every two hours to keep from getting ticketed? Or how close is the nearest bus or train station to the studio? If you cannot reliably get to work or class, then the program is not right for you.
  • Location: Some programs may require you to be at the studio 5-7 days per week. Do you live reasonably close enough to the studio to commute almost every day?
  • Teachers: Some programs will not allow you to handpick each one of your instructors. But if you have the chance, then you should try taking classes with a few different program teachers to see if you like them. Even if you don’t work well with every single teacher at a studio, this shouldn’t stop you from participating in a program.
  • Variety: Some programs and work-study positions do not allow participants to take classes at outside studios. Is your program or position based out of a studio that offers a variety of classes that fit your dance goals?

As always, the key is to do your research. Check studio websites. Read online reviews of programs. Talk to studio staff members. Reach out to your local peers and industry contacts. People are your best resources. They can offer more insight than any website, and they can paint pictures of a day in the life of a program participant. Keep in mind that newer studios may not yet offer scholarship, certificate, or work-study programs. Continue to check their websites, social media accounts, and even ask the staff if they know when a program might be implemented at the studio of interest.  

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[ March 25, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

Preparing Your Daughter for the Move to LA

Yay! You have decided to move to LA! Your to-do list has now grown exponentially, and you may not know where to start. To help you get organized and to make the transition easier, here are a few things to check off your list before moving.  

1. Professional Materials

This means headshots, resumes, reels, generic video footage, and social media. All of this should be prepared before you settle down in LA.  That said, it’s not worth the time or money to get new headshots before the move. The reason is this: if, shortly after you move to LA, your child signs with an agency, that agency may require you to go to a specific photographer to get headshots redone. And even if your child doesn’t get signed right away, you yourself may want to get your son’s or daughter’s headshots redone by LA professionals. Depending on where you currently live, you might not have easy access to a photographer who specializes in headshots for dancers. Sure, most photographers can take good headshots. But I believe that it is worth the investment to work with someone who specializes in headshots for people in the entertainment industry. So, it’s likely in your best interest to hold off on getting headshots redone before moving to LA. That does not, however, mean that you should wait to get headshots altogether. You must have some sort of headshot ready to use immediately. Likewise, make sure that you have a usable resume and reel and an established social media presence. You can improve and update these materials once you’ve moved. But don’t head out to LA without these basics on hand.  

2. Technique

Since you are moving to LA for the sake of your child’s career, it is of the utmost importance that your child’s technique be the best it can possibly be. Depending on the age of child, make sure that they are training in heels before the move. Your child doesn’t have to master the high heel before setting foot in LA. But they should have some training or experience dancing in heels. I also suggest attending every dance convention possible prior to moving. Conventions offer great opportunities for dancers to try new styles of dance and to practice picking up movement. Furthermore, conventions get your child in front of working choreographers and creative directors. Most conventions hold an audition class as well. Participating in these classes will better prepare your child for auditioning in front of a panel of people.

3. Research

This may sound alarmingly obvious, but do your research! It won’t be worth your time and money to move to LA if you don’t have a game plan in mind. If your child really wants to work with a specific artist or choreographer, find a path to that professional. If, for example, your son or daughter really wants to be a backup dancer for Jojo Siwa, then find out who has choreographed her last couple music videos and tours. Track down that choreographer on Instagram, and see when he/she is teaching next. Once you move to LA start taking the choreographer’s classes immediately and consistently. The creative director/choreographer you’re looking for doesn’t teach anymore? Find out if he/she had an assistant choreographer. And keep digging until you find who or what you need. Do not move to LA blind. Know your next steps. (Side note: this research should also include finding the when and where for upcoming agency auditions and the like.)

4. Reaching Out

Do you have contacts in LA? Friends, family, colleagues? If yes, then reach out to them before you move. Moving is stressful. Calling that old friend of yours might seem like one more thing to add to your never-ending to-do list. And when you get busy, that will be the first thing to fall to the wayside. But remember that your contacts in LA are invaluable resources—they can ease some of the burden of moving. Reaching out to your industry contacts will be especially important. Give them a gentle reminder that you are moving to the area in a month or in a couple weeks. Hopefully they will give you some advice that is specific to your needs or your child’s goals. Now is also the time to reach out to those would-be contacts. Have your child apply online to agencies about a month before you move out there.  You never know what could come out of it!

