Getting an Agent
Aimee Otte performing at The PULSE On Tour, where she was first spotted by her eventual agent.
You hear stories about now-famous actors and models being “discovered”—but does that happen to dancers, too? As Aimee Otte can attest, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” She got her big break last year at The PULSE On Tour, where she was competing for the Elite Protégé award. After her audition, Otte was approached by Clear Talent Group’s Shayna Brouillard, who later extended an invitation to sign with the agency. Since doing so, Otte has snagged a recurring spot on “Glee” as a member of the Cheerios and performed with Rihanna at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards. (She got Elite Protégé, too!)
“I’m from a small town, so just being at The PULSE in NYC was huge for me,” says Otte, who hails from Brunswick, GA, and now lives in L.A. “I never thought I’d get an agent. You dream, but in the back of your mind, you don’t know if it’s possible. When Shayna approached me, my dreams got a master plan.”
Getting an agent can shoot your career to new heights. But how do you land on an agency’s radar? DS spoke with several agents to get their top tips.
Like Otte, many dancers make valuable connections on the competition and convention circuit. According to Steve Chetelat of Bloc, agents are often tapped to judge or speak at conventions and will scout for new talent during that time. “I’ll keep my eye on dancers until they graduate high school if I’ve judged them in a competition,” he says.
Also, don’t discount choreographers and instructors. Go 2 Talent Agency co-owner Terry Lindholm says teachers will often refer talented dancers to agencies. “Thank the choreographer after a convention class and introduce yourself to the assistant,” says Lindholm, who also worked at McDonald/Selznick Associates for eight years. “Then ask, ‘Do you have five minutes to talk to me about L.A. or NYC? Do you have an agency recommendation?’ ”
Aimee with her agent, Shayna Brouillard of Clear Talent Group
Open auditions are another way to break in, as most dance agencies hold at least one annually. This year, Bloc’s summer audition in L.A. attracted more than 600 people, of which 25 were signed. “We split the dancers into two groups based on age and we have technical and hip-hop auditions,” Chetelat says. Dancers are judged on ability, stage presence and look, and they do across-the-floor progressions, choreography and freestyling. “It mirrors an actual industry audition,” he says.
Though it may seem like L.A. and NYC are the only places to get representation, that’s not the case. According to Chetelat, Bloc has a third office in Atlanta which reps dancers from Nashville and Florida. “Cities like Dallas, Houston and Cincinnati have big commercial markets,” Lindholm adds. “If your town doesn’t have a dance agency, seek out a commercial agency nearby.” A commercial agency may not have a dance division, but its agents can help prepare you for larger industry opportunities and get you audition experience.
Online representation is another viable option. Four years ago, Elena Grinenko, who has been a professional dancer on “Dancing with the Stars,” created Grinya Talent Agency, which accepts dancers from all over the world via the internet and creates online profiles producers can use to search for suitable talent. “If you send us your resumé, we’ll review it and put you on our site if we think you’re a fit for future jobs,” says agent Miranda Eldridge. Grinya agents have placed dancers on Michael Jackson’s THE IMMORTAL World Tour and “DWTS” spin-offs in France and India.
No matter how you plan to break in, do your homework first. Most agency websites will provide information on what they’re looking for and how to submit your materials—so read it all thoroughly before you reach out. It’s also smart to see which choreographers and dancers are with the agency, so you can gauge the success level of its clients. And always confirm that the agency is reputable—Lindholm suggests consulting the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) website or the SAG-AFTRA website for union-approved agency listings.
You got an offer to sign with an agent—now what? First, explore your options. “Meet with at least three agents before making a final decision,” Chetelat says. “See what relationship would be best. Don’t settle for something just because it’s in your lap.”
Otte says she considered several agencies before signing with Clear Talent Group. “When I met with CTG’s agents, I felt the connection—they made it feel like a family,” she says. “I’m very religious, and they respected my values, which is hard to find.”
Alex Wong with his agent, Steve Chetelat of Bloc
Once you find the right fit, make sure you understand what you’re signing. At Bloc, dancers sign a one-year exclusive contract for all movement-based work and can renew annually; at Grinya, dancers don’t get a contract unless they’re booked for a job. By signing, you generally agree to give the agency a standard commission (no more than 10 percent at Bloc unless negotiated with your agent) on every job you book—no matter who finds it. “A misconception with dancers is that if they find a job on their own the contract doesn’t apply, but the agent should always do the deal,” Chetelat says.
