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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 ]

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.

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[ February 10, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

What To Wear and What To Bring to Auditions

A decade ago it wouldn’t matter what you would wear to an audition because casting directors were only looking at your dancing.  But it isn’t like that anymore. There are so many more dancers today; you have to dress from head to toe so casting directors could potentially see you in the role you are auditioning for.  There is no universal rule on what you should wear to auditions.  That is because you shouldn’t dress the same way for every audition. For example, what you might wear to an audition for a Rihanna music video shouldn’t be the same thing you wear to audition for Disney. We will be discussing the most common looks for certain types of auditions as well as what you should actually bring to auditions.

Sometimes casting directors can be specific in what they want you to wear to an audition.  Some examples of descriptions I have seen are body conscious (sexy) in all black, goth/punk rock band clothing, and full ballet apparel (pink tights, black leotard).  Some audition notices give zero description on what you should wear.  If that is the situation, be sure to read the description of the job you are auditioning for and see if that gives you some insight.  You can also try searching for previous jobs by the company on Google and YouTube to see if that helps. 

Commercial Auditions

Commercial audition apparel is something you would wear to an audition for a tour, music video, and a live performance with a pop artist like Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and Britney Spears.  A standard outfit right now for an audition like this would be cut off fishnets under a pair of ripped jeans, a bra top layered with a crop top, and accessories.  Even though this look is in right now, this is just an example of something you could wear. Because it is such a popular look, you might be wearing the same thing as the person standing next to you.  That isn’t always a good thing.  Get creative with your commercial audition looks. 

*Remember for commercial auditions for women, always bring sneakers and heels!

Disney/Cruise Lines/Theme Park Auditions

For these types of auditions it’s all about being able to see the lines you can create with your body.  Make sure your outfit has some type of color in it.  I would suggest a colorful bra or crop top with high waisted shorts.  You could also do a colorful leotard with shorts or a little skirt. Remember to think clean and simple for these types of auditions.  Feel free to add a silver stud earring to enhance the look. 

*For these auditions be sure to bring jazz shoes and character heels!  My suggestion would be LaDucas for character heels as they are much more comfortable than other brands. 

Brand Auditions

You may get an audition for a brand or a store like Best Buy or Target.  If the audition notice gives you zero information in regards to clothing, I would wear what you would see employees wear.  For Best Buy I would wear khaki shorts with a blue top and for Target I would wear khaki shorts with a red top.  You want casting directors to visualize you in the advertisement before you are even booked!

You need to put your best version of yourself forward at every audition.  This means making sure your hair and make up are done as well as following wardrobe directions.  If you know you have an audition coming up and are wearing a new outfit to an audition, be sure to test it out to make sure it works for you.  I would suggest taking a class in your audition outfit to see how it holds up.  If something is uncomfortable or isn’t allowing you to dance to your fullest potential, then you will need to find some alternative options. 

Audition notices can come up at the last moment.  You might not be home when you get a call from your agent and they want to see if you can make an audition across town in a matter of two hours.  That is why it’s important to have extra audition clothes, headshots, resumes, and dance shoes in your car at all times.   You don’t want to miss an opportunity, so be prepared. 

Sweating is completely natural.  If you sweat a lot, however, it can be distracting to the casting directors.  If you have a favorite outfit that you love to audition in, buy multiple of those items.  Once you are done learning the combination, before you dance in smaller groups, quickly run to the bathroom to change into clean fresh clothes.  DO NOT change your outfit completely! Casting directors might have you in their head as the girl in the blue leotard.  If you go and change into a purple tank top, they might not recognize you! Put the exact same outfit you had on earlier, but now your clothes are dry and you appear more presentable.  Never wear grey, unless specified by casting director.  Grey clothing shows sweat very quickly.

Below is a list of items you should bring with you to all auditions:

  • Headshot and resume.  These are of the utmost importance! You might not be able to audition if you don’t have these items!
  • Dance shoes. If you have duplicates of shoes bring them.  Especially heels incase one of them breaks. 
  • Knee pads
  • Water.  Lots of water.
  • Snacks.  You might be at an audition all day.  Your body will need fuel to perform at it’s best.   
  • Phone charger and portable charger 
  • Safety pins! Most of the time at auditions, assistants will provide you with safety pins.  I have been in situations where they are running low and can only give one safety pin per person.  The last thing you want to do is worry about your number falling off in the middle of the combination.  Always bring extra and always know where they are in your bag! 
  • Makeup.  Bring makeup to touch up your face to keep you looking presentable throughout the day.    
  • Hair products like hairspray, brush, hair ties, and a blow dryer.  If you have downtime redo you hair (in the same style it was before), just to keep it looking neat.  If you sweat a lot, bring a blow dryer to dry your hair before you walk into the room. The goal is to look clean and fresh. 
  • Towel.  To dry off the sweat. 
  • Deodorant
  • Mini stapler.  Casting directors might not have a stapler or they may run out of staples.  It’s important to always be prepared. You don’t want your headshot to detach from your resume and have your information get lost. 
  • Pen.  You never know when you will need a pen. 
  • A book.  It’s possible you may have to wait for a while, so you might as well entertain yourself. 
  • Additional clothes.  While waiting throw clothes on over your audition outfit to keep your muscles warm.  More importantly have extra clothes you can wear at the audition incase something rips or you are dressed in the exact same outfit as someone else. 

