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Sunday, January 17, 2016

How to effectively market yourself as a dancer: Do you have what it takes?

Dancer’s Promo Package

How to effectively market yourself as a dancer: Do you have what it takes?

As I am sitting over the final proofs of the new playbill for a Nutcracker Ballet and agonizing about having everything in place to meet the print deadline, I am frantically searching for all the dancer’s bios and headshots.

Our dance company has a big photoshoot prior to the production, assuring that all cast groups are featured in the program. It is a great opportunity for all the local soloists and demi soloists to have their photo taken for the program and purchase for their future use. Auditions for summer intensives are fast approaching!

Unfortunately some dancers didn’t come to the photo day event. Now what? There are two options. Use old photos, but those will not have the same look.  Or worse - the dancers will not be featured in the program at all. Not the best idea for your career and your dance portfolio. It makes me very sad as I am going over the cast list, recognize all the wonderful dancers, and see that several will not be in the program.

As a former professional dancer and graphic designer, I obviously have a special relationship to the dance industry. Now I have two little kids that are discovering their love for ballet and dance. Thanks to them, I am again getting involved in the wonderful life of ballet. We got very fortunate that we moved to a city where we found a great ballet studio with classical Vaganova training.  We are involved with a terrific company that produces a semi professional production of the Nutcracker -inviting soloists from all over the world. Of course I could not resist getting involved behind the scenes.

I see many wonderful dancers in our production. Many of them would like to give a shot to take it to the professional level and enter a university with good ballet programs. And many are trying to find a good dance company match for them to continue what they love to do. Professional or amateur paths require auditioning skills and great technique, and also the ability to market yourself.  Dancers have to submit their headshot, bio, and cover letter to the new company. And when you do get the gig the company might need those items for marketing and promotional materials for their production. Especially if you are a guest and out of town dancer. In the world of social media, and due to the constant need for reminding your audience of your production, they will need a lot.

So what do you actually need? 

Even in this digital photography world you should always use good quality high resolution photos. Selfies taken on a phone will not work. Take advantage of photo days that are available when you participate in any production. If you do not have such an opportunity, please hire a professional photographer. You can call your local talent agency for recommendations.

The headshot photo should be an 8” x 10” photo in 300 dpi resolution.  Full body shots should be taken in ballet attire against a simple background.  And, of course, the ubiquitous photo of you in first arabesque is always handy, especially if you plan to audition for summer intensive. Also include any available production photos. (Most dance companies do hire a professional photographer to take action shots for the performances. ASK!)

Resume & Bio
You should have your short bio and long bio available.   Highlight points that you always want to keep just in case it has to be shorten due to design space.

A full-length resume that lists all your experience
A half page biography (in sentences)
A one paragraph biography (focus on recent achievements)

It’s good to have all of the above ways to deliver. Make sure to have hard copy to leave behind and a soft copy in high resolution. If the production materials will go in print, the designers and the printer will need your 8 x 10 head shot or pictures in 300 dpi resolution at least. It is always easy to make it smaller for the web purposes than the other way around.

Like every model or actress, I believe that dancers should have a book. Collect pictures from your productions and keep your current measurements on records.
I highly recommend taking advantage of any photoshoots that the production company you are participating with is offering. This will give you a chance to have very nice, professionally done photos for future use in your portfolio, website, or any social media page. Also, don’t forget to keep several copies of all the playbills and programs of the productions you’ve been in and keep them in your “book”. Three-ring binder with pockets and page protectors should work well. Don’t forget to credit everyone involved.

Many companies record their shows. Find out if they do and make sure you get your copy. You do not have to have a full 1.5 hour Nutcracker on your website. You can use the part of you dancing only.  I am sure you can contact the video maker and ask her to make you a snippet. Make sure you have their permission.

Some summer programs accept video auditions. There are many ways to submit your video. Read their guidelines carefully.  Use a video of you dancing solo, not in a group. It’s hard for the faculty to see what they need, you want to introduce yourself not your drill team.

Web presence
If you are really serious about going professional, create an online profile not only on well-known social media but also use websites like and and keep them updated.


Barbara Dillard @Dvisualstudio

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