I myself moved to LA a couple of years ago for the sake of my dance career. I know that it can be stressful and overwhelming—I imagine more so when moving an entire family. Taking these preparatory steps now will make your life easier later. And make sure your child is participating in this prep work. It’s important for your dancer to educate himself/herself on the industry and to know how much work is required.

Just so you know, you are already doing a great job. Pat yourself on the back, because being here, reading this blog is a big step in the right direction. And if you need additional information regarding any of the foregoing, then check out my other blogs (e.g., How to Write a Dance Resume or Dance Reels and Video Submissions). There are plenty of resources out there to get you on track for your move. 💫

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[ March 18, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

Jobs in the Dance Industry

It’s hard to earn a steady income as a dancer, especially if you are just starting to work in the commercial industry. Sure, you could book two or three jobs a year as a dancer. But more likely than not, these few jobs will produce an additional income, rather than a livable wage. You may, on rare occasion, book a job that results in repeat payment. Let’s say you work on a commercial, for example, and the company decides to continuously reuse this commercial. If you are part of the talent in that commercial, the company will pay you a “reuse” fee, also known as a residual. These are amazing, because you are repeatedly paid for a job that you worked once, possibly a while ago. You can’t plan on living off of residuals. For most of your work, you will earn a paycheck or two, and that’s it. So how can you support yourself financially until the next dance job or audition comes along?

Lucky for you, there are tons of dance-related jobs in the entertainment industry—aside from dancing, that is—to help supplement your income. Some of these jobs might suit your schedule and level of experience now. Others may be careers that you want to pursue later in life. Consider the following options:  

1. Dance Instructor

This is probably the most common job dancers have to help support themselves. There are plenty of opportunities to be a dance instructor. Many of these jobs can be found at studios, through after-school programs, and even at gyms. Level Up: Once your name carries some weight in the industry, you could become a regular teacher at one of the studios where you currently take class at, like Millennium or Playground LA. Or you could travel around the United States and teach on a dance convention.  

2. Choreographer

In many studios, the roles of dance instructor and choreographer often go hand-in-hand. But this isn’t always the case. You could be an amazing, sought-after choreographer who is hired specifically to set choreography on a group of dancers for a competition or concert. Level Up: Once you have been in the industry for a while, you could find yourself choreographing professional work. You could be the next choreographer for Cardi B’s newest music video or Ariana Grande’s next tour.  

3. Studio Management

Another way to stay in the industry is to work the front desk at a studio. You will be dealing with payments and parents more so than with students. But this sort of position still keeps you in contact with the industry. Level Up: Perhaps the experience will inspire you to open your own studio or to buy out the owners of the studio where you are presently employed once they decide to retire.   

4. Dance Competitions/Conventions

I’ve worked at a dance competition for a few years now, and I have to say it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I get to travel around the country, connect with other dancers and choreographers, and make kids’ dreams come true! If you have a passion beyond just dance (e.g., photography, videography, sales etc.), then working for a dance competition could possibly allow you to pursue both of your passions. Level Up: With enough experience you could work your way up to be a director at a competition/convention. Or maybe you will want to branch out and start your own company!

5. Being an Agent

Having previously interned at dance agency, I can say with absolute confidence that being an agent is no joke. They work around the clock, and they hustle for their clients! (Side note: this is why it’s so important for dancers to have an open line of communication with their agents. It benefits both parties. They are already bending over backwards for their clients. Let’s not make their jobs harder.) There is a lot more that goes in to being an agent than meets the eye. Agents are constantly scouting new talent, searching for job opportunities for their clients, representing their clients’ interests in deals, processing payments, and doing lots of relationship management.  If you like high intensity and variety in your job, then working as an agent might be right up your alley.

