Back in the day (i.e., 7+ years ago), dancer materials consisted of a headshot, resume, and reel. Now, reels are being replaced by more generic video footage, and dancers are expected to have a solid social media presence to supplement their headshots and resumes. Despite this shift, it still doesn’t hurt to have a reel ready for submission. If you regularly record videos of yourself for Instagram, then editing them all into a 1-minute reel isn’t difficult. Today, we will discuss how to put together dance reels and how to film yourself for video-based submissions and auditions.
Reels are great for self-promotion and submission-based auditions where casting directors need to see you do multiple styles of dance. In addition to that, your agency might want it to promote on their website. I have seen reels created a variety of different ways. However in general, the formula below is what I see most commonly.
Frame 1: The initial frame should have one of your headshots, with your first and last name followed by the words “dance reel.” For example, “Jane Doe’s Dance Reel.” This frame should last anywhere from 3-5 seconds.
Frame 2: The first video must contain footage of you and only you. This allows your viewer to clearly see what you look like while dancing. This clip—and all those that follow—shouldn’t last longer than 10 seconds.
Frames 3-10 (will vary per person): This is where you’ll need to use a variety of footage. You can mix class videos with professional work. If you don’t have professional work, videos from competitions are fine as well. It’s okay to have two clips from the same video, but don’t put them back-to-back. Once again, no clip should exceed 10 seconds in length.
Frame 11: This is your last piece of footage. Just like your first clip, the video should be only of you.
Frame 12: The last frame will show a different headshot of yours with your agency logo (if you are signed) and your email address.
Tips & Tricks for Dance Reels
- The duration of a dance real should not exceed 1 minute and 15 seconds. Still, the closer you can get to 1 minute, the better. However, as you have more professional footage and jobs, your reel may get longer.
- Put your best/most-professional footage first! You want to capture your audience.
- All footage should be landscape (sideways), not portrait (up and down).
- Add music to your reel. You will NOT include the original audio from your footage. Choose an upbeat song—but one that reflects your style of dance.
- No clip should not have more than three people
in it. However, there are two exceptions:
- If you’re front and center in a large group of people (and it’s obvious that it’s you), then you can include the clip in your reel.
- If every dancer in the frame looks EXACTLY THE SAME (e.g., the Rockettes), then the clip is suitable for a reel.
*Side note: If you haven’t seen Andrew Winghart’s Cry Me A River video, look it up. It’s amazing! And it’s a great example of the second exception listed above. It also has 3.8 million views on Youtube!
- Show your finished product to a family member or close friend. If they can’t pick you out in every clip without pausing the video, then you need to find different footage.
- Avoid using footage from conventions. Most of the time, the room is too dark and there are too many people in the frame.
- iMovie and Final Cut work great for cutting together a reel.
Below you will find 3 examples for reels. As you will see, they are all slightly different. I wanted to give you examples of people at all different levels in the industry. Feel free to search “Dance Reel” on Youtube for more examples.
Video Footage For Submissions
Oftentimes, casting directors and/or choreographers are looking for candidates who can demonstrate their expertise in a specific style of dance. For example, will.i.am might be looking for a dancer who can pop and lock for his next music video. Therefore, you would need to submit footage of yourself popping and locking—not just a video of you doing hip hop. You can use footage from classes for these submissions, but it must be clear to the casting director which dancer you are. It is always preferred, however, that the footage captures only you. If that’s not possible, then make sure there are no more than 3 people in the frame!
If you don’t have footage of yourself performing a specific style of dance and you need it for a submission, then you’ll have to film something. It doesn’t have to be professionally shot—an iPhone works just fine. Ask a friend to film you. Letting your phone sit on a tripod will result in a wide shot. You will need to slate, stating your name, height, and agency. At this point, the camera should frame your face (shoulders and up). Then allow the camera to zoom out and follow you as you dance. You should be centered in the frame throughout the video. If you are given a few days notice to submit for a project, I would suggest renting out a studio to film any materials you don’t already have. A studio space will look more professional than your living room. If you don’t have the time or money to rent a studio, then dancing outside (with good lighting) can work just as well. Remember to dress the part.
This brings me to a final point. Reels and video footage reveal more than just your skills as a dancer. This is your chance to demonstrate your versatility, personality, and professionalism. You don’t have to be the best at every style of dance, but you ought to train in as many styles as possible. If possible, capture yourself on camera whenever you can. Even if the footage isn’t good enough to put in a reel, it is still a great learning tool! The more footage you gather, and most importantly, the more diverse footage you gather the more potential job opportunities you will have. So get in front of the camera and show off!