Being a dancer in the industry is difficult.  Auditioning is difficult.  That is why it is important to be as prepared as you can.  Do your homework on the style of dance you will be learning, the choreographers, and know how long it will take you to get to the audition.  Being prepared makes you a smart dancer.  Taking time to research these things will minimize your stress in the room and maximize your opportunities.

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[ February 1, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

Performance Opportunities in LA

While it may take a few years to book your first big job working with an artist, there are plenty of other performance opportunities to pursue in Los Angeles. Taking advantage of these opportunities offers many benefits, including maintaining your performance skills, meeting people in the industry, and learning to dance in non-traditional spaces. 

Carnival Choreographers Ball

One of the most popular performance opportunities in LA is Carnival Choreographer’s Ball, otherwise known as Carnival.  The best part about Carnival is that it is ubiquitous—there are Carnivals in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, New York City, Canada, London, Italy, Sydney and Tokyo.  Carnival in LA is held once a month at the Avalon Hollywood.  There are around twenty choreographers that put their work on the Carnival stage each month. (Side note: This is the perfect chance to get performance footage to add to your social media accounts and your reel!) Carnival is not an event solely for aspiring choreographers, but for established choreographers as well. Tessandra Chavez, Gil Duldulao, Dana Foglia, Kyle Hanagami, Rhapsody James, Tricia Miranda, Marie Poppins, Matt Steffanina, and Twitch are among some of the Carnival alum.  Paula Abdul, Jason Derulo, Janet Jackson and Keke Palmer, have also made appearances on the stage! There are no auditions for Carnival.  You can perform in Carnival by getting to know people in the community and being in their pieces.

Jeté

Another popular event to perform at is Club Jeté, otherwise known as Jeté.  Jeté is held once a month at the RAGE nightclub in West Hollywood.  There is an average of seventeen choreographers that put work on the Jeté stage.  Jeté has an extremely small stage in the shape of a “U.”  Not only do people dance on the stage, but they also dance around the stage (i.e., on the floor, at the same level as the audience).  Jeté also provides video footage to add to your social media and reel.  Anyone can submit to choreograph.  The waitlist can be fairly long, so put in your application a few months ahead of time!  Like Carnival, Jeté attracts new and established choreographers.  Some choreographers who have graced the Jeté stage are Rudy Abreu, Hamilton Evans, Matthew Fata, Jojo Gomez, Mollee Gray, Jared Jenkins, Amari Marshall, Devin Solomon, and Zachary Venegas.  Again, there are no auditions for Jeté. You can perform by getting to know people in the community and being in their sets.

Posers/The 8 Count

This is one of the coolest performance opportunities in LA.  Posers is NOT an event where you can create whatever you want.  Each event is structured around an artist or a theme.  While one night might be built around a single artist like Lady Gaga or Chris Brown, another night take the theme of “Divas” (think Rihanna, Christina Aguliera, Britney Spears, etc.).  Some events are structured around groups (e.g., Fifth Harmony or Backstreet Boys), and others are inspired by eras (e.g., the 90s or 2000s).  These are just a few of Posers’ previous themes.  No matter the theme, someone in your set will have to be the artist(s) and lip sync to your music.  This is great practice for dancing and/or choreographing for an artist!  Posers is held a couple times a year at Flaming Saddles in West Hollywood.  If you are thinking of performing or choreographing for Posers, be sure to visit the location first.  It’s a very non-traditional space.  There is a stage downstairs, a stage upstairs, a set of stairs, and a few runways.  Because your audience is both upstairs and downstairs, you’ll need to use the whole space.  Not only is Posers a good performance opportunity, but it is also a chance for choreographers to win money.  There is an event within Posers called The 8 Count.  At this event, judges assess choreographers based on their originality, audience interaction, costuming, use of space, level of performance, transitions, cleanliness, and musicality.  The judges narrow it down to a top 3, and then the audience picks the winner.  Also, the winner walks away with $1,000!