It’s essential to remember that the work doesn’t end once you sign with an agency. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your agent is key to long-term career
success. “I firmly believe it’s 50/50 teamwork,” says Lindholm, who reps Kathryn McCormick, Lauren Gottlieb and Anya Garnis. “It’s our job to get you in front of people while making sure you’re protected and paid on time. It’s your job to work hard, meet as many people as you can and build a reputation for being professional.”
Staying in close contact is another must. Dancers are expected to be available for auditions, keep an agent abreast of their schedule and return calls and emails in a timely manner. “The only time we drop a client is when he or she isn’t communicating with us,” Chetelat says. “That’s the biggest factor that can break down the agent/client relationship.”
Finally, remember that an agent is looking out for your best interests. (After all, if you succeed, so do they!) Chetelat says dance agents will often help their clients tweak their look to fit into the L.A. or NYC scenes, find the right headshot photographer and give referrals for everything from physical therapists to dermatologists. “A lot of what we do exceeds the normal agent role for actors and other professions,” Chetelat says. “It’s a business relationship, but we work together to achieve success.”
What's more daunting than getting into your dream college dance program? Figuring out how you'll cover the costs of tuition, room and board, incidental expenses and more. Here's the good news: The right scholarship(s) can bring your dream school well within reach.
Look Around, Look Around
Scholarship applications are due between the fall of senior year and graduation time, so familiarize yourself with funding opportunities during the spring of junior year. And there are a lot of opportunities out there, says Kate Walker, chair of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX. "A lot of school guidance counselors now have software that automatically matches you with scholarships," she says.
Seek out scholarships on your own, too. According to Walker, "a lot of corporations are required to have some community engagement, including offering scholarships, so research corporations in your community." Your parents' employers might offer assistance too, says Doug Long, an academic and college counselor at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, MI. "They might have scholarships you can apply for just because your parent works there."
Other sources of grant money you won't have to pay back (as you would a loan)? The YoungArts Foundation; competitions/conventions, like New York City Dance Alliance; and the university or dance department you're applying to. Even some scholarships aimed at athletes are open to dancers!
A winning scholarship application involves a fair amount of paperwork, especially if the organization requires you to show financial need. In addition, certain scholarships ask for the College Board's CSS/Financial Aid Profile, which gives the awarding organization a more complete picture of your family finances.
Other ingredients of a successful scholarship application include recommendation letters, a dance and/or academic resumé and an essay or statement of purpose. Treat these components just like college applications: Have multiple trusted adults proofread your materials, and ask for recommendation letters or transcripts long before deadlines.
A note for non-dance scholarships: Including objective measures of achievement can only help you. "List national recognitions, like YoungArts or other competitions," says Long. "That shows the scholarship committees that people at high levels have acknowledged you as an artist of quality." And don't forget who your audience is. "Especially in writing samples, make sure you paint a vivid picture for your reader," Walker says. "Don't assume they know about all the things—like barre every day—that we as dancers take for granted."
No award amount is too small to be worth your time and effort. As Walker says, "Don't pooh-pooh a couple hundred dollars in award money, because any scholarship is funding that you didn't have yesterday."
A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "All Aboard the Scholar-ship."
Every ballet dancer knows the time, sweat, and occasional tears the art form demands. But many non-dancers are clueless about just how much work a ballet dancer puts into perfecting his or her dancing. So when the mainstream crowd recognizes our crazy work ethic, we'll accept the round of applause any way it comes—even if it comes via four men in tutus. Yep, we're talking about "The Try Guys Try Ballet" video.
Remember that fabulous old-school clip of dancers tapping in pointe shoes that Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo brought to our attention back in March? As we mentioned then, toe-tap dancing was actually super popular back in the 1920s and 30s—which means there are more videos where that one came from. And because #ToeTapTuesday has a nice ring to it, we thought we'd take this opportunity to introduce you to Dick and Edith Barstow, a toe-tapping brother and sister duo from that era who are nothing short of incredible:
Guess who's back? Back again? The Academy's back! Tell a friend.
After one day at The Academy, the All Stars have successfully taken the Top 100 down to 62. But their work is just getting started: Now they need to keep narrowing the field to a Top 10, ultimately deciding who each will partner with during the live shows.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns is some SERIOUS #goals. Her strength and power onstage borders on superhuman. But what's extra magical about Mearns is that she really puts in the fitness and cross-training work outside of the rehearsal studio. And she's overcome her fair share of injuries. Which is why she was the perfect source for Vogue's latest ballet fitness story.