Author Topic: Dance apprenticeships/career advice?  (Read 1042 times)

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catalie

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Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« on: Nov 12, 2016, 12:46 am »
Hi all!

I'm in my last year of (non-conservatory) college, and just a month ago I discovered that dance stage management is my calling (pun somewhat intended). I thrive in tech, I'm a natural/instinctive caller who can call a good show with minimal prep, I love cue-dense shows, I have quite a bit of musical training and can read music (including complex orchestral scores) easily, etc. All in all I think I stand out more among my peers as a dance stage manager than as a traditional theatre stage manager, and from what I've heard the career/lifestyle is an amazing fit for me -- my love for teching/calling shows is why I can't bring myself to even consider a career other than stage management, and dance seems to make great use of that love/passion.

I'm ridiculously excited about this realization and am feeling much more optimistic about my future upon graduation! Except...I don't know how to pursue a career in dance stage management. There's not much of a dance scene at my college, so I likely won't get much dance on my resume before graduation (although I do currently have a handful of movement-heavy projects on my resume). I don't know where to look for dance SM jobs -- offstagejobs, leagueofchicagotheatres, and playbill don't seem to have much. I'd be interested in applying to season-long/year-long apprenticeships in order to stock up on dance experience and get the dance education I haven't even thought about getting throughout college, but I honestly just don't know what's out there. I've spent the past few years preparing to go out into the world of traditional theatre, and although I'm excited and confident about switching my focus to the world of dance, I'm also feeling a little bit out of my depth since this is such a new plan for me. I do have one connection in the Chicago dance community (a friend who's a successful LD just a few years out of college), and I'll be shadowing a dance festival's tech this weekend and presumably learning more then, but that's really the only resource I have, and graduation is fast approaching...

So!

Where do I look for jobs? Where do I look for apprenticeships? When I apply for things, how do I make up for the fact that I'm relatively new to this career path and don't have straightforward dance on my resume? Is it a major problem that I don't actually know very much about dance (don't tend to go to dance performances (although I'm trying to change that), don't really know technical dance terms), and if so what can I do to fix that? Any advice pertaining to entering the world of dance stage management would be very, very welcome -- especially if said advice comes in the form of apprenticeships that I should look into!

(In case it's relevant/helpful information -- I'm currently attending school in Chicago, but am originally from NYC and have spent the last few summers working there, so most of my traditional theatre connections are actually in NYC.)

Thanks so much!

megf

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Re: Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« Reply #1 on: Nov 12, 2016, 07:01 am »
Have you checked out Pilobolus? :) While I never worked for the organization, one of my projects years ago included several veteran Pilobolus dancers and some of the artistic directors. The product onstage is amazing, and the people I worked are all remarkably talented and kind.

Their production internship might tempt you: http://www.pilobolus.org/about/jobs-internships/production-internship/

Maribeth

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Re: Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« Reply #2 on: Nov 15, 2016, 09:01 pm »
Here's a list of dance internships and fellowships on Dance/USA. There's also a list of jobs on the same site. There's also a huge list of dance companies, their websites, and contact info on there.

Similar to meg's advice, I would recommend looking into companies that you like- if you check out their websites, you might find that they offer internships or apprenticeships. Even if they don't have one listed, email them your resume, and let them know what kind of positions you're looking for. You never know what kind of response you'll get. :)

(P.S. Pilobolus is amazing!)

catalie

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Re: Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« Reply #3 on: Nov 17, 2016, 04:58 am »
Thanks for the advice :)

Pilobolus looks awesome! I'll probably apply for their production internship, although I'm honestly not sure that at this point I want to do a year-round internship that doesn't concentrate on stage management; I know I would learn useful skills and develop connections and many other wonderful things, but it's hard for me to imagine removing myself from SM-related duties for that long. But of course, the future is uncertain, and this looks like a good option!

I looked through the list of dance internships/fellowships as well as the list of jobs and only found one or two companies that offered a production internship (and none that offered an SM internship, as such). Do you know of any companies that might be particularly receptive if I email my resume and ask about SM internship/apprenticeship opportunities -- or if you don't have any specific ones in mind, are there any types of companies (ballet vs modern vs large vs small) that would be more likely to respond positively to an inquiry even if there's no official internship available?

