What qualities do I need to become a professional dancer?
Being in love with dancing is not enough. The training is too hard, too long and too demanding to attempt if you are not entirely committed to what you are doing.
However, if you are, dance will be the most satisfying, most enjoyable part of your life. You will be able to spend most of your time doing something you enjoy, and your training will give you heights of exhilaration and a sense of purpose that few other occupations can match.
How long will it take?
Having talent is important, but so is patience. People grow at different rates and they learn at different rates. There will always be good days, but there will also be bad days. Days when you feel that nothing is going right and you will never make a dancer.
These are the days when the body is trying to catch up with your mind. Nobody climbs the ladder of success a rung at a time. There are always occasional steps down and waits. Two people rarely if ever reach the same point on the ladder at the same time. But given commitment and hard work, they will reach the higher rungs. On average it takes around eight years to reach professional standard.
Do I need to find a full-time school?
Yes, and remember, the choice of school is of absolute importance to the student. Like dancers, schools have different qualities and philosophies. They set their sights on different goals. The dancers who graduate from the school will give you an idea of the way the school functions. They will show the different qualities the school emphasises in their training.
Good dancers at a school are not only an indication of the school’s merit, but they are also an inspiration to the other dancers in the classes. They create an atmosphere that stimulates artistic growth.
Should I choose a private school or one affiliated to a company?
In Australia today there is an enormous range of full-time schools from which to choose. The sheer number and variety of the schools make choosing very difficult. Some schools have been established for a long time and have gained a good reputation. But the student should remember that although the school sets the policy, it is the teacher who produces the dancer, and both of these can change over time.
When a school is affiliated to a company, they tend to gear their training on producing dancers that will suit that company. This can be either a plus or a minus. You should look at the company they serve and decide whether that is the style of dance and the type of dancer you wish to be.
If I want to join a classical ballet company do I need to learn other subjects?
More and more schools try to give a rounded education in dance and you can now find schools who give classes in classical ballet, pas de deux, pointe work, variations, repertoire, modern dance, composition, jazz, tap, Spanish, character, ballroom, mime, anatomy, make-up, dance notation, music, dance history, career preparation and even more!
Don’t make the mistake of rejecting a subject if you have never tried it. The subjects are not taught because they are boring. They are there because they are enjoyable and will aid you in the choice of a career
Will there be much competition between students?
A school with pupils of a high standard is a stimulus for all the students. A certain amount of friendly rivalry is healthy. It makes you want to excel and it prepares you for a professional life. Of course we all react differently to competition. Some of us are natural born competitors, others tend to shy away from competition.
However, we need to find a way to deal with it early in our career, because competition is constantly present in the dance world. The best way to cope with competition is to remember there is only one you! You have personal qualities and abilities that no other dancer in the school has. You can never be them. . . and they can never be you!
When should I audition?
The obvious answer is when you are ready. But that entails more than you think. Yes, you will have to WANT to dance badly enough to take the big step in joining a full-time school. You will have to have enough early basic training to be able to show your dance potential to the teachers taking the audition. You will have to be the minimum age to apply.
Please note that if you have not finished your academic education, you should only be joining a school which can help you gain it. There is no place in the profession for dumb dancers. If you are a talented dancer, the fact that you are quick to learn, observant and capable of taking and apply correction means that you have a mind that is asking to be educated.
A dancer who dances with intelligence not only finds more personal satisfaction in their dancing but communicates that intelligence to their audience. And on a practical side it is good insurance should you decide not to continue your dance studies and try a career in a different area.
Can you give me some tips about passing the audition?
Never be late. Always give yourself enough time to change quietly and to warm yourself up thoroughly. Practice clothes should be neat, clean and comfortable. It is not a good idea to wear new clothes, new shoes, etc. You should enter the audition knowing that everything you are wearing is going to show you to the best advantage, that you have worn them before and they feel good, so that you will have nothing to worry about except your dancing.
Approach the audition with a positive attitude. Be confident. An unsure dancer attracts the wrong type of attention. But if you are nervous, don’t panic. Everyone on the auditioning panel has been a dancer and can tell the difference between nerves and lack of technique. So allow your nerves to work for you, that surge of adrenaline will give your dancing a slight extra edge.
Above all, believe in yourself!