A dance resume is a wonderful tool for a dancer to use throughout their career. Whether applying for summer intensives, scholarships, and college dance programs, or gearing up for company additions and commercial gigs, a dance resume provides casting directors, choreographers and teachers with the necessary information to gauge a dancer’s potential for dance programs and jobs. As with all parts of a dancer’s audition materials (Resume, headshot, dance photos, cover letter and dance footage) it is important that the resume display a level of professionalism applicable to the position for which the dancer is applying. There can be variances in dance resumes depending on the genre (ballet, musical theater, commercial hip-hop, etc.), but for most dance resumes there are certain standards that differ from resumes used in other traditional business or academic pursuits.
Let’s look at the elements of a successful professional dance resume first:
Writing a Professional Dancer’s Resume
A professional dancer’s resume should begin with a “stats” section that includes basic personal information about the dancer;
- Contact Information
- Date of Birth
- Union/Membership Affiliations
The contact information should be current and include a phone number (be sure to include country code if applying for a position internationally), email address, YouTube link to a dance reel, and professional website if applicable. If you are working with an agent it is also acceptable to list the agent”s contact information instead of your own.
Date of birth can feel intimidating but is preferred for most dance jobs. Directors may be looking for a more senior dancer with experience, or may be looking for a younger dancer to invest in and groom.
A dancer’s citizenship is important to list as the company will need to be aware of visa issues/needs and green card availability. If you already possess a visa, green card, or other work permit absolutely list that as well.
Being a member of a union such as AGMA or Equity can help dancers gain access to certain auditions, and in some cases excuse them from an audition fee.
The next section on a professional dance resume should list the dancer’s professional experience. The dancer should list the company they danced with (in chronological order beginning with the most recent or current company) and then give examples of the repertoire they danced. If a dancer is new to the professional world it is good to list all relevant experience; featuring the name of the show or project, choreographer, year performed, and what roles were danced. As a dancer gains more experience they should edit their resume to include only the most featured roles (principal/soloist) so that those roles don’t get lost in a sea of smaller roles. For a dancer in transition between corps/ensemble roles and featured ones, it is appropriate to have two sections; the first listing featured roles, and beneath that a section listing the shows with ensemble work.
The following section should address any notable awards the dancer received or competitions the dancer placed in. The competitions can be ordered in chronological order, or in order of prestige, usually beginning with international competitions, followed by national and regional events. It is appropriate to include special recognitions such as “juror award” if a medal was not received.
Next, the dancer has the opportunity to list their skills and expertise in various dance styles. For ballet dancers it is a good idea to express any contemporary training/experience, and vice versa for a dancer of another genre. For example, a contemporary dancer may want to list their tap dancing ability if they are auditioning for a musical that includes a tap scene. Versatility in today’s dance world is viewed as a necessary attribute for the professional dancer.
If the dancer still has space at the bottom of their resume, they can include a section of “additional” or “special skills” that may apply to the position/company/role for which they are auditioning. These skills can include acting, singing, gymnastics, and stunt work. Depending on the show these special skills may be just what a director is looking for, or what sets the dancer apart from another candidate.
It is optional for a professional dancer to include references on their resume. As with any industry it can be a good thing to network. If including references, the dancer should be sure to contact the reference before auditioning so that they are aware of what the dancer is auditioning for, and can be prepared to vouch for them.
Another optional section for professional dancers can be listing their choreographic achievements. Many companies encourage their dancers to experiment with choreography and appreciate dancers who have experience with both sides of the studio (the front and back of the room). This can also be a great way for dancers to pursue additional opportunities as choreographers. Perhaps they weren’t the right fit for a specific dancing role, but they were the right fit for a rehearsal assistant or guest choreographer.
Finally, if the dancer’s resume still has room left on a single page, a dancer can list relevant training and influential coaches or teachers. Some companies like to hire alumni from certain schools, others have no preference.
Writing Dance Student Resumes
For a student or pre-professional dance resume the sections will be slightly different from those of a professional dancer;
The resume should still begin with personal information; height, date of birth, citizenship and contact information. For children under the age of sixteen, it is appropriate to list a parent or caregiver’s contact information.
The next section should address the student’s dance education and training; which schools were attended and when, what styles of dance, and which notable teachers the student trained with. It is important to only list teachers with whom the student has trained with consistently, not just one or two master classes, or conventions. Be sure to include any scholarships the student was awarded, this shows a program’s confidence in a student’s potential and the student’s work ethic. This section does not need to include the student’s academic school.
Students can include community or school performances to demonstrate their stage experience, and if the student has any experience performing with a professional company (ex:The Nutcracker) be sure to list the company with which they performed and the year of the performance.
Do’s and Don’ts For All Dance Resumes
Do be honest.
Your resume is a representation of you. Citing experience you don”t have is a waste of everyone’s time and sets you up for stress and conflict once hired. Companies don’t have an abundance of time to teach the skills they seek from dancers, and as such hire based on the assumption that the professional will come prepared and ready to jump into any role.
Do keep your resume limited to one page.
Directors want a quick tool from which to gauge a dancer’s suitability for a role or position in a company, or a student’s ability to fit into a certain level or program. They don’t want a biography. Highlight your greatest achievements and necessary skills that will make you the best fit for whatever you are applying for.
Don’t include an objective.
A dance resume differs from a traditional business resume. It is assumed that the dancer’s objective is to audition for the role/company/program. Save the space for more descriptive and pertinent information.
Don’t list conventions/competitions/workshops that are out of date.
List current influences and recent experiences.
Don’t list salary requirements.
The purpose of a dance resume is to give a director an idea of a dancer’s background and experience, not open up salary negotiations. You don’t want to limit your potential for earning, or price yourself out of a job. Wait to have this conversation until after you have been offered a contract and then negotiate based on your past contracts, the cost of living, rank and opportunity for advancement.