The Formula for a Successful Relationship with Your Agent

For a dance career to take off in Los Angeles, it’s crucial for dancers to understand the expectations and responsibilities that accompany agency representation. “Dancers have to be more invested in their careers than their agents are,” says Jim Keith, director of the dance and choreography division for DDO Artists Agency in L.A. “Agents only do 10 percent of the work; that’s why we take 10 percent [commission]. We expect our clients to take class, network with working choreographers and learn the art of audition etiquette.”

Terry Lindholm, director of the on-camera dance department at L.A.-based McDonald Selznick Associates, agrees: “This is one of the most important times for you to step up and take control of your career. We call the beginning the ‘relationship-building phase’—building your relationship with your agent and the dance community.”

If you’ve just signed with an agent and are wondering, “What now?” never fear. This helpful list of do’s and don’ts will help you foster a good relationship with your agency:

Do invest in quality headshots. At DDO Artists Agency, dancers are given a 40-day probation period within which to obtain agency-approved headshots. Keith recommends dancers take color shots that exhibit three different styles: a commercial or “Gap/Target” look, an edgy music video–style look, and a dance body shot to show physical fitness level. “If you can present a casting director with as many looks as possible, you open up your range,” explains Keith.

Don’t get too technical with your poses. When shooting your dance body photo, make sure not to hit any Fosse-esque jazz poses, battements, or other overly stylistic movements. “This is not a shoot for a dancewear catalog,” warns Lindholm. “When you come from a highly trained background, that’s a common mistake.” Ideally, dance photos should convey a sense of energy and ability without getting too technical. (Specialty acts such as breakdancers or contortionists are an exception to this rule; if you plan on getting work only as a specialty dancer, show off your most impressive trick in the photo.) Most agencies provide lists of recommended photographers, who can help ensure appropriate photos.

Do remember to touch base with your agent often. Like any relationship, your agent-client relationship is likely to suffer if communication breaks down. Agents expect dancers to be diligent about returning calls, as well as accessible via e-mail and cell phone at all times. “There’s nothing worse than going all day without a return call,” says Lindholm. “It shows the commitment level you’re putting on your own career, and an agency will lose interest quickly if it can’t communicate with you.”

Calling occasionally just to check in with your agent is also encouraged, even if it’s just to tell him or her whose dance class you took or that you perfected triple pirouettes.

Don’t ask the obvious. Calling several times a day with easily answered questions is a sure way to annoy a busy agent. “We have dancers who call for directions to auditions or ask whether to wear blue or pink,” says Keith. “Use MapQuest. Use your instincts.” Adds Lindholm: “Ask yourself or your agent whether there’s a place you can find this answer without bothering him or her next time.”

Do be honest about your abilities. When filling out agency paperwork, dancers are often asked to indicate their skill levels in different dance genres. Agents use this information to determine auditions for which a dancer is qualified, so overstating or understating your abilities isn’t advisable. Attending the wrong audition wastes the time of all involved. “Dancers will call me and ask why they weren’t sent to an audition for Omarion,” says Keith. “I tell them, ‘You indicated you were beginning-level hip hop.’ At an audition, the dancer is representing our agency, and we need to put our best foot forward.”

Don’t set unrealistic expectations on your agent.  According to Lindholm, only about one percent of dancers who are new to L.A. land work immediately upon being signed. A former professional dancer himself, Lindholm says it took about one year before he began to book jobs consistently. “The time frame is different for every performer,” he says. “It’s important to realize that there’s an acclimation period. Dancers need time to get into the circle of working choreographers, as well as time to work on their craft.”

Do stay positive. Though making a good impression on your agent may seem like a daunting task, keep in mind that it simply takes a hunger for success and a good attitude. Most agents have dancers’ best interests in mind and want them to go far. “I don’t take on people [for whom] I don’t feel I can do the job,” says Lindholm. “An ideal relationship is a 50/50 teamwork situation that begins and ends with great communication.”

Win It
Photos by Erin Baiano

It's time to get your pirouette on! From September 5th to September 30th, we're hosting a contest to find out who's the best turner of them all.

