Picking the Right Pic

Most blogs tend to focus on sharing thoughts and experiences through text. I was walking to the gym trying to decide what I would post about next and I thought to myself, "I'm feeling very visual today." So, with that, I offer you my first phlog blog (if that is even a term).

Final year of training audition shot '02 (photo:Roe O'Connor)
One of a dancer's best marketing tools is a visual history of their dancing. Photographs. Most dancers begin accumulating dance shots as a student. Any professional has done the first arabesque shot in pink tights and a leotard or black tights and a white t-shirt. Alright, so maybe I fudged it my final year, as I was auditioning for summer programs and companies. But I promise you I have about 3 other shots in first arabesque in black and white tights. Moving on. These photos are great to use as a student, but become less impressive to prospective employers as you progress in your career. If you have nothing else, studio shots are better than nothing.

As you gain experience in the dance world, employers want to see that you have stage experience. It is best to collect performances shots, if at all possible. If there is a professional photographer, try to get any photos of yourself through the organization that you are dancing for. If this doesn't work, dont be afraid to approach the photographer or search for their business online. Sometimes, the photographers will charge you for photos and at other times they will give them to you for free. I have heard of dancers that sometimes grab images off of facebook or a public gallery online and save them to their computer (you would have to figure out how to do this). If you do this, by all means, give credit to the photographer. Use your best discretion.

Performing w/Seiskaya Ballet (photo:Dmitri Papadakov)
Every dancer wants to make sure that their photos show their versatility as an artist. At the left, I have a classical shot of myself performing my variation from the pas de deux La Esmerelda while freelancing with Seiskaya Ballet. Even, if I am sending my information to a contemporary company, I will send them a photo like this. It is good to let an employer know that you have basic classical training and that you are have great versatility as an artist.

Performing w/Avi Scher & Dancers (Photo:Matthew Murphy)
Next, I will typically include a shot of myself dancing a contemporary role, like this one to the right. Currently, there is a greater range of possible work that can be listed in the contemporary range. A classical company may consider one piece to be much more contemporary than a contemporary or modern company. Do some research on the company that you have chosen to send your info to. If it looks more modern than contemporary I may send them a photo like the one below. If it looks more contemporary, then I may send them a photo like the one above on the right. All in all it can be to your benefit to develop a varied portfolio. If you are only interest in one style of dance, by all means, only seek out performance pics in the style in which you are seeking out work. But those that best survive the freelancing lifestyle are versatile artists. And showing that you have done work that is as varied as possible will give you a better chance of finding work.
Performing w/Dance Fusion (Photo:Bill Hebert)

Performing w/Ballet X (Photo:Alexander Izaliev)

One type of performance shot that I feel is important to have, especially as a male, is one executing some type of partnering skill. It is important, especially for a man, to show that they have the experience, strength, and technique to perform any role that is thrown their way. You can view a partnering photo that I might send to a prospective employer in my previous blog about Preparing for limited-rehearsal gigs or by viewing the photo that I have posted to the right.

Headshot (Photo:Shalem Mathew)
Now that we've talked performance photos, let's talk about the all-important headshot. Headshots aren't just used to give potential employers a peak into your personality. They are also usually important after you've been hired. It is very rare for a company to take headshots for you if you are dancing with them for one program. Most will ask you to provide your own headshot. If you have already danced with a company, you may be lucky enough to get headshots done for you (see my PNB headshot below). If not, you may have to pay out of pocket for these photos. Do some research in your area and try to find somebody that has experience with dancers and is reasonable (I'm a big fan of http://www.murphymade.com/ in NYC and http://bmengini.com/ in Philadelphia). If you cant afford photos, continue reading for my advice on that.

Headshot (Photo:Angela Sterling)
I have two headshots that I use depending on my perception of the company that I am sending my information to. If the company is only classical or if it is a school performance, I will be more likely to use the headshot to the left, as it is more conservative and has a more classic look. If I am seeking work with an employer that is more contemporary or if I want to show off my edge, I will typically use the above headshot. Obviously, it is not that big of a deal and it is more about preference. My suggestion would be to just go with what leaves you feeling confident. One headshot is all that is necessary and I would never send both to one employer. But it can be nice to have different options for looks in order to appeal to a wider audience.

My final advice for those that have read this far is for dancers that are starting up, looking for updated shots and low on cash, or that would like to expand their portfolio. I remember when I began dancing professionally, I figured that the company photographer would take great photos of me and that I would get them from her. Unfortunately, it was quite uncommon for anybody but the "favorites" of that company to be captured in time. Beyond that, I assumed, to a degree, that people would just throw themselves at all of us professionals in the hopes that they would get to photograph we the creatures of dance. This wasn't the case. I spent 7 years with only two photographers that approached me who were genuinely interested in photographing me (one that got a great shot, but required us to pose on a muddy mountain with horseflies biting us until we had to stop 10 minutes into the shoot: The one shot that worked). Unfortunately, the other photographer didn't have a penchant for catching dance at its' finest. So, how does one get headshots and dance shots for free? I have joined the network Model Mayhem. Essentially, this is a network to gain exposure in the modeling industry. But the modeling industry is vast and has many different genre's that photographers are interested in. The great thing about Model Mayhem is that all you need is 5 photos of anything you consider modeling to be approved and then you have an entire network open to you. I'm not sure if Model Mayhem is really a great option if you are looking for modeling opportunities, but there are many photographers listed that are interested in expanding their portfolio. Most are willing to do this for trade. Be sure to do your research and that you are in a safe, comfortable environment if you meet up with a photographer. It may take some work to get the photog on point, but work together to give them your best work and get some great photographs at the same time.

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