6. Clothing Shop

Have a passion for fashion in dance? You could work for or open your own clothing store. The market is there and the need is there. Dancers will always need leotards, tights, leggings, warm-up clothes, etc. Dancers will always need to get properly fitted for dance shoes, especially pointe shoes! You can fulfill those needs. If you are interested in both the dance industry and business management, then this might be the perfect path for you. And if opening a physical store isn’t your thing, then you might consider opening an online store. The opportunities are endless, and the job is what you make it.

7. Clothing Brands

If you like the idea of working in fashion, but visual merchandising doesn’t spark your interest, then there is another route: working for a clothing brand itself. You could work for Body Wrappers, Bloch, Capezio, Theatricals, and Sansha, just to name a few dancewear brands. Depending on your level of education and experience you could be a digital designer, a customer service representative, a brand representative, a warehouse worker, a production manager, and so on. This is another line of work in which there is great variety and which keeps you connected to the dance industry.

The above list is comprised of just seven non-dance jobs in the dance industry. And there are many more. Other examples include working as a dance therapist, a costume designer, a photographer or videographer, a recruiter in a college dance department, or a fundraiser for a dance company. Some of these jobs may require a degree or other professional experience beyond dance knowledge and training. But it’s important to know you can have a career in the dance world that doesn’t involve actually dancing. There are many ways to pursue your passion while earning a sustainable living.

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[ March 18, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

Commercial Dance Intensives

To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with commercial dance intensives. As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to participating in intensives or mentorship programs. If you find yourself feeling that the benefits outweigh the costs (literally and figuratively), then give it a try. But remember, you will get out of the program only what you put into it. If you commit to fully immersing yourself, then you will walk away with something gained.    

Pre-Registration To-Do List

Before signing up for someone’s intensive or mentorship program, try to take his/her class first. You want to make sure that you like the instructor’s teaching style and general vibe before investing hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars into a program that may not be right for you. As a word of caution, there are some choreographers who do not have open weekly classes. You can always wait it out for the next available class. But note that these choreographers are professionals who are constantly working and traveling. So, it may be a while before you can take their classes. As an alternative, you can research the instructor to see if you like his/her work.

The Pros

Dance intensives and mentorship programs are great networking opportunities. First of all, you are working with real professionals: working choreographers, creative directors, and teachers in the industry. You can and will learn a great deal from these individuals. Bonus: if you make a good impression, he/she could become a useful contact. Better yet, you could walk away with a job or an additional opportunity.  Second of all, these programs give you the chance to interact with your peers. We often take classes and, afterwards, we immediately leave. The result is that we aren’t meeting people in the dance community. Intensives provide an opening for you to get to know your fellow dancers. These people might not necessarily become your best friends but, they will become a friendly and recognizable face at auditions and in other classes.

Networking aside, you sign up for intensives to learn. And these programs provide the perfect setting. Intensives and mentorships grant you intimate classes with more opportunities to receive meaningful feedback. Your instructors have been in this industry for a while.  Take their feedback seriously. They will give you pointers on how to better yourself as an artist and on how to better your chances at auditions. So pay attention! Take home with you both the feedback you receive and the new exercises you learn. This way you can continue your improving on your own.

If learning valuable lessons isn’t enough for you, then think of these programs as career advancement opportunities as well. Agents often attend intensives to observe and provide feedback of their own. On occasion, they will sign dancers, too. So consider this another reminder to always put your best foot forward.

A more tangible benefit of participating in intensives is the footage you can take home. At most intensives these days, you will be filmed. That footage could be of you dancing solo or in a group setting. Using this footage in your reel and posting it on social media is a great idea.

The Cons

Let’s continue our discussion of footage. Yes, footage is both a pro and a con of dance intensives. When filmed correctly, footage is a great benefit of intensives. But given the human propensity for error and the occasional technical mishap, footage is not always guaranteed to be clear and usable. It may be a blurry shot or you may be out of the frame for some of it. No matter the issue, know that you cannot bank on getting good footage from an intensive… even if you technically paid for that footage since that is what they advertised when you signed up.  I know that may sound beyond simple, but it has happened to peers and myself more than once.

