L.A.-based Haylee Roderick has been strutting her stuff on the commercial scene, dancing everywhere from “Glee” to the Academy Awards, for a while. But despite having an agent and killer talent, she was missing one more essential item: “Producers, directors and my agent were constantly asking to see my dance reel,” Haylee says. “I kept putting it off, thinking I should build up my resumé. But with so many creatives asking for it, I knew it was time this year. I just finished it, and I’ve already submitted it for a union project—something I couldn’t have even auditioned for without a reel! It’s essential for any professional dancer in L.A.”
In today’s media-heavy dancescape, a reel is an absolute must. It will give prospective agents, casting directors and choreographers a sense of how you move, your style and strengths as you choose to present them. Plus, with creative teams facing budget cuts, production logistics and scheduling issues galore, reels make it easy for them to see you—and possibly hire you!—even if they can’t hold a traditional audition. Sending a reel can also be the best way to be cast in a company or show that’s far away. Here’s how you can get your own reel together.
Choosing Your Footage
• Showcase your strength, whether it’s your chameleon-like versatility or a single specialty. “If you’re a versatile dancer, include all the genres you shine in,” says JC Gutierrez, director of the dance and on-camera department at L.A. agency McDonald/Selznick Associates. “But make sure your reel is separated by style, so if you’re applying for a jazz job you can say, ‘Fast-forward to 1:33.’ ” MSA agent Shelli Margheritis adds, “If you have a niche, show off. You’re a b-boy? Let’s see your best tricks!” If you aren’t trained in a certain area, don’t sweat it—and don’t include it.
• Be the star. “Solo footage is preferable to a shot with 10 other dancers, even if
it means renting a studio and choreographing a few pieces,” says professional dancer and freelance dance-reel editor Shane Rutkowski. If you do choose to use performance footage (a great option if the piece is well-rehearsed and you’re highly visible), make sure it’s a high-quality recording and you’re the focus of the shot. “If another dancer stands out more, it becomes that dancer’s reel,” Gutierrez says.
• If you have an agent, use him or her as a sounding board to help you choose the best clips and the order in which you should place them.
• Include your name and headshot at the beginning of the reel. If you’re represented, end with your agency’s info. If not, offer your professional email address or website, but never your phone number or mailing address—remember, you’ll be posting this online.
• Choose your audio wisely. The music behind your clips sets the tone and can say a lot about who you are as a performer.
Dance-reel editor Shane Rutkowski in action
• Use only one song for all of your clips to avoid distracting the viewer. It’s OK if the dancing in the clips doesn’t always match the beat of the song perfectly—just make sure there are accents throughout the reel where the two do match up. If you’re working with an editor, there are many tricks he or she can use to make the accents work.
• “Music can be tricky, especially with copyright issues,” Rutkowski says. “If you have a friend who can create music for you, that’s a great option. Choose a song that’s not overpowering or distracting. Instrumental is a good choice because it often has different sections that can correspond to different types of movement.”
• Avoid any possibly offensive material.
• Choose up-tempo music to catch the viewer’s attention.
Order and Length
• Make your reel punchy and to-the-point by putting your best clip first. A busy casting director may only have 15 seconds to watch, so show your strengths immediately. Ending with a high-energy clip is a great way to wrap things up.
• Include different energy levels so the reel doesn’t become monotonous. You could start with a jazz section, follow with a ballet piece and end with some fierce hip hop.
• Shorter is better. Your entire reel should be between one and a half and three minutes.
• If you’re tech-savvy, you may be able to create your own reel with clean editing and streamlined effects. But remember, less is more. Don’t overdo it with flashy transitions and special effects.
• Hiring an editor, like Rutkowski, can be a smart move. Even though it might cost you a bit, it’s an investment, just like your headshots. You’ll most likely be paying an hourly rate, so do research to find out what friends in your area have paid.
• If you use an editor, go prepared! Have all your clips ready (and in the same format, if possible) and write down timecodes of the spots you want to use. It will save you time and money.
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
"Whole, low-fat, or skim?" The question of which milk to drink has gotten a little more complicated lately, with a wide variety of nondairy milks popping up in grocery stores. To find out which ones are worth your milk money, we had registered dietitian Monika Saigal answer some FAQs.
Yesterday, the dance community was heartbroken to learn that Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran, both 14-year-old dancers, were among the 17 people killed on Valentine's Day in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane charms audiences with her bright energy and crisp technique. The San Francisco, CA, native first started dancing at age 4 at a local community center, and at age 7 started training in Memphis, TN, at the Classical Ballet Memphis. Her family later moved to Rochester, NY, where she continued studying at the Draper Center for Dance Education. In 2002, she was a YoungArts Foundation winner in dance, allowing her to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 2003, was made a soloist in 2007, and was promoted to principal last fall. Recently, she originated the role of Princess Praline in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream. Catch her later this spring during ABT's Metropolitan Opera season. —Courtney Bowers
You and I both know that dancing is the best thing since chocolate chip cookies! But its always nice when dance gets the recognition it deserves from non–dance-world peeps. That's why we did our own happy dance when we saw Shape magazine's article on how dancing can actually make you a better athlete.
When Ruby Castro became a Top 10 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 13, she was a fresh, feisty new face to most at-home viewers. But in the dance world—particularly on the ballroom circuit—Ruby was already a household name. Miami-based Ruby grew up as a belle of the ballroom: Her parents, Manny and Lory Castro, are veritable superstars of the scene. They're the owners of Dance Town, an ultra-competitive studio in Doral, FL, and raised Ruby to follow in their furiously fast footsteps. Before she graced the "SYT" stage, Ruby had already been named a U.S. Junior Champion in Latin Ballroom, and competed on "America's Got Talent"—twice!
So, we know she's talented, we know she's versatile, we know she's stunning, and we know she can dance. But here's what you may not know about Ruby.
You know that thing when you're onstage at a competition and you catch your teacher unconsciously marking through every step of the choreography in the wings, just willing you and the rest of the group to dance perfectly?
Yeah—that happens in ice dancing, too. Case in point: the scene at the Olympic rink yesterday, as Canadian ice-dancing legends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated their way to their third Olympic gold.
Obviously, their performance was all kinds of epic. But the off-ice "performance" given by their coach, Marie-France Dubreuil, was EVERYTHING.
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I want to dance in a ballet company, but I'm insecure about my body. I'm not skinny, and I don't think I ever will be, because that's just not the way I'm built. Please be honest with me: If I don't have the traditional ballet body, do I have a future in professional ballet?