If you’re like most commercial dancers, you’ve probably wondered if you should have a dance agent to represent you. Whether you want to dance on Broadway or in film, there are actually many ways a talent agency can advise and support you on your career path. I spoke with Jamie Harris, Director of the NY Office of Clear Talent Group, on what to expect when working with a dance agent. Check out what he has to say in the full interview below!
How beneficial is it for dancers to have an agent?
“I think it’s important for dancers to know that they can start in this career and work in the business without an agent. Our services come in handy when you get to the high-end jobs such as Broadway, Television and Film. Nowadays the casting directors come to agents who have dance departments, and we’re one of a handful of agencies in New York that do provide that. We offer our clients invitations to smaller auditions so they don’t have to wait for hours at an open call with hundreds of other dancers. We also provide as much opportunity as possible for our dancers and try to create a career that is varied, lucrative, and has longevity.”
Does a dancer have to be in a union to get representation with a dance agent?
“No. In fact we do open auditions once a year and a lot of the people we sign are non-union. There are different departments within our office, and some deal with union (Equity, SAG) jobs, whereas others handle non-union jobs such as cruise ship and regional work.
At our yearly open call we’ve hired several non-union performers who are now working on Broadway. We’re always actively looking for clients and many of them come from referrals. That is actually a big component of how we scout. I would highly encourage dancers to create a website or even a YouTube channel with as much footage as possible to showcase what they do best. That way if we do get a referral or submission and we respond to their headshot, we can go online and see them dance. That really serves as a general audition for us. I’m a much better agent if I know exactly what your strengths are as a dancer, and can tell a casting director what you can bring to the table. In this day and age you have to have a strong video component to your online presence.”
How versatile does a dancer need to be?
“There was a time when if you only had one strength, such as being a great tap dancer, that you could easily find work. Broadway has changed dramatically over the years and with shows like An American In Paris, with such a strong Ballet emphasis, and Hamilton with its unique hip hop style, you have to be versatile. The technical aspect of dance on Broadway is much higher now than it ever used to be, so you have to be in dance class. In order to have a busy and long career it’s best to work on your weak points as well as your strong points.
When scouting for talent we look for that special thing that sets you apart from other dancers in auditions or in a class. Besides having great technique, a nice body, and a professional look, you need to have a “pop factor” that makes you stand out. It’s important to know what you look good in so you can get your look together and present yourself in the best possible light.”
Once a dancer lands an agent, what should they expect?
“If they’re new to the business or haven’t had an agent before we normally help them get their resumes and heads shots in order. If they are interested in a theatre career we make sure they are ready to go in front of a musical director. The dancer has to be able to sing two songs, and if they need help we offer advice on getting a good vocal teacher to better prepare them. Once a client books a job we naturally negotiate their contract. Beyond that we assist with help in booking their next job. It’s a real luxury to be in a long-running Broadway show, but most dancers are going from job to job.”
What type of photos should they use?
“If you’re working in the theatre you need to have a great head shot. You have to think, “What am I going to put in the Playbill?” Our agency also likes ¾ body shots though we don’t really use dance photos. That may be something you could use for your website.
Your headshot should “pop” as well because casting directors are now receiving them online first. They’re not doing hard copies until you go to the actual audition, so it’s important that you jump off their computer screen.”
After signing with an agent, what are the dancer’s responsibilities?
“It’s important that the dancer treats his or her career as a business. They have to bring their “A” game to auditions, continue to take dance class and voice lessons, and remain competitive. If we send you out on auditions we need to be sure that you’re responsible and show up. Once you’re represented by an agency it’s a whole other ball game. You’re in the room competing with a very high level of dancer who is at the top of their game and ready to book the job. We look for people who are ready to perform in Broadway shows, television and film.”
Are there any networking opportunities you can suggest?
“If you’re here in NYC then I’d advise dancers to take classes with working choreographers who teach at places like the Broadway Dance Center or STEPS on Broadway. It’s a great opportunity to be seen by a choreographer who may not know your work. You can also use online resources like backstage.com or playbill.com to find out about upcoming workshops led by industry professionals.”
Any advice on how dancers can better market themselves?
“Think of yourself as the product. It’s about establishing and maintaining relationships with working directors and choreographers. As I said before, it’s important to have an online presence but please be aware of your social media pages. We all go online and it’s imperative that what you’re putting out there is telling the right story. If you think something you posted is the least bit embarrassing, then I’d remove it. You have to know that directors, choreographers and casting directors look there too, and nothing you post should detract you from booking a job. Professionally speaking, your Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter accounts should reflect the person you want people in this business to see. Remember that you are the CEO of you!”
Thank you, Jamie!
Jamie Harris has been part of the theatre and dance community of New York since 1989. He holds a B.A in Theatre Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Jamie joined the New York office of Clear Talent Group in 2003 and became an agent in 2005. Since then, he has represented talent on Broadway, national tours, regional theater and in film and television. He continues to be excited to be part of the CTG team and is committed to helping his clients achieve solid, long-term careers in the performing arts.
For submission information go to: Clear Talent Group
Bob Rizzo- Founder of The Dance Coach
Bob Rizzo began The Dance Coach as a valuable resource for aspiring dancers, teachers and choreographers looking for professional feedback on technique, performance and choreography. And for those who aspire to a career in dance, The Dance Coach is a trusted advisor offering career coaching and advice based on more than 30 years of professional experience in the dance world! Read Bob’s bio here.