Résumé Basics

Success is not the result
of spontaneous combustion
You must set yourself on fire.

The résumé is the centerpiece of a dancerís audition package. Yet if you could look through the résumés sent to any large American ballet company, youíd see that most of them are not very good. They lack neatness, focus, impact, and precision. Important information is often absent or hard to find, while unnecessary details clutter the page. Many dance companies are overwhelmed with hundreds of such résumés each season. Keep this in mind when you write your own. Even in such a large crowd you can stand out if your résumé is better than the rest—just as youíd hope to stand out on stage by dancing with more dynamics, precision, and control then the other dancers.

What should you include in a résumé and what should you leave out? Read on.

A Dance Résumé Always Includes:

1. Name, address, and phone number
Although the reasons for including this information are obvious, it is surprising how many people forget to incorporate it in their résumés. The people who leave this information off their résumé donít get very far in their search for a job. Many dancers use a stage name; use it on your résumé if you have one.

2. Date of birth
Although your birth date is not usually required on résumés for traditional jobs, most artistic directors want to know your age. This is usually because they have some policy, written or unwritten, about how old a dancer at a particular level should be. If you think your age might be a problem, call to learn the guidelines. Fear of age discrimination has compelled many dancers to lie about their age on a résumé. Donít do this unless you are prepared to live a lie in pursuit of your dreams. Management does not appreciate dishonesty and the disrespect which accompanies deceit. It is true that people have traditionally lied about their age on their dance résumés in the past and have gotten away with it, partly because once a dancer is beyond the audition process and into the school or company, the staff has had the time to grow to admire the dancerís talent or potential. At this point they are more likely to forgive other, less fortunate aspects of the dancerís overall circumstances. You probably wonít be fired for lying on a résumé. Understand that if you lie, however, your secret will eventually be discovered and people will talk about your true age—behind your back and in your face.

3. Weight and height
Your weight and height are also important. Leaving these statistics off your résumé looks suspicious. There is no need for fractions in height or weight. If you are 5í8 3/4" tall and want to appear shorter on your résumé, write 5í8". On the other hand, if youíre 5í11 1/2" and think you are more marketable at an even 6í, then round up.

4. Citizenship
Indicate your citizenship with your height and weight. This information is important to directors, who must deal with visas and quotas. If you are auditioning in America as a foreigner, but have a green card or a visa to work in America, then absolutely include that information in addition to, or instead, of your nationality.

5. Company names
Unless you have been in a lot of different companies in the last two years or are writing a purely functional résumé, include the names of all the companies for which you have worked.

6. Featured roles
Include the names of ballets, the choreographers, and roles you have danced. However, if you have ample professional experience itís counterproductive to list every role you have ever danced, because your featured roles will be lost in the clutter of your smaller roles. If this is your case, itís more effective to only list your "Featured Roles". If you have very little stage time or no professional experience, include all your dance experience on your résumé.

7. Education
This refers to where you learned to dance, not your high school. Start with the most recent school you attended and work backwards.

The more professional experience a dancer has, the less important his or her training becomes. A dancer straight out of school with no professional experience should put an education section right after their career highlights section. You may include information about a school you attended, even if you did not graduate from its program. If you received a scholarship, it shows that the organization had confidence in your ability to succeed as a dancer, so be sure to highlight such honors boldly on your résumé.

What about small workshops, like that two-week workshop on East Indian dancing you took five years ago? Ask yourself, "How does this schooling apply to my current career goals?" If you are auditioning for a show called Shiva-The Indian God of Dance, information about this workshop could be placed confidently at the top your résumé. However, this information has no place on a résumé for a Broadway show, because someone casting A Chorus Line might have little interest in the state of your mantras.

8. Other awards
You should include any awards, certification honors, and medals you received from competitions or examinations. The results of a Cecchetti exam become less important as a dancer becomes more established and should fade to the bottom of their résumé as their experience section fills out. On the other hand, a firstplace award on Star Search might be the distinction that separates your résumé from the pile.

We forfeit three-fourths of
ourselves to be like other people


A Résumé Sometimes Includes:

1. Choreographic creations
Definitely include this if research of the target company revealed that the resident choreographer requires improvisation technique from their dancers. Many modern companies encourage their dancers to choreograph, or at least see it as a positive sign, so for them you might include this information, especially if it doesnít push your résumé into a second or third page. On the other hand, many ballet companies and casting agents donít really care about their dancersí choreographic dreams, and would actually dislike it if a dancer became too creative with the given steps.

2. Acting experience
Again, if it doesnít push you to the next page, then go ahead and include it, especially if you have some impressive screen or stage experience. If you are auditioning for a musical or an opera and think some acting might be required, then of course you should include this sort of work.

3. Musical Training
Most dancers have had some musical training. Furthermore, many prospective employers are disinterested in the three years of piano classes you took when you were a pre-teen. Unless your training is extensive and you have won some award or distinguished yourself in the field of music, or unless you need to beef up your résumé because you have virtually no dance experience, it is better to leave your musical training off the résumé.

4. References
A better place to indicate a reference is in the cover letter or on a separate sheet of paper in the résumé package, but you may include this information on your résumé, especially if you have a reference who is known and trusted by the target director. Be sure to let the reference know they might be contacted and take a moment to fill them in on your activities since you last saw them.

Drawing on my fine command
of the English language,
I said nothing.

A Résumé Should Not Include:

1. Anything negative:
Everyone has limitations, but a résumé is not the place to confess them. Any shortcomings that you have can be toned down by your résumé. However, do not highlight your weaknesses by mentioning them on your résumé. Often, for a director, résumé reading is a process of elimination; donít give him or her a reason not to call you back. Never mention bad experiences with former directors, choreographers, or teachers. It might indicate that youhave the bad attitude.

2. Hair and eye color
None of the directors I surveyed thought this information served them at all. For this reason, itís not necessary to give your hair and eye color.

3. The word résumé
Your résumé should look like a résumé, and if it doesnít, then it should be rewritten. A title at the top saying "R E S U M E" or "Professional Profile" is simply redundant.

4. Reasons for leaving a job
If prospective employers want to know why you left or are leaving a job, then they can ask you. If they do ask why you are leaving your job, be sure not to give any negative reason. Itís much better to say, "I need a change so that I may continue to grow,"rather than, "I feel suffocated at my current company because the director treats me unfairly." Negative comments reflect poorly on you. In any case, a résumé is not the place to defend your reasons for leaving a job.

5. Salary requirements
Although it is sometimes helpful for a director to know what position a dancer is auditioning for, the résumé is not intended to begin negotiations for a salary. Once a director has offered you a contract, then you might consider negotiating a more substantial salary. In that case talk with the general manager, not the director. Listing your compensation expectations on your résumé will only serve to limit your chances for an audition, by either lowering the quality of your résumé with this inappropriate demand, or by simply pricing yourself out of the job.

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