RichFam

Rob Rich is one of my favorite people to take class from in LA.  His class is such a challenge and he really pushes your stamina to its limits.  Since he is such an amazing teacher and figure in the industry, he often teaches abroad.  He is also the creator of RichFam and Flygirl$, for which he holds auditions.  For the past few years, he has staged two U.S. shows per year but he has also put on additional shows all over the world.  Auditions are held in front of Rob and a panel of professionals for a spot to perform in one of his shows.  If selected, you begin training with Rob and his staff the day after the audition.  You train for up to two weeks, sometimes less. Rob not only sets his own choreography on his dancers, but he also brings in other top choreographers in the industry to set their own choreography for a piece in his shows.   Some of the choreographers he has brought in are Miguel Antonio, Lee Daniels, Aisha Francis, Marty Kudelka, Larke, and Sienna Lyons.  Be sure to follow Rob (@_robrich), RichFam (@_therichfam), and Flygirl$ (@iloveflygirls) on Instagram to stay up-to-date on when the shows and auditions are. If you don’t live in LA, don’t fret. Rob sometimes holds open contests on Instagram for a spot in his shows. If you are selected, he may fly you out to LA and pay for your accommodations to be part of the RichFam.

LA Unbound

This performance opportunity is a longer process and more structured than the ones listed above. It reminds me of my college dance days.  LA Unbound holds auditions twice a year, usually in August/September and January.  For your audition, you will perform multiple styles of dance in front of a panel of choreographers. Based on their observations, the choreographers will decide if they want to “cast” you or not.  If your availability dates match the dates listed by the choreographer, then you can choose to be in his/her piece.  Rehearsals are usually held once a week for 2.5 months.  There are also a few extra rehearsals (usually on Sundays) where all the choreographers and dancers are in attendance.  These supplementary rehearsals are used to run through the entire show and to see the progress of the other pieces.  LA Unbound accepts everyone into the show, regardless of age or skill level. If you prefer structured rehearsal schedules and traditional performance settings, then LA Unbound is for you. 

These opportunities are great for gaining performance experience.  But more than that, they are wonderful for networking.  The people you meet at these performances may not become your new best friends, but they are familiar faces that you’ll see when taking classes and going to community events.  You can never have too many connections.  Not to mention, getting to know your peers and colleagues makes these events more enjoyable!  Even if you are not performing, I still recommend attending these events to see what they’re all about.  It’s a great chance to watch talented dancers, mingle with people in the community, and get inspired!

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[ January 27, 2019 by Annie Libera 0 Comments ]

Makeup for Dancers

Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. This includes makeup! Learning how to create the perfect smoky eye is great and all. But learning how to maintain a clean makeup look while sweating for hours is far more valuable. There are a million videos on YouTube that can help you improve your makeup application skills and that can offer you creative inspiration. Few, however, will teach you how to get your makeup to stay in place through long and grueling auditions. So let’s get to it.

Before we start, remember that proper skin care is essential. Makeup can only cover up so much. In addition to drinking plenty of water, you should make regular use of exfoliators, cleansers, serums, and moisturizers that work for you. If you have no idea where to start with a skin care routine, go to an Ulta Beauty or Sephora and talk to the store associates. Give them an idea of what you’re looking for and tell them your price range. There is something for everyone, no matter your budget. If you notice that your products aren’t working, then you may have see a dermatologist to get more extensive care.  

Primer

It is a crime not to prime! Primer serves two main purposes. First, it’s a preparatory layer that acts as a barrier to protect your skin from the other products that you put on your face. Second, it helps hold your makeup in place all day.  

There are tons of great full-face primers. Some of these full-face primers can help specifically with minimizing pores, color correcting, oil control, etc. And some primers out there can do more than one thing. The options are endless, which can make selecting the right primer a little difficult. For those of you who have lots of on-camera auditions, my recommendation would be to get a primer that minimizes your pores. Pore-minimizing primers will give you a nice, clean look on camera. I highly recommend the Benefit Porefessional, because there is a formula for normal skin and one for oily skin.

I also suggest buying an eye shadow primer. Some people use a normal primer on their eyelids. But regular primers don’t hold eye shadow pigment as well as an eye shadow primer. I know that this means buying yet another makeup product. But it’s worth the money and the primer should last for months. I recommend the Urban Decay Eye Shadow Primer Potion.  

