Stepping Into CYBERSPACE: The Art of Finding DANCE JOBS ONLINE.
Thanks to several innovative Web sites, dancers may now develop a comprehensive online portfolio featuring text, images, audio and video that can be used to network directly with industry professionals.
The dominant site--the biggest and best organized, and the one with the most features--offering this service is www.IAM.com, a home base for dancers, singers, actors and musicians. A starting package of the site's services costs $29.95 annually and includes the online posting of two photographs, an audio sample of up to five minutes, a bio, resume, vital statistics and contact information. Pro Membership, which costs $149.95 per year, includes all of the above, in addition to ten photographs and a video of up to five minutes. With this program, you can develop as broad a portfolio as possible, demonstrating your skills through photographic stills and recorded movement in several styles ranging from tap to hip-hop to ballet to ethnic.
My portfolio, for example, includes not only a standard head shot but also images of my performance in modern dance and Irish step dance and group shots of my choreography. My video clips show the same range of skills, so I feel well represented in each area. It is important to present yourself as broadly as possible, because viewers respond to different aspects of your portfolio. I realized this shortly after receiving one lead for Irish dance work and another phone call from someone interested in financially supporting my modern dance choreography. Furthermore, the text files of my portfolio include a 250-word bio, a resume (there is no limit to the permitted length), and a detailed vital stats page listing my strengths, special interests and areas of expertise. If you want to update your resume or portfolio with a new home address or your latest career coup, you can do so from your home computer, at no charge, as many times as you want. The specificity of the vital stats page enables casting agents to search for exactly the type of performer they need, saving both them and you the time and energy of exploring roles that would not be a good fit. A potential employer can search performers' postings for relevant key words (such as "Irish dance," in my case) and then email performers directly through their online postings.
The most attractive feature of IAM.com (especially for people who aren't terribly computer literate) is how easy it is to compile a portfolio. After you submit a membership request, IAM.com sends you, via snail mail, a welcome kit with a small booklet that guides you through the submission process, which essentially involves sending 8-by-10-inch photographs, a VHS videocassette or DVD, a CD or a cassette tape, all in a stamped return envelope that the company provides. IAM.com promises that submissions will be posted within seven to ten days; in my case, it kept that promise.
It's important to remember, however, that IAM.com does not represent or manage talent. It is simply a service that enables you, or your own agent, to develop a portfolio that will attract industry professionals who use the site to search for talent. At the same time, IAM.com does not take a commission from any work you may receive via your portfolio. The amount of work you get, like most things in the entertainment business, depends on timing, a little luck and the quality of your materials. There are instant success stories, like that of Joel "Teknyc" Martinez, who landed a music video with Whitney Houston and Enrique Iglesias after casting agents in L.A. saw his footage and bio online, or that of Shalene Eve, who was signed by Ryan Artists after an agent saw her portfolio. Other clients have found that their portfolio has given them access to a greater number of auditions. Take James "Nytecrawla" Campbell, for example. His portfolio resulted in several calls for upcoming auditions for a Las Vegas show and an R & B concert tour. As he said, "Pretty cool breaks--now I'm just being patient until everything comes through."
Even if you don't get an instant break, the site does increase your exposure and gives you a presence on the Web. Dancer Kim Craven, a writer for the site, described the online portfolio as "an electronic calling card" and pointed out that when you meet potential contacts, you can tell them to log on to the Web site to find further information about you. As Martinez said, "This site puts you ten steps ahead of the game. It's powerful. Casting directors can hear you speak, see you, read about you, sometimes before they even meet you. Then when they do meet you, it's like they already know you. It makes the whole process much more comfortable and familiar." Marguerite Derricks, an Emmy Award-winning choreographer, says, "I am excited about my affiliation with IAM.com and look forward to their search engine as a tool for casting dancers on my projects."
IAM.com also offers a comprehensive casting and audition list. If you find a casting call that you want to pursue, you can simply click to submit your online portfolio directly to the agent. Doing so digitally eliminates costly mass mailings and head shot duplications.
