Tips and Tricks for Headshots and Resumes

As a dancer, your headshot and resume are your “business card” in the industry.  Here are a few helpful tips to make them stand out:

Headshots:

  1. Hire a professional photographer.  While your best friend might take some free photos of you with a digital camera, the trained eye and helpful advice of a professional photographer is usually worth the expense.
  2. Look like YOU!  The casting director will (hopefully!) keep your headshot as he or she makes callback and casting decisions.  If the casting director doesn’t recognize you/remember you from your headshot, he/she is likely to toss your headshot to the side.
  3. Be natural.  Come to the shoot looking clean and put together, but keep your makeup and styling fresh and natural.  Practice your “poses” the night before.  Keep your poses organic and true to your personality.  Oh, and be sure to act your age!
  4. Know the job.  Research the audition you’re attending and make sure your headshot choice is in line with the job – a bright and smiley commercial headshot versus a more mature headshot for straight theater.  Always have at least two contrasting options on hand.
  5. Update your headshot every few years or whenever you make a significant physical change such as a drastic haircut or a change in hair color.
  6. Keep it clean. You want the casting director to look at you, so avoid wearing shirts with intricate or distracting patterns and posing in front of a busy scene.  Also steer clear of wearing lots of jewelry.  You want to look like a clean slate that can mold into whatever character the casting director wants you to play.
  7. Have options.   Bring at least three different tops to the shoot.  Experiment with different facial expressions and angles.  Try shooting both indoors and outside.
  8. Have ‘em handy.  Print your headshots on photo paper with a thin white border and your name in the bottom corner (in a clean, professional font).  It used to be the “norm” to have classic black and white headshots, but nowadays color is “in.”  Cut your headshots to 8×10 inches to match your resume.  Always have 5-10 copies of your headshots in your bag!  You never know when a last minute audition will come up or when a teacher will ask to keep your headshot on file.

BDC recommends:

Dirty Sugar Photography 

Brian Thomas Photography 

 

Resumes:

  1. K.I.S.S. (“Keep It Simple, Sweetie”).  Your name should be at the top of your resume in a clean, bold, and slightly larger text.  Use a “sans-serif” font, one that is easy to read and free of embellishments.  Your resume should not exceed one page in length.  And don’t try to squeeze as much as you can on your resume if it means you’ll have size 6 font.  You can still show off your accomplishments by keeping your resume short and sweet.
  2. Note your “stats.”  You can exclude your batting average, but be sure to include the basics: hair color, eye color, height, weight or body type, vocal range, etc. (you do not need to include your age!).
  3. Stay in touch.  Include your contact information like your phone number and e-mail address.  Use a phone number where you can usually be reached (this may end up being your cell phone).  You don’t want to miss a callback because you weren’t home to check your voicemail.  Also make sure you use a simple, professional e-mail address.  Recycle your middle school “qtpie5678@aol.com” for “jane.doe@aol.com.”  Make sure this contact information is up-to-date!
  4. Organize.  Separate your resume into subheadings: Performance Experience (Theater, Film/TV, Industrial, etc.), Training (include styles and teachers), Awards/Scholarships, and Special Skills (ex. Driver’s license, languages you speak, and other talents that might help you land the job).
  5. Order up.  Unlike a business resume, you don’t need to include specific dates on your dance resume.  List your most notable experiences first, along with the venue or director/choreographer’s name.
  6. Be honest.  If you’re just starting out, don’t be embarrassed if you don’t have a lot to list on your resume – everyone starts somewhere.  It’s alright to include competition awards you’ve won or college dance concerts you’ve performed in.  You can recycle these credits for more notable ones once you have a few more jobs under your belt.  Also, don’t lie about your special skills!  If you say that you can yodel, the casting director may ask you to do it on the spot at the audition.
  7. Show off!  If you have a lot of experience under your belt, organize a few versions of your resume to cater to specific auditions calls – commercial, theatrical, concert dance, etc.
  8. Keep it clean, too.  Like your headshot, cut your resume to 8×10 inches.  Staple your resume to your headshot so that both are facing out.  Be sure to do this BEFORE you come to an audition.