False Lashes and Mascara Primer

Until the day I die, I will vouch for wearing fake lashes to an audition. Fake lashes are a cleaner look than mascara. The good news is that there are a variety of false lashes on the market, ranging from subtle to dramatic. So for whatever role you’re auditioning, there is an appropriate set of lashes. For example, if you’re trying to get work as a dancer with the NBA, you’ll likely be auditioning on a basketball court or in a similarly large setting. In this case, you may want to wear the more dramatic lashes so that your eyes pop. On the other side of the spectrum, if you know that you’ll be auditioning in a more intimate space, you might wear a different set of lashes for lengthening (rather than volumizing) purposes. No matter what eyelashes you choose, though, the key is good eyelash glue. Each glue is slightly unique, but my personal favorite is the Ardell Duo Lash Adhesive Dark. (Tip: if you want to try this glue, know that it dries very fast. So be prepared!)

Now, if you really can’t stand fake eyelashes, then you will need an eyelash primer that holds the mascara securely. As a reminder, before applying a primer, curl your eyelashes up to the gods with an eyelash curler. After that, feel free to apply the primer generously while pulling the lashes up. I really like the Lancôme Cils Booster XL Vitamin-Infused Mascara Primer. This formula is white in color—so you will need to paint your favorite mascara over the primer to have dark eyelashes.  

Setting Powder and Baking

To be completely transparent, I don’t see a huge difference when I use a setting powder. This might have more to do with my skin type than anything else. So I’m not discouraging or disparaging the use of setting powder. In fact, when I go to an audition or have to look presentable for a long period of time, I will still use powder. At the very least, it’s another protective layer to help keep the makeup in place. Furthermore, not only will I bake under the eyes, I will also do so wherever my makeup tends to breaks first (e.g., on my nose). Product-wise, I recommend the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder.  

Setting Spray

Setting spray is one more layer of defense to keep your makeup from fading. It is especially useful on days when you’re changing clothes as you go from one audition to the next. The spray will help prevent your makeup from rubbing off on our clothes. Again, there are many setting sprays out there that achieve different goals. Some excel at oil control while others are hydrating or long lasting. I personally like the Wet n Wild Photo Focus Matte Finish Setting Spray.  

Lips

If you have multiple auditions in one day and plan on changing your lip color throughout, then I suggest not using a liquid or matte lipstick. If you keep makeup remover with you, then you should be able to get away with it.  Make sure you remove the lipstick completely before applying the new color. Otherwise, your lips could look a little funky. On the other hand, if you are NOT planning on changing lip color, then liquid and matte lipsticks are perfect for auditions.

In terms of color, try a few out to see what works best for you. It’s always good to have a few “sophisticated” colors on hand. But remember, your priority it to dress the part. More likely than not, you wouldn’t see a Disney character wearing black lipstick. So if you’re auditioning for Disney, don’t wear that color. Pretty simple, right? I also don’t recommend wearing gloss to an audition, especially if your hair is down. You don’t want your hair to stick to your lips and then drag the lipstick and gloss onto your foundation. That’s not cute. This is why, when possible, you ought to use liquid or matte lipsticks. These kinds of formulas and finishes won’t move while you are dancing and flipping your hair around. I recommend NYX Lip Lingerie.  

Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t buy foundation that is too dark for your skin tone. Your face shouldn’t be a different color than your neck! You can always add bronzer if you need to look “tanner.”
  • If you plan on doing a smoky eye for an audition, don’t use black and grey eye shadow. It doesn’t look good on camera and in person, it makes you look tired. Instead, try using shades of plum to darken the outer edges of your eyelids to give you the smoky effect.
  • Always carry makeup remover, cotton swabs, and cotton balls. These things are essential when you need fix your makeup on-the-run.  
  • BLEND BLEND BLEND. Blend your foundation. Blend your eye shadow.
  • Clean your makeup brushes once a week to ensure that you are getting the truest pigment from your makeup.
  • Don’t try a new makeup look the day of an audition. Always practice beforehand!
  • Some of your everyday makeup products can be used for auditions. Try it out. Wear your normal makeup to a dance class. How does it hold up with the sweat?
  • For all my friends who get a tomato face when they dance, the secret is the IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Correcting Cream.
  • Makeup is expensive. Buy sample sizes to try out different products until you find the ones that you absolutely love.
  • Always take your makeup off at night so that it doesn’t clog your pores and cause breakouts.  

When it comes to dancing in makeup, it’s trial and error. Don’t feel pressured to buy the most expensive products on the market. Talk to friends, watch YouTube videos, and read product reviews. Walking into a makeup store can be overwhelming. But if you do your research, you can feel a little bit more confident when conquering this world. Take the time to figure out what works for your beautiful, unique self.