Speaking of price, here’s a simple exercise for determining value: take the cost of the program and divide that by the number of hours you are actually in the room.  I participated in an intensive that cost me $75 per hour. For those of you unfamiliar with class prices, to give you some perspective, a normal drop-in class is around $16. That money could have covered several classes with different instructors teaching a variety of styles. It’s up to you to determine the worth of an intensive. So make sure that you’re taking all of these factors and alternatives into consideration.

As I just mentioned, taking a handful of drop-in classes can be more beneficial than participating in an intensive. This is especially true for those intensives that don’t offer an experience that is different from the instructor’s weekly classes. Intensives should feel like something more than your standard, weekly class. After all, that’s why you’re paying the big bucks! For me, there has to be more to it than learning a combination. You can do that in any other class. And the “promise” of footage isn’t enough to make up that difference in price.

Some intensives offer a lot of great “extras” (e.g., agent attendance, wardrobe discussions, hair and makeup tips, Q&As, etc.). These “extras” are not, however, guaranteed at every program.  A bare intensive will offer you a standard dance class, filming, and feedback. Even then, though, you might not get direct feedback. And at that point, you might as well have just taken a normal $16 class. These are the two ends of the intensive spectrum. My point is that intensives can be a bit of a gamble. Factor that risk into your decision-making process.

The last major con is not, unfortunately, one you can really prepare for in advance. You can take a great intensive and work your butt off, but the choreographer still might not remember you. Granted, it’s your job to continue to take his/her classes and to get your face into his/her head. But if the instructor doesn’t remember you after a few days, you may find yourself feeling rather defeated. Remember, you’re paying a lot of money for the program, and you’re working really hard. Sadly, this doesn’t guarantee you the connection with the choreographer after the intensive or program concludes.

Below is a list of the different mentorships and intensives in the industry:

  • Body Language Experience by Liana Blackburn
  • Cameron Lee Mentorship Program
  • Creating Opportunities by Chonique and Lisette Bustmante
  • Dana Foglia Mentorship Program
  • The Galen Hooks Method
  • Industry Intensive By Brinn Nicole
  • Motivating Excellence by Rhapsody
  • One-On-One Mentorship Program with Gigi Torres*
  • Panorama Dance Intensive by Alexander Chung and CJ Salvador
  • Pump Camp by Aisha Francis
  • Zero F*cks Intensive by Claude Racine

*You can be anywhere for this mentorship program! Gigi Skypes with you and helps break down your goals so they are achievable.

Allow me to clarify, not all of these programs that are listed above involve physical dancing. Some of them are structured around providing informational guidance only.   

A majority of these intensives are held in LA, but not all. Some of these programs are held throughout the U.S. and even internationally! And the above list is not exhaustive—there are a few other choreographers/teachers who have had intensives in the past. But these are sporadic. So be sure to follow your favorite choreographers on Instagram, and check their websites to find dates and details.  

Before signing up for an intensive, research the program and self-reflect. What are looking to gain from an intensive or mentorship program? Are you doing this to truly better and push yourself? Or are you taking the intensive because everyone else is doing it? Most of these programs only accept a certain number of dancers to each session. So be mindful that, if you aren’t fully invested in the intensive, you could be taking the opportunity away from someone else.

If and/or when you decide to sign up for an intensive, social media and program websites are your best resources. Most programs have a deadline for registration, and some also require applications. There is a program out there for everyone. You just have to do the necessary legwork to find the right one for you.

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[ March 5, 2019 by Annie Libera 1 Comment ]

Side Gigs for Dancers

Let’s be honest, no one pursues a career in dance for the money.  We do it because dance is our passion. Unfortunately, the “starving artist” trope looms large for many dancers who are just getting their start in the industry. But don’t worry. You need not sacrifice your well-being—financial, physical, or otherwise—to chase your dreams. You may be wondering, “How do aspiring dancers support themselves when receiving little compensation for their pre-professional dance jobs?” The answer is side hustles. Having a standard 9am-5pm job isn’t exactly feasible when you are taking classes, going to auditions, and juggling rehearsal/performance schedules. Moreover, you should consider finding work that relatesto your desired industry, and you likely won’t find that in an office. But let me also remind you that, as these are side gigs, you might as well have fun with them!Below are two ways you can do just that.