Put together your most impressive turning combo. Post a video online. Share your turns with us and thousands of other dancers around the world. And if our editors think you're the top turner, you'll win a fabulous prize.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

All of 18-year-old Kaylin Maggard's dreams—from scoring the title of National Senior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals to winning the 2017 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search—are coming true. And to anyone who knows the gorgeous contemporary dancer, that's no surprise.

From the moment the Dance Spirit staff met Kaylin, it was obvious her humility and talent would take her far. Not only did she go full-out during the photo shoot and class at Broadway Dance Center, but she was always cheering on, laughing with, and supporting her fellow CMS contestants Haley Hartsfield and Michelle Quiner. During the voting period, the social media world was abuzz with praise for her work ethic, positive attitude, and generosity.

Since her CMS trip to NYC, Kaylin's moved from her hometown of Columbia, MO, to the Big Apple for her freshman year at Juilliard, and is busy getting acquainted with the city. As for the future? She's taking it one opportunity at a time, but something tells us we'll be seeing this contemporary queen reach new heights every year.

Keep reading... Show less

Instagram star Kylie Shea has built a following of nearly 170,000 with her playful workout videos, which combine traditional fitness activities, like jumping rope or running on the treadmill, with pointe shoes and sassy choreography. Shea's effortless cool-girl-next-door vibe and solid ballet technique make her vids totally irresistible.

Now Shea's using her platform to address the body image issues that tend to plague dancers. In a poignant video, she sheds her clothes and tugs at her skin. The caption explains her relationship with her body and the pressure she feels to maintain a certain aesthetic as a dancer.

Keep reading... Show less

Physical discomfort is inevitable when you're spending tons of hours in the studio every day, but some pain shouldn't be suffered through. "Dancing through pain can make an injury worse and lead to more time away from dance," says Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of dance medicine at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, VA. "Failing to rest and recover when you're in serious pain could even lead to the point where you're unable to dance in the future."

That may sound scary, but there's good news: If you take precautions and listen to your body, many injuries can be stopped in their tracks. The first step? Knowing what's normal—and what's not.

Keep reading... Show less
(From left) Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Yasmin Nagdhi in a still from "Duet"

Think about it: How often do you see a ballet pas de deux for two women? Almost never, right? Sometimes, choreographers will forgo the traditional danseur-ballerina pas to make a duet for two guys, since they can lift and partner each other easily. But a dance for two ballerinas is a rare thing.

That's part of what makes "Duet," a new video by director Andrew Margetson featuring Royal Ballet beauties Yasmin Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell, so compelling.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
(From left) Reese Hatala and Phoenix Lil' Mini in "LULAS" (via YouTube)

What happens when Willdabeast Adams gets two of his most amazing lilBEASTS—the pint-sized Reese Hatala and Phoenix Lil' Mini, aka LULAS ("Love U Like A Sister")—to make a video set to a throwback mashup of songs? So, so much cuteness. And so, so much 🔥🔥🔥 .

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

"Dancing with the Stars" pro Lindsay Arnold has become a mainstay on the hit show—this fall marks her ninth season! America has fallen in love with her larger-than-life stage presence and vivacious personality. Specializing in Latin ballroom, Arnold trained in Utah with teachers including fellow "DWTS" veterans Shirley and Mark Ballas. After high school, Arnold planned to study physical therapy on a full academic scholarship at Utah Valley University—until landing a spot on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 9. Catch her on Season 25 of "DWTS" this fall!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

J.Crew's putting a whole new spin on its brand —literally. The popular clothing line's inspired ad campaign has a group of cute male models showing off their best moves in a series of playful dance battles. When we saw one of those models throw down the gauntlet with a rather impressive series of chaîné turns, we knew he had to be a trained dancer, and we were right: He's former New York City Ballet corps member Joshua Thew. Dancer and model Smith Reesie also shows off in a seriously impressive freestyle.

Keep reading... Show less


Want to Be on Our Cover?





Get Dance Spirit in your inbox