(Photo by Nathan Sayers)
My teacher always casts me in flashy pieces with lots of turning and jumping, but I’d really like to try something more lyrical. How can I keep from getting typecast? —Danielle
If you keep getting cast in flashy pieces, you probably have really strong technique—congratulations! But I understand your dilemma. Nobody wants to be typecast. To break out of your box, start by focusing on the more lyrical parts of class. Casting begins in the studio, so if your teacher sees improvement there, she’ll be more likely to cast you in lyrical pieces. During adagio, for example, pay close attention to the
music; let it flow through you. Or, if there’s a waltz combination, try to use up all the space in the studio and really dance.
The other thing I’d recommend is simply talking to your teacher. Don’t accuse her of not casting you in those roles—negativity will only hurt you. Instead, tell her you’re interested in broadening your horizons. Say that you’d appreciate the challenge of a lyrical role, and assure her you’ll work as hard as you can on it. Even if she says no, ask if you can understudy a lyrical part. That way, you’ll be able to show her what you can do without the pressures and risks that come with performance.
I feel like I’m really bad at networking. How can I get my name out in the dance world in a way that will help me earn jobs? —Avery
The first key to networking is to be friendly in general, and especially when you’re at an audition or in class. If you make a connection with a teacher or another dancer, don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. You obviously don’t want to be a braggart, but unless you tell people about your accomplishments, they won’t know! That said, don’t be overly aggressive. It can be obvious when someone’s trying too hard to network. Frequently, it doesn’t take much—a single conversation can sometimes lead to a job. So just be your lovely self.
I’d also recommend keeping your resumé on hand, in case a teacher mentions she’s looking for dancers for a particular project, for example. Class can sometimes turn into an impromptu audition! Make sure your resumé is updated, well-organized and has a clean layout.
And social media can be a powerful tool. To build your following, try posting dance pictures or short video clips of yourself, and make smart use of hashtags. Again, it’s all about getting yourself out there. You can’t expect people to find you on their own—you have to give them a little help.
I’m pretty flexible, but while my extension is good to the front and side, I have trouble getting past 90 degrees in arabesque. Do you have any tips? —Kelsey
Extensions to the front and side are all about the hamstrings, but arabesque primarily has to do with your back. So to get that arabesque higher, start by working out your back muscles. I’d recommend taking Pilates classes, which are excellent for strengthening your back. But these exercises are also helpful:
1. Lie on your stomach with your hands under your forehead. Lift your upper body off the floor, lengthening outward as if trying to reach the opposite wall. Lower slowly. Repeat 12 to 15 times. You should feel the burn in the upper part of your back; if you start to feel it in your lower back, you’re lifting too high.
2. Beginning in the same position, lift and lower each of your legs 12 to 15 times, keeping them turned out. Again, try to think of lengthening them toward the wall behind you.
You can do many combinations of these exercises—lifting up one leg and the opposite arm simultaneously, for example, or, once you’re a little stronger, both legs and both arms.
The other thing that helps is to remember that an arabesque should lift from the inner thigh, not the hip. So as you raise your leg, feel the inner thigh rotating to pull it up. That will make your legs so much lighter and freer.