Working in Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada
Ever wonder why so many dancers are flocking to Las Vegas to find work? Us, too. To find out what really happens in Vegas, we asked super-skilled brothers Kevin and Marcel Wilson, who’ve lent their dance and choreography talents to artists all along the Strip, including Cher, Wayne Brady, and Donny and Marie Osmond. Here, the Wilsons share how you can hit the career jackpot in the land of casinos and bright lights.
Vegas is a city built on entertainment, which translates to tons of opportunities for dancers. Stage shows run the gamut from burlesque to circus-style to dazzling large-scale productions featuring some of music’s biggest stars. Many dance jobs are also created by the steady stream of industrials, conventions and corporate events.
Can you say stability?
“Shows run for a very long time, which is one of the beautiful things about Las Vegas,” Kevin says. Dancers can work for several years on the same show, with one to three runs almost daily. If working with a casino-based show, many dancers can also get health insurance and other perks as a casino employee.
Can you sing? Great! Try out for one of the many musical theater productions around town. Do aerial tricks? Cirque du Soleil currently has seven different shows running at various casinos. Insanely flexible? Get a gig as a contortionist. “Stilt walkers, fire blowers, aerial acts—there’s a lot of specialty work in Las Vegas,” Kevin says.
You don’t need an agent.
In some cities, landing auditions can feel like cracking Fort Knox unless you have an agent. Not so in Vegas: Auditions are often advertised in local papers and many dancers are unagented.
Your dollars will go further.
Unlike NYC or L.A., where buying a place is often out of the question, Las Vegas is a city where lots of dancers get the chance to feel settled and invest in property. “Vegas is expanding so much that there are tons of new homes and subdivisions,” Kevin says. “Dancers are able to save up and buy nice-sized homes.” Proof? The median sales price for a Las Vegas home is $115,200, whereas in L.A. it’s $299,500 and in NYC it’s $1,080,000.
You get to learn with the masters—for free.
Since few Vegas dance studios offer classes designed for professionals, shows will bring in big-name choreographers from all over the world to teach. “It helps the dancers keep growing as performers and entertainers,” says Marcel, who once assisted Jeri Slaughter during a master class for Celine Dion’s dancers.
It’s a great place to start your dance career.
“People come here to get their start onstage and to learn what it’s like to be a professional dancer,” Kevin says. “After they have that under their belts, they can take that knowledge and move to L.A.” Whether you’re headed for Hollywood or Broadway, Vegas is a solid place to kick off your career!
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.