(Sorry for all the questions! This is just a major change from the last few years of contemplating my career path in theater, since I used to have 8-10 dream SM apprenticeships in mind for after graduation and plenty more that I could apply to if the most prestigious ones didn't work out...this new love for dance is thrilling but disorienting and a little bit scary!)

Thanks again!

megf

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Re: Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« Reply #4 on: Nov 17, 2016, 07:23 am »
A lot of good can come of an apprenticeship in another discipline--be careful of climbing into a career "silo" too early! As you have probably found already, we don't often get to be true specialists who stick to a single form (or a single company, city, or salary, for that matter). My vote would be to apply to some of the dream apprenticeships, and add a few others that will put you in a dance context. Whatever happens next will provide you with the skills and connections to advance.



catalie

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Re: Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« Reply #5 on: Nov 18, 2016, 01:52 am »
This is true and I totally agree about not climbing into a career silo -- it's more about not being sure if I want to spend a full year without stage management, although I am definitely doing everything I can to expand my technical knowledge for shorter stretches of time! But yeah, that's definitely a good point overall, and I'll certainly apply and give it full consideration :)

BayAreaSM

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Re: Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« Reply #6 on: Nov 21, 2016, 02:35 am »

I see I'm a little late to this, but here is my advice, from 13 years in dance...

It's not really a major problem if you don't know a lot about dance. I came into SM'ing for dance even though I hated dance shows in college and knew absolutely nothing about it.


What you could do is get into a basic adult beginner ballet class, to understand what the body is doing and pick up some terminology. Google Balanchine ballets and watch the patterns and find the stories behind the ballets (that's what made Balanchine palatable to me). Hopefully at the festival you noticed patterns of light/choreography - watching the bodies and see how the light corresponds. Dance and lighting go hand in hand, and once you learn how they play together, even if you don't understand dance terminology, you will get a sense of where the next cue lands.


A lot of SM'ing for dance is knowing all of the movement - for myself, I write everything down, which helps me memorize it. Then I can sit with the choreographer & LD and help translate between the two of them, confirming where the cues fall. A big thing about lighting for dance is knowing what the motivation is for the cue - and is the cue landing with the final pose, is it extending through the movement...etc. If you can find it, Twyla Tharp's In The Upper Room is an excellent example. I've done that piece a few times, and it's an excellent understanding of light with dance. There are cues that highlight a tight movement, others that move through with the dancers patterns.


You sound as though you're musical, which will help a lot. Just understand that with dance, the performers aren't always on the music - and the question you will have to ask the LD/Choreo is: which is more important - the music or the movement? And that means knowing your choreography, knowing your score and knowing your cues so that you can watch and make the best decision for the cue when calling. You can't stare at a stopwatch or a score 100% of the time when calling ballet. (And that matters all the more so for scenic shifts.)


You're welcome to PM me if you have additional questions. Unfortunately I am no longer in the business, but I do have a connection at the Joffrey in Chicago...

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catalie

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Re: Dance apprenticeships/career advice?
« Reply #7 on: Nov 22, 2016, 03:36 am »
I'm so glad you commented -- it's awesome (and encouraging!) to hear from someone who's spent a significant portion of their career in dance, since at this point that's honestly ~the dream~.

I know exactly what you mean in terms of noticing patterns of light/choreography and sensing where the next cue lands -- it's one of my favorite aspects of SMing! Part of my love for dance is honestly due to the fact that at heart, I'm a little bit of an LD as well as an SM, but I unfortunately lack the requisite artistic vision to actually design lights for a show; watching dance and learning to call dance is thrilling for me because I get to exercise my LD ~feelings/intuition~ re: cue placement/time slightly more than I would if I were calling a traditional theatre show. I think I'm developing a good sense re: the motivation for a given cue, and thank you for phrasing it so clearly (aka in terms of motivation) -- it gives me something concrete to watch for in videos, etc, and I'm excited to spend my Thanksgiving week holed up in my room watching ballet :)

I'll likely PM you within the next few days with a handful of more specific questions once I've had the chance to think about your advice more thoroughly/talk to a teacher who's coming back from maternity leave/figure out my life a bit more. Thank you so, so much for that offer -- I really appreciate it!

(Oh, and if all goes well, it seems pretty likely that I'll be SMing my first professional dance show in late February, since I apparently made a positive impression on the company when I shadowed! It's taking all my willpower to wait until I get the final job offer before I start counting down the days until tech...)

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