Doing the Research

You've got to be very careful
if you don't know
where you're going,
because you might not get there.


Where are you going?

Before you begin writing your résumé, you must consider where it will be sent. A résumé is most effective if it is designed to fit a specific target—the company or school where you intend to seek an audition.

Researching your target company (or companies) is crucial. It lets you personalize the résumé and cover letter, which not only flatters the recipient, but demonstrates your profound intrest in their organization.

Even the simplest details are important. Most people dislike having their name misspelled, for instance, and directors are no different. You must determine the name of the artistic director and his or her company, and the correct spelling of both. Beyond that, find out as much as you possibly can. The time you spend doing a complete investigation is always worth it.

In addition to the director’s name and its spelling, find out where he or she danced, where he or she studied dance, how long he or she has been director, and what repertoire he or she has added during his or her tenure. Know the name of the assistant director, the length of the contract, the location of the company, where the company tours, and a complete list of the company’s repertoire for at least the last four years.

Where to start?

Stern’s Performing Arts Directory, which is most likely in your local library, lists every dance company, their addresses, and phone number. It also includes the correct spelling of the directors’ and companies’ names. Additional sources of information are articles published in Dance Magazine, reviews in the New York Times, and books about the company’s history. While at the library, look at the back issues of Dance Magazine to find any mention of your target company. Much information is available from your computer. Check out the Cyber Dancer Page which is linked to many dance sites. Make sure you lurk on news groups like, alt.arts.ballet and, and then post a question about your target companies. Read the excellet FAQ which includes a listing of all the dance related web pages, frequently asked questions about dance, and a list of books availible on the subject, including Your Dance Resume. If this seems like a daunting task, ask a computer-competent friend to download all the information you need.

Call each of your target companies and ask for the person in charge of public relations. The larger companies will have separate production offices which will gladly assist you, but even the smallest companies will have someone who deals with public relations. Politely explain that you are a dancer interested in auditioning for their company, and that you would like information about their repertoire for the past five years and the repertoire the company intends to dance this season. Also ask for the director’s biography, where the company is planning to tour, and to whom you should send your audition materials.

One of the best ways to discover information is to talk to someone in the company, or someone who has been in the company, preferably a dancer. The dance world is so small that if you don’t know someone in your target company, you probably know someone who knows someone in that company. It’s just a matter of a little research. Once you find someone 'in the loop', ask them some questions like:

What are the classes like?
Who teaches?
What is the director like?
How are the dancers treated and addressed?
How hard is the work load?
Do you know of anyone who is planing to leave after this season?
What is the range of salaries?
What time of year do the dancers return their letters of intent?

The letter of intent is a letter from the artistic director indicating his intent to re-engage a dancer for the next season. It must be signed and returned to the director, which indicates the dancer’s wish to stay another season. The directors know how many contracts must be filled after the dancers return their letters of intent. Obviously, the best time to have your résumé land on an artistic director’s desk is soon after the letters of intent are returned, because that's when he or she discovers that a new dancer is needed.

Doing this research is valuable for more than writing a good résumé. If you like what you discover about the company, the new knowledge will cement your determination, intensify your desire for success, and therefore compel you to follow through and do your best. On the other hand, such a complete investigation might uncover reasons to drop the company from your audition list and save time, money, and effort.

Little bits of information are nuggets of gold when used to personalize a résumé and cover letter. Mentioning specific details of a company is not only flattering and interesting to a director, it shows him or her your keen interest in the company and the intensity of your desire to audition for it.

I once discovered that an artistic director had spent many years in Munich. I mentioned my recent audition at Bayerisches Staatsballet in the cover letter and when I called, that's all he could talk about. He couldn't wait to see me in an audition, and when we met, he treated me like an old friend.

Complete list of other wolfram writing | Notice of Copyright