What it Takes to be an On-Air Commentator for a Dance TV Show

The Premise

While you’ve been watching Kelly, Ruben and Fantasia battle it out on “American Idol,” Australians have had their TVs set to “Strictly Dancing,” a contest between dancing couples instead of singers—but with a catch. Three weeks before the competition, the couples are told which six styles of dance they will perform. In addition to forms such as lambada, salsa, paso doble, tango, jazz, funk, hip hop, samba and rumba, international ballroom coaches and judges have created hybrids such as cocktail samba (a combination of street Latin styles and ballroom) devised to even out the playing field when ballroom couples are paired against street-Latin specialists.

On The Job

Being an on-air commentator can be fast-paced and exciting. “Each show has six rounds featuring six different dance styles,” Angela Gilltrap explains. “Each round consists of four competing couples, a commentary team that explains the action and a host who keeps everything flowing.”

As a singer, dancer, actor and musician who hit the professional scene at 16, Gilltrap knows all about the business, which makes for credible commentary, although she misses the interaction with the audience that only performing can provide. “When I’m working in television, holed up in a little studio, I rarely get to judge the audience’s reaction,” she admits.

In Her Free Time

At just 25, Angela hasn’t entirely given up center stage yet, though she admits that her gig as a commentator keeps her pretty busy. When she can, Gilltrap finds the time to perform and choreograph; to teach jazz, musical theater, tap and funk; to work as a photographer and to write for magazines. She also recently finished a behind-the-scenes book about “Strictly Dancing.”

Getting The Gig

The company producing “Strictly Dancing” initially approached Gilltrap’s agent about finding someone for the job, but she still had to go through an interview process and do a number of screen tests before landing the job. Afterwards, “I did a lot of on-the-job training in terms of voice-over technique and tone, plus I had to read up on the dance styles I wasn’t familiar with,” Gilltrap explains. “You need to be on the ball all the time, remembering that two million people are listening to what you are saying, so it’s important to think before you speak.”

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search