It has been nearly four years since I began posting here at Life of a Freelance Dancer. You would think that, at a certain point, I would run out of fresh, new topics to discuss. Strangely enough, I often find the opposite. Looking through my previous posts, I was shocked to find that I have never talked about writing a resume as a freelancer. If you have been waiting for this post, your wait is over.
The resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) of a performing artist generally differs from one that might be constructed for work in most other fields. Many resumes are headed with either an objective, what you are looking for as a job seeker, or a general overview of your experience. Most dancers leave these items off of the top of their resume for a few reasons. First, it allows them to save space for their performing experience. Secondly, the objective of most dancers is quite clear. "I am auditioning to dance for you." If you are seeking a job working in administration, I think these details are pertinent to construct an appropriate resume. But if you are looking to join a company or perform in a professional production, I would suggest leaving these items off the top.
Keeping in mind the above information, where should you begin? Start by developing your header. The top of your resume should display your name as the largest item, usually in large, bold print. Following this should be your most personal information underneath your name in a smaller font, but still bold-faced. Be sure to include your contact information (phone number, address, & email) for the employer if they need additional information or want to offer you work. For freelancers that are seeking work beyond their local freelancing scene, I usually suggest that you add where you are based out of versus your physical address. For instance, I live in New York City and Philadelphia at the moment, so my resume states "Based out of New York City & Philadelphia." With my name centered and these items evenly spaced below, I finish off my header with a link to my personal website, which holds a wealth of additional information for any potential employer who wants a more detailed look at my experience. Additionally, include some of your physical details that are expected from applying dancers; like height, weight, hair color, eye color, and birth date.
The next section of your resume should consist of any long-term experience you have had. In bold-faced print and somewhere around size 16 font, write the words "Professional Employment" or "Professional Experience." Below that, you will go back to a regular, 12 point font. If you have held a contract with any companies or performed in an ongoing production (longer than a few months), be sure to post these in chronological order. My general experience is listed by date in general chunks of time. For instance, I danced with Pacific Northwest Ballet from 2004 - 2011 before transitioning into freelance work from 2011 - present. It isn't necessary to add the months that you worked with these companies. Just be sure to put your experience down starting with the most recent position you have held. For example, I place that I work as a freelance artist first, then PNB second. Avoid putting down company and performance experience that you have performed short-term as a freelancer, as we will include that later. Your general position should be stated as "Freelance Artist" or "Principal Guest Artist" (if you have performed as one) for the period of time you have been performing this type of work.
Next on the list, you will want to write down the roles that you have performed. A friend recently asked me for some advice on developing their resume relating to performing Corps roles more recently than Leading roles. My simple solve to this is to spread your experience out between multiple sections. Of course, if you have limited experience, you can keep this all in one section. But if you have been performing as a professional for a period of time, you often have to remove experience from your CV to keep it all fitting on one page.
For this section, begin again with a bold-faced, size 16 font with the title of "Leading Roles." By doing this, whether you have performed a leading role recently or not, this experience is at the top of your resume. Below this title, I list the name of the ballet, the role I danced, the company that I danced with, and the year that I performed this role. You have a few options of how to list these roles, but I generally put them in alphabetical order by choreographer. I also tend to use acronyms to list the companies where I performed roles, as it saves space and makes it easier to keep all of the information on one line. Throughout my resume, I will post the acronym for a company in parenthesis in my general experience area. For instance, as you can see below, under "Professional Experience" I wrote Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). That way the employer can reference back to the organization if they aren't familiar with the acronym.
If you wish to follow up your Leading Role experience with roles that you have performed that were either Featured, Corps, or Chorus roles, then you can follow your leading roles experience with this below. Format this section in the same way that you formatted above. At a certain point, my experience became too vast to include all of this information on my resume. So, instead, I chose to include two lists. One includes choreographers I have worked with where I originated roles (they were choreographed on me) and a separate section listing choreographers where I have danced Featured and Corps roles in their works. Beginning with the same type of header as I have executed for all of the above sections, I follow up next by evenly listing the names of all of the choreographers in alphabetical order. I also state the companies where I originated roles in works.
Following my performance experience, I finally include the list of organizations that I have worked with as a freelance dancer. I do this here because I generally worked with these organizations for shorter periods of times (usually a few days to a few months). Using the same header size and font as I have throughout, I follow up with the companies that I have freelanced with and the years that I worked with the companies. This is quite simple, evenly spaced, and neatly organized.
Finally, if you have enough space, you can include whatever you feel is best to sum up your experience. Some people choose to include quotes from printed reviews, while others leave information of references to contact. I chose to make a short list of accomplishments that I have achieved over the years and media that I have been featured in. It is really up to you to sum up your CV as you wish. If you feel that you are lacking in experience and can benefit from sharing reference information, by all means do this. If you feel that a Broadway audition may be interested in special skills that you have (acrobatics, gymnastics, etc.), put that here.
Generally, you should keep your resume down to one page. There are few instances as a performer where you should be providing potential employers with a resume beyond this. Try to print out your resume on paper that is higher quality than regular printer paper, but don't feel like you will be looked down upon if you can't manage that luxury. Today, many employers accept resumes via email or an upload button on a website. Be sure that you save your resume as a .PDF file. THIS IS A MUST!!!!! If you send your document in any other format, it is possible that there will be formatting issues when your information is uploaded. And if you are asking a company to take their precious time to look at your information, they will appreciate this. If they download your resume and it loses it's formatting, they are very unlikely to take the time to find a fix. This means that they won't read your resume and won't consider you for work.
There you have it! I have included an image of an old resume of mine below. Please keep in mind that this is only a guideline for you to follow. Honestly, there is no perfect resume or CV. Each employer might have a different opinion on what they would like to see. Take this example that I have offered you and tweak it to work best for you. Happy Job Hunting!