Do I have the skills?
How can you know if your technique and stage presence
are up to par? Get honest feedback from the people who
see you dance every day: your teachers. “It’s our job to
guide students toward next steps that are the best fit for
their abilities,” says Michael Owen, director of the dance
program at Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, MA.
Take the comments you get—positive and negative—
to heart. “If you understand your individual gifts and
challenges, you can move forward with realistic confidence,” says Mary Lisa Burns, dean of dance at Miami’s
New World School of the Arts.
It’s far from the end of the world if you need more
training after high school. In fact, Owen points out,
“these days, it’s very rare for a 17- or 18-year-old to walk
right into a company.” If you need additional time and
seasoning, you’re not alone.
Do I have a dance network?
You’ll have an easier time entering the professional
world if you’ve already started to make connections
with choreographers and company directors. Where do
those connections come from? If you’ve attended summer
intensives, or if your school has brought in guest teachers
or choreographers, you may have already had the chance
to perform for people who could hire you or vouch for you
in the future.
Kaitlynn Edgar, who moved to L.A. after high school
and has worked steadily in the commercial dance industry
ever since, sees competitions and conventions as strong
springboards. “They get you in front of choreographers at a
young age,” she says. “My first gig in L.A. was with Tony
Testa. I’d assisted him at New York City Dance Alliance,
and he direct-booked me to dance at the American Music
But if you’re currently short on connections, that’s
OK. You can start building a network in college, as well.
For instance, Goucher College graduate Amy Ruggiero’s
first professional job was with Ballet Austin II. “[Director]
It’s a question every serious dance student has to ask as she approaches
high school graduation: What’s next? College, or a company gig? A full-time
dance career, or…something else? You can’t take this big decision lightly.
But how can you know if you’re ready to go pro after high school? What
about at age 22, with four years of college dance classes under your belt?
Dance Spirit turned to the experts to find out what helps a dancer hit the
professional ground running. Start by asking yourself the following questions.
Then, get inspired by stories from three dancers who took different paths.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but with careful self-assessment you can
make the best choice for you.
Frank advice to help you decide if it’s time to jump into a
dance career By Kathryn Holmes
TO GO PRO?
Amy Ruggiero used her
time in college to build her
started her pro
after high school.