Cultivating special skills

You can’t be just a dancer. By that we mean you can’t be just a dancer anymore.  Nowadays, jobs from Hollywood to New York City and everywhere in between require more talents and skills from their performers.  This is both due to economic concerns and also the ever-growing talent pool—Why would a choreographer hire someone who can dance well when they can hire a triple threat who can sing, dance, and act? By cultivating one or more special skills, you can become more versatile and marketable as a professional performer.  Here’s a list of popular, desirable special skills to study and eventually add to your resume:

  • Singing: Taking voice lessons is great for all dancers—not just those who aspire to perform on Broadway.  You don’t have to be the next Beyoncé, but understanding your voice, being able to read music, and learning how to harmonize will benefit you whether you’re on a TV series like “Glee,” dancing back-up for Katy Perry, or performing in a variety show on a cruise ship.  Sign-up for choir at your high school or take private voice lessons for more intensive, individualized training.
  • Partnering: Both male and female dancers should understand the basics of partner work. This includes executing lifts/being lifted and also social dance technique (lead/follow).  It’s sometimes difficult to find a specific partnering class, but you can ask your dance teacher if he/she can lead a one-day workshop or host a master class taught by a professional performer.  Auditions and professional rehearsals go so quickly, it’s unlikely that there will be time to slowly learn the fundamental techniques of partnering.  It’s always a good idea to have some experience under your belt so that partnering doesn’t seem so scary.
  • Tumbling: There’s almost always that one track in the show that does a tumbling pass across the stage.  Mastering walkovers and a basic running pass will give you a leg up in booking these roles.  Sign-up for a gymnastics or cheerleading class at your local gym this summer to work on your tumbling skills before the new audition and competition season begins.
  • Aerial work: More and more circus-inspired shows are looking for aerialists—especially on cruise ships.  Even if you’re a beginner, understanding the basics (having a strong core and upper body and learning the pattern of wrapping your feet in the fabric as you climb) will get you to the top of the learning curve.

New shows and choreographers are asking for more and more of dancers every day.  These are only a few of so many special skills that you can work on cultivating and adding to your resume.  Are there other skills that you’re working on right now?  Share them with us in the comments section below!

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