Mock It Out: ProSem Students Practice Audition Techniques

On Friday, March 16th the students of BDC’s Professional Semester woke up and arrived at the studio bright and early for their first mock audition of the program.  The series of four mock auditions (theater, company work, hip hop/commercial, and decade-themed) allow the students to experience a typical dance casting and also receive constructive feedback from a panel of experts including BDC faculty, talent agents, and casting directors.  Like a normal audition, the Professional Semester students are evaluated not only on their dance technique and style, but also on their headshots and resumes, physical appearance, attention to detail, and self-confidence.

Each audition begins with “slating,” a process in which each dancer steps forward to introduce his or her name and a memorable fact.  “Slating is the first opportunity for us to get to know you,” says Lakey Wolff, an agent from CESD Talent Agency.  “This is your chance to show your personality, energy, and enthusiasm.”

Natalie: “I can hula hoop with fire.”

Holly: “I have dual citizenship in the United States and Canada.”

Marleen: “My favorite toe is the big toe!”

The slating process also allows casting directors and choreographers to look at you.  Dance is a visual art, and how you present yourself physically is extremely important.  “I like clean lines and neat hair,” says Lakey, “Stand out with color or a unique leotard cut.  Oh! And no costume mishaps, please!”

Next up? Warm up!  “But don’t forget,” notes Eric Bourne of Parsons Dance Company, “even though we’re warming up, you’re still auditioning!”  Be sure to stay present and engaged throughout the organized warm-up because the panel is likely still watching you.  In the words of Bonnie Erickson, Educational Programs Director at the BDC, “Are you happy to be here and ready to work? Show us that you love dancing.”

Following warm-up, certain auditions will start with typing (early elimination based on looks, height, hair color, etc.) or a ballet cut.  The combination is often across the floor and fairly straightforward so that the choreographer can get a sense of your technical background.  Even when you’re learning the combination, always perform your arms full out.  Ask politely to switch lines; Even if you can pick up the combination from the back corner of the room, the panel probably isn’t able to see you.

Next, students learn a short combination in the style of the show.  Bonnie Erickson and Jim Cooney, who lead the Professional Semester program, highly encourage dancers to research the show and/or choreographer ahead of time to gain familiarity with the movement and style.  When learning the combination, be sure to focus in on the details of the movement.  Often, the choreographer will teach the movement without performing it full out.  In that case, the choreographer will usually have an assistant to demonstrate the movement alongside him or her.  Watch the assistant!  The choreographer, in an audition setting, will rarely give corrections (but if they do, you’d better apply it ASAP, even if the correction was made to another dancer).  The panel wants to know how much you are able to bring to the table without them having to pull it out of you – an approachable personality, strong dance technique, an eye for details, ability to pick up choreography, a respectful attitude, and professional demeanor.  

Before you know it, you will be split up into small groups to perform the combination (but this is not the “start” of the audition, as you are being watched from the moment you enter the room!).  “Pay attention to your spacing,” says Mishay Petronelli (BDC teacher and Assistant to the Director).  “If the audition coordinator tells you, ‘#1 downstage, #2 upstage, etc.,” you need to follow directions when you take the floor and hold that spacing throughout the combination.”  You’ll often get the opportunity to perform the choreography twice.  Dana Foglia (BDC teacher and choreographer for the Professional Semester commercial mock audition) remarked, “Sometimes you’ll be the best in your group and sometimes you’ll be in a group of beasts and have to fight for your life.”

Nowadays, freestyle is a huge part of the audition process, be it “Chicago” the musical or a Madonna international tour.  Sometimes you’ll just be asked to freestyle for the first cut – before you even learn a combination!  “For your freestyle, I appreciate when you move the way you are rather than simply conforming to the style,” says Dana Foglia.  Explore different levels, dynamics, and styles in your freestyle.  The best way to gain confidence and versatility in your freestyle, says Foglia, is to take diverse and challenging classes from a variety of teachers.

Today is the final dance of the Spring Professional Semester 2012 – “Merde!” to all of the dancers for their final mock audition today!