Additionally, IAM.com hosts a variety of chat rooms (available to nonmembers also) led by industry professionals, and it maintains transcripts of past discussions, in case you miss one. The site has a wide range of interesting feature articles, including expert advice columns, a how-to section with topics ranging from how to prevent shin splints to how to start your own dance company, and a critique section, where professionals such as Chet Walker and Christopher Wheeldon will review your portfolio and give y6h suggestions. The Web site also highlights outstanding members in its gallery of "Featured Portfolios." Browsing through these portfolios offers examples of what has worked and demonstrates the wide range of dancers that the site serves--from hip-hop performers to ballet dancers to classical Indian dancers. In an age when the term "virtual community" is commonplace, getting a comprehensive look at a person through voice, photographs and videos makes the virtual seem more real.
IAM.com is not the only site intent on building a virtual dance community and providing services to artists. For instance, Upstage.com was started by artists for artists. It provides 25 megabytes of space on its site for you to upload text, audio, video and image files in order to create your own profile. And it's free! The catch is that the site requires you to be a little more computer savvy and to do a little more work to compile your profile. Upstage.com recommends having Quicktime, Windows Media Player or Macromedia Flash in order to use the site most effectively. At the same time, it has an extensive Frequently Asked Questions section to help you upload your information (with the comforting title, "Not quite sure what to do? No problem. Take a deep breath, remain calm ..."). You can also email Upstage.com's tech support for help.
Upstage.com seems to lack some of the industry connections that IAM.com enjoys, given that it is a site by artists for artists. Nevertheless, it's another way to create an electronic calling card for yourself. Furthermore, the site offers a "talent scout" search engine, which makes it easy for people to find you on the site. (Unfortunately, there isn't a specific dancer section: I had to list myself under the more general "performer" category.) From August through the end of November, my posting didn't attract any job offers. At press time, the site was undergoing a change in ;management, and organizers hoped to improve services over the next few months. Another site with potential is www.talentfind.com. As of press time, it had registered its domain name and promised to be "coming soon."
Futurecasting2000.com primarily serves actors and crew members, but it's still a worthwhile place to post your resume if you're a dancer who can sing and/or act. All the dancer portfolios I saw on the site listed at least one of these skills. Including only a head shot and resume, the portfolios are not as comprehensive as those created by IAM.com, but they are cheaper. As of press time, the site was offering a reduced yearly membership rate of $44.95, half off its regular rate. One of the most valuable features of this site, which is also available to nonmembers, is a state-by-state directory of talent agencies. Futurecasting2000.com recommends mailing your materials to talent agencies that interest you (but discourages phone calls or drop-in visits).
Backstage.com, the Web site of the weekly trade paper of the same name, offers a slightly more flexible membership plan, with monthly rates of $9.95, or pre-paid plans of $69.95 for six months and $138 for a year. (The pre-paid options are slightly more expensive than the single-month payments because they enable you to download archived feature articles and casting notices.)
Membership entitles you to create your own Web page through the site; on it you can post your head shot and resume. Backstage.com has established an interactive casting system; if you see a casting notice of interest to you, you can respond immediately via email. Producers and casting agents will have access to your Web page through a searchable database. Members also receive advance casting notices.
Two other useful Web sites featuring job boards and audition notices are voiceofdance.com and danceart.com. Both are large sites with multiple sections and numerous links that, in my experience, can lead to hours of fruitful Web surfing. I had tremendous luck responding to job postings on danceart.com, receiving offers for eleven teaching positions. Better yet, the process was convenient and quick. I cut and pasted my resume and cover letter into email format. A colleague of mine also benefited from danceart.com's special studio search engine, which is located within the section danceschools.com. By typing her zip code into the database, she instantly came up with a list of dance studios in her neighborhood. She sent out resume and cover letters, received two job offers and is happily pursuing one of them. Don Mirault's articles on danceart.com also provide clear, comprehensive descriptions of dance jobs from theme parks to cruise lines to foreign shows. There was no charge for responding to danceart.com job postings; on IAM.com and backstage.com, it was free to members.
Whether you send your resume to a casting director and include a Web site address at the top of the page or whether you work solely online, perhaps through several of these sites, embrace dance-oriented technology. The more dancers create online portfolios, the more casting agents may take notice and, one hopes, provide work more easily. This is technology that could benefit us all.
Darrah Carr is a New York City-based writer and choreographer who recently completed her MFA at New York University.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 2001|
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