Extra/Background Work

This is a great way to gain real-life, professional experience on a set. One of the many benefits of background work is that it is not geographically limited (i.e., you don’t have to live in LA to pursue these opportunities). Lots of television shows and movies are filmed throughout the United States. Bonus! You could have background work on your resume before you even move to LA. So you can be one step ahead of the game.  If, however, you don’t encounter these opportunities in your hometown, then there are plenty of chances to work as an extra once you arrive in California. 

If you are, indeed, interested in doing background work in LA, then you will have to register with Central Casting. Visit their office on a day when they are taking new registration (usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). You can reserve your spot online in order to register. You will not be allowed access without all of the correct documentation. The best way to prepare for registration is to read through the Central Casting website thoroughly. 

Also, make sure you look presentable. The staff will take photos of you at registration. These photos are kept in their database to be used for casting purposes. Luckily, if you don’t like or you need to update your photos, you can return to the office during “Re-registration & Updates” time slots (usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays). If you haven’t worked with Central Casting in a while, then I suggest going into the office to update your information.  This is a great chance to get your face back on their minds. 

Central Casing has a lot of people in their database. You will need to submit yourself for roles when you are available and fit the description. Every now and then, if you are a great fit for a role, casting will contact you to see if you are available to work a certain show. They might do this even if you didn’t submit for a role. If you respond that you are available, then they will submit your materials to casting. 

Seat Filler

One of my favorite side hustles is working as a seat-filler. This is where you go on a talk show or the like and are paid to simply watch! There are few different seat-filler companies with which you should register:

Quick warning: even if you are selected to be a seat-filler for a show, you may not end up actually working that gig. Sometimes, pedestrians will want to watch the show for free, and they will receive priority over you. If you are sent home, you are still usually given minimum compensation for your time. 

It’s important to register yourself on several seat-filler companies, because you can’t work the same show week after week. The show’s viewers will start to notice if the same people are in the audience in every episode. If you are not routinely recast as a seat-filler in a show, know that this may be the reason you aren’t getting the job. It’s not necessarily because they didn’t like you or thought you were unprofessional.

You know how talk show audiences sometimes receive free items? If you happen to work one of these shows, know that, more likely than not, you are not going home with those perks. You are being paid to be there—no freebies for you.  

Speaking of payment, though, some seat-filler companies will pay cash while others will send you a check. There have been times when I didn’t receive my check for six weeks. Carefully track the hours and days you work, in case you need to contact the company.     

Whether you are working as an extra or a seat-filler, always remember to bring snacks, water, a portable charger, and something to keep you occupied (e.g., a book). Since you could be on set for a long while, and without access to an outlet, I suggest that you preserve your battery by staying off your phone. Find some other way to entertain yourself. Food and water are provided on set, but extras are often the last to eat. Bring your own snacks to keep your hunger at bay. Also, since the food options on set are pretty limited, if you have dietary restrictions, you should definitely bring your own food. But as you are all brilliant people, I don’t need to tell you that. 😊  

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[ February 14, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

Dancing in Heels

Dancing, alone, is a skill. Dancing in heels is a whole different ballgame. It takes a great deal of practice to master dancing in heels. In fact, the one thing I wish I would have done to better prepare myself for working in commercial dance is trained more for dancing in heels. I do not have an exact figure, however, I can say with great confidence that professional female dancers do most of their work in heels. Whether you’re dancing in a music video, at an awards show, or on an NBA dance team, you are likely wearing heels. Do you aspire to be a Rockette? Get comfortable in heels. Do you want to perform on Broadway? Get comfortable in heels. Are you interested in being a cruise line dancer? Get comfortable in heels. Okay, I think you get the picture. If you can get comfortable with just walking and standing in heels before you move to LA, then you will be one step ahead of the game. 

