Colorado Ballet Studio Company dancer Robbie Downey has had her website, robbiedowney.com, for 10 years—nearly half her life. It's changed through the years, but in that time, she's relied on it to help secure auditions, network within the dance community, and find her own voice as a young performer at the start of her professional journey.
It's easy to see why having a website is a good idea for any dancer hoping to go pro. At the most basic, "it's a marketing tool," says Andrea Jasper, founder of the creative design and management company Urbane Collective, who has created sites for dancers including Kaelynn "Kay Kay" Harris and Will "WilldaBeast" Adams. Jasper likens a website to a business card—it's a way for casting directors, dance companies, and agents to get an idea of who you are and what you're capable of.
But even if you're not ready to go pro, a website is still a good idea. It's a great way to compile and prepare information that will eventually be a part of college applications, for one. It's also a way to steadily build and fine-tune your portfolio and learn how to market yourself for any career—even one outside of the dance world. Whatever your goals, building your own website can be a valuable experience.
To make it in dance, you need to stand out—and not just in the studio. Dance jobs can come through many different channels these days, and having a personal website can help show a potential employer your qualifications. While websites are especially key for dancers just entering the professional world, they’re not only for newbies.
Having a website lets you present yourself the way you want to be seen, which is something freelance dancer Charlotte Bydwell appreciates. “If anyone looks me up, the first thing they see is something I have complete control over,” she says. “That’s a huge advantage.” Amanda Cleghorn, who created a personal website after appearing on Season 3 of “So You Think You Can Dance Canada,” agrees: “Success in this industry is all about how you market yourself and grab people’s attention.”
Amanda Cleghorn used Wix to create her site (photo courtesy amandacleghorn.com)
Of course, professional web designers will charge a pretty penny to create and maintain a site for you. But a limited budget doesn’t have to be a setback. You can easily put together a polished website yourself without breaking the bank.
1. Use a template to make your site look professional.
Take advantage of the many free or low-cost websites that help you build your own. (Wix, Weebly, Wordpress or Squarespace are all good options.) And consider buying your own domain name, so that your address reads “yourname.com” rather than including the name of the website-building service. Not only does that help people remember your name, but it makes your web address easier to write on audition forms, business cards and resumés.
2. Include the necessary info.
Terry Lindholm, president of Go 2 Talent Agency, says to make sure your resumé, bio, photos, videos and upcoming shows are all on the site. Reviews and other press coverage are great, too, if you have them. When scouting a potential client, Lindholm first reads a dancer’s resumé, and then likes to see videos that give him a sense of his or her technique and movement quality.
But don’t go overboard. We’re used to posting pictures (and lots of them!) the minute we snap them, but it’s best to take a more restrained approach to your website. Don’t post videos of every classroom combination, Lindholm cautions. Instead, stick to a few that show you at your very best.
3. Keep it organized.
“Ease of navigation is crucial,” Lindholm says. “Make sure people can access your resumé and photos right away.” Thinking about what aspects of yourself you want to emphasize will help you categorize your content. For instance, if you’re interested in finding work as a choreographer, put your choreography reel on its own page rather than burying it in a long list of videos.
4. Keep it current.
When you’ve got a busy schedule of rehearsals, classes and jobs, finding time to update your website can be challenging. But potential employers want to see your recent activity, especially when you’re just starting out. Bydwell includes any upcoming projects on her front page, and adds to the list frequently. It helps show people she’s productive and developing new ideas.
5. Help people get in touch with you.
Now that you’ve got all that great content up, make it easy for people to contact you. Uncomfortable listing your personal email address? Many sites let you create a contact form right on the page, or give you a separate email address. Cleghorn has booked a number of gigs after people contacted her through her website. Always include your web address on your social media pages, as well as on your resumé and in your email signature. And remember: If you have an agent, don’t forget to include his or her contact information, too.