Advanced Résumé

I always wanted to be somebody
but I should have been
more specific.

The most effective résumés focus on the employer and what he or she needs, rather than on your past. A wise dancer looks carefully at the repertoire he or she has danced, the companies performed with, and the schools he or she has attended to find common connections with the target director.

Some artistic directors would be thrilled to know that the person auditioning has seen their choreographic works before, and are therefore aware of the type of dancing they would be doing. In addition, mentioning teachers or choreographers known to the artistic director provides interest and points of reference to the director, and for this reason should be highlighted in the résumé or cover letter. Such information can be given either in the résumé or the cover letter; to help you chose where, refer to the case studies and samples> to see various ways and places to include it.

The Main Question

Imagine you have already sent your résumé to your target company, and by coincidence the director is answering his or her own mail on the day it arrives. Here is the chance you’ve been waiting for—an actual, living, breathing director is looking at your résumé, someone who might even call you for an audition. What should your résumé be saying? If a director is looking at your résumé, he or she will be searching for one answer: What can you do for my company?

What can you do for my company? At first glance, that question might sound obvious. Upon re-examination, notice how standard résumés only answer this question in an indirect manner. Think about it: Most résumés are a chronological summary of what you have done. The director must look at your experience, evaluate the significance of your achievements, and, finally, put it all onto a scale to understand where you belong in his or her own company. Instead of making a long, self-absorbed testament of your dance career, it behooves you to answer the director’s question.

Your résumé can do this in two ways: first, by stating what service you are offering boldly at the top of your résumé and, second, by presenting it in a way that lets him or her see you in the best possible light. If you want to dance in the target company—say it. If you want a corps de ballet job—say it. If you are willing to apprentice—say it, and by all means, if you are only going to accept a certain level, don’t be afraid to say it. This is one way to format your résumé to serve the person who is hiring.

Now it’s your turn!

On a separate piece of paper list:
* Every role you have ever danced.
* Every company you have worked for and the dates you worked there.
* The dance schools, programs, and workshops you attended and the dates you were there.
* Any awards or scholarships you have received.
* Any roles that were created for you.
* All film or stage acting experience.
* List anyone you have worked with who also knows your target director.
* Look at the repertoire of your target company and list any works from it you have done.
* List choreography you’ve danced that is traditionally danced by the school or company attended by the target director. For instance, a director who has worked with Jose Limon will be interested if you have danced The Moor’s Pavan, and a director who has studied at the School of the Royal Danish Ballet has a clear frame of reference and understanding of the Bournonville style.

What are your most important accomplishments with each company or school you attended, such as:

Lead roles, first cast performances, quick promotions, renown partners, outstanding exams, working with special choreographers, and recognitions or awards.

It is a good idea to obey all
the rules when you’re young
just so you’ll have the strength
to break them when you’re old.

The Format

If you ask one hundred people how to organize and present the information in a résumé, you will get one hundred different answers. One person will tell you the exact opposite of another. So much depends on how this résumé helps achieve your goal. This is the most important message on this web page. You'll want a different résumé for different occasions. One résumé might be fan-fair or hype, intended for the press, sales material, or your biography on the inside of a program. Another résumé, intended to land a teaching job at a university, might be in c.v. format, listing your college education first, followed by every dance related event in which you've participated. Seeking a gig in a TV commercial, you might list your film experience first, and for a ballet gig, you might leave this information off entirely.

Nevertheless, there are two common and accepted approaches to writing a résumé: the chronological method and the functional method. The format you decide to use should reflect your personality and be tailored to fit the specific organization to which your résumé is being sent. Use the method that you are most comfortable with, and, more importantly the method which best showcases your background and experience. Someone who has little professional experience might try a functional résumé, which highlights skills rather than work history.

Look at the sample résumés and read the following descriptions to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

The Chronological Method

The chronological method is the most conservative and widely accepted format for a résumé. Its distinguishing feature is that it lists your most recent work experience at the top, and continues down in chronological order. Its main advantage is that it highlights a strong, steady work history while providing the director complete information about your past. It also is a method many people are familiar with, and it’s easy to prepare in a logical manner. If your most relevant dance experience was long ago, don’t be afraid to put it at the top of the résumé and list your additional work experience in chronological order to end with your current job.

This method tends to highlight the dates of employment and the companies you have worked for rather then the specific roles you have danced or the specific choreographers with whom you have worked.

Actually, where you have danced is far more important then when you danced there. The dates aren’t nearly as important as what you have danced and what you are capable of dancing. For this reason your résumé is better if it has the dates on the far right margin like examples. Or you can simply omit the dates entirely by using the functional method.

The Functional Method

Unfortunately, a person with no work history, a disastrous employment background, or who started dancing seriously late will only highlight these weaknesses with the chronological method. These potential barriers to employment can be minimized with the functional method. Furthermore, older dancers who wish to conceal their age, but feel uncomfortable changing dates around to accommodate an artificial age, find the functional format most congenial.

The primary distinction of the functional method is that the work history section is completely omitted. You list only the talents and experiences most relevant to the position you are seeking, regardless of your work history. Although this method works well for people who have just graduated from school and have no professional experience, it can be used effectively by anyone, especially those who have gaps in their dance history, or have a confusing or limited employment background.

One of the advantages of this method is it gives you complete control over how you present yourself. It allows you to creatively display your most notable experience in a unique manner. The primary disadvantage of the functional method is it might create suspicion in the employer’s mind about the lack of complete information.

A combination of the chronological method and the functional method is also possible. Basically, such a résumé highlights where and when you have worked, without submitting to the rigid chronological format, while still granting you some of the freedoms offered by the functional format. This method is a favorite with many dancers.

If you are using a functional format, it is often effective to write your résumé in the third person, as in "Ms. Goldstein performed Charity in the world première of Sweet Charity II," or even the first person, as in "I studied dance at the University of California." For a conservative or chronological résumé, it is congruent with the style to write in a voice which implies the subject, such as "Successfully premièred as Janis in the critically acclaimed Dance of Time," or "Featured in Swan Lake as the Jester."

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