Although the number of heels classes offered in LA has exploded in the last five years, such classes are still not as widely-available throughout the rest of the country. If you live in a city where access to heels classes is limited, below is a list of ways you can prepare for auditioning in heels before you get to LA.

1. Wearing Heels

I know that may sound insultingly obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning. The best way to get comfortable in heels is to wear and walk around in them. Start small; wear your most basic heel a couple times a week for 30 minutes. Just walk around in your house. From there you can progress to wearing a thinner heel, like a stiletto, or wearing them for longer periods of time. 

2. Changing Combinations

After learning a hip hop or jazz combination at your studio, try putting on heels at home and executing the combination again. While some movement may need to be adjusted, this is a great way to practice dancing in heels.

3. Tutorials

There are plenty of heel tutorials online. Tutorials are especially useful for those of you who don’t live in LA, as they give you remote access to teachers here. They’re also a great resource for dancers who are bit slower when it comes to picking up choreography. You can go at your own pace and take time to focus on the details. 

4. Ballet Classes

As you all know, in ballet, you are meant to keep your weight over the balls of your feet. The same is true when wearing and dancing in heels—you shouldn’t let your weight rest on the back of your foot. Really focusing on this aspect in your ballet classes will only make the transition to dancing in heels easier. 

5. Strengthening Exercises

You want to do everything you can to strengthen your ankles and feet. (Bonus: these exercises are beneficial not only for learning to dance in heels, but for becoming a stronger dancer in general.) One way to do this is by using a resistance band. Take your time to do these exercises properly. If done incorrectly, the exercises will more likely damage the ligaments in the ankles than strengthen them. Another way to strengthen your ankles and feet is to do relevés… lots and lots of relevés. Do them in multiple positions: in parallel with the legs together, first position, parallel in second position, and turned out in second position. Additionally, I would keep my legs in second position, feet parallel on relevé, and transfer the weight from one foot to the next slowly and controlled. Keep your weight on the balls of the feet, and make sure that you aren’t sickling your ankles. Also, engage your lower abdominals. You don’t want your belly hanging out with the pelvis tilted, because then your body is not aligned correctly. 

6. Character Heels

If you take musical theater classes, then do so while wearing a character heel! The character heel may not be as high and as thin as a normal stiletto, but it will help you get used to dancing in heels. This is also great way to practice (1) keeping your weight over the balls of your feet and (2) turning in heels. Learning to do pirouettes in character heels is less scary then learning to do them in stilettos. 

7. Ask For Heels Classes

Try asking your dance teacher or someone in the community who has experience dancing in heels to host a heels class. The best way to learn is to dive right in. Start with the basics (i.e., fundamentals like walking and shifting your weight).

Buying Heels

It is important to select the right heel for you. If you’re a beginner, then find something with a closed toe. An open-toe heel allows the foot to slide forward, which can cause irritation and pain on the balls of the feet. A closed-toe shoe holds the foot in one spot. If you are not yet comfortable dancing in stilettos, then find a shoe with a thicker heel. This will give you more stability. Personally, I tend to avoid heels that have a zipper directly in the back of the shoe. The zipper makes it more difficult for me to point and flex my feet to maximum capacity. Remember: you MUST point your feet in high heels to continue the line of the leg.  So be mindful of this while shopping for shoes.

I’ve had good luck finding high heels that I can dance in at Steven Madden and Aldo. You may also consider looking into Burju Shoes. This company designs heels specifically for dancers. Their shoes have been used by backup dancers for Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B. 

A final note on heels classes: many of these classes in LA will not teach you how to dance in heels. Rather, most heels classes are just combinations. Since dancing in heels is a crucial skill in this industry, it is worth your time to look into the above-mentioned resources to learn the mechanics of it all. And next time you are in LA, check out Aisha Francis, Liana Blackburn, and Sienna Lyons’s classes. They are great at giving you the knowledge and skills you need to become a confident dancer in heels.