Professional Resources for Dancers from NYFA Source

Professional Resources for Dancers from NYFA Source

“Dancers need a number of resources to develop their careers, and those needs differ depending on what part of their artistry they are pursuing”

If you want to dance at a professional level, you need to pursue dynamic opportunities and continually train. Like artists in every discipline, dancers need professional development, mentorship, and meaningful experiences that foster creative growth. What festivals will grow my network and deepen my artistic practice? How do I find fellowship opportunities? Whether you are a recent graduate or established performer, these are important questions every dancer must consider.

“Dancers need a number of resources to develop their careers, and those needs differ depending on what part of their artistry they are pursuing” says Sydnie Mosley, a New York City-based dancer, choreographer and teaching artist.

Before you begin to apply to programs, review your long-term goals and how you want to build your career. Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in my dancing career in one year?” Assess your level of commitment, professional opportunities, and, most importantly, technical skill. By creating performance goals, you’re able to determine what life-choices need to happen in order to propel your career forward.

A positive experience that shaped Sydnie’s dance career was working as a performer with Christal Brown’s dance company, INSPIRIT. 

“It was my first experience dancing in a professional company and really allowed me to understand what it takes to be a performer in the city. It helped me learn the dance landscape (people, organizations, rehearsal spaces, venues etc.), as well as what it really takes to run a company in New York City.”

According to Craig Peterson, Director of Programs at Gibney Dance, “Dancers need time, space, money, and empowerment. What I hear most from emerging dancers and choreographers is the challenge of supporting freelance dance careers in a city that is already a harsh financial climate. For performers, they need affordable dance classes. They need financially accessible opportunities to work closely and consistently with choreographers.

They also need to be paid for their work and be empowered to ask for what they need. For dance makers, they need studio time; this means residencies that provide steady time to rehearse and commissions that give them the financial flexibility to create. They also need to be empowered with the administrative capabilities to expand their reach and garner support as independent artists.”

As Craig emphasizes, dancers need specific resources, to develop and ultimately, sustain their careers. From affordable cash grants to dance festivals nationwide, use NYFA Source to research available dance opportunities.  Here is a quick overview on how to search the database:

  • In NYFA Source there are several types of awards and services for performers.
  • To locate a variety of useful programs, visit the Search page.
  • Select the Discipline category – “Dance”.
  • Select the sub-discipline “Dance, All”.

It’s useful to filter your search by sub-discipline if you’re looking for a specific dance form such as ballet, jazz or modern. We also recommend you search by geographic region. Make sure you follow the instructions above to find a variety of dance-specific awards and opportunities for dancers. For dancers who aspire to professional careers, below are a few of the outstanding opportunities that exist in our database:

Attend Dance Festivals

Festivals like the Bates Dance Festival and Jacob’s Pillow are centers for artistic creativity. Each dance festival is produced differently. Depending on the dance form, the approach to teaching dance and artistic development will vary. However, the overall goal is to bring together a community of choreographers, performers, and educators together to participate in a creative exchange. Many festivals offer professional development training, master classes, and exclusive opportunities to perform:

Bates Dance Festival Professional Training Program
Lewiston, ME

Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation
Seattle, WA

American Dance Festival Performance Opportunities
Durham, NC

Master Classes and Workshops at The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
Becket, MA

Join a Membership Organization

Dance/USA offers a wide range of professional development opportunities for dancers. Their signature programming, annual conferences, and online resources seek to provide creative inspiration and build community. They also host a annual conference. Programming at the conference is a mix of discussion-based sessions and practical breakout sessions.

Dance New Jersey membership benefits include seminars, workshops, regional forums and access to professional mentorship.

Apply to a Residency Program

Dance in Process at Gibney Dance
Dance in Process offers residency support for mid-career New York City-based artists by providing access to studio rehearsal space, a stipend, and administrative resources.

Artist in Residence Project (A.I.R.) at Movement Research
The Center for Movement Research offers dance classes, workshops, residencies and performance opportunities for artists in New York City. The Artist in Residence Project (A.I.R.) is a two year program providing commissions, rehearsal space, performances, and related opportunities designed to support the individualized creative process of selected artists.

Go on Auditions

If you want to dance seriously and consistently, you’ll need to audition. The types of auditions will vary, including ballet auditions, modern dance auditions, and musical theater auditions, among others.

Professional dance companies are constantly seeking out new talent with a broad range of performance techniques. Hence, preparing for auditions and researching opportunities is an ongoing activity. Whether it’s for a musical production, repertory, ballet, or Broadway performance, you need to know where to find the latest audition information. It’s important to evaluate each opportunity carefully and discover what suits you best. Ultimately, dancers should approach each audition as a positive learning experience. We’ve listed three popular resources for auditions below:



New York

Find Rehearsal Space

Dancer often need performance and rehearsal spaces to practice routines. Some venues provide subsidized rehearsal space for artists:

Chen Dance Center
Rehearsal Space

The Mark Morris Dance Group
Rental Subsidy Program

New Dance Alliance
Rehearsal Space

Opportunities for Choreographers

  • NYFA awards Artists’ Fellowships of $7,000 to individual originating artists living and working in New York State and/or Indian Nations located therein for unrestricted use. NYFA accepts applications for choreography every three years. This category accepts work in all choreographic styles, including mixed-media or multi-genre performance works in which choreography and/or organized movement is primary.
  • McKnight Artist Fellowship for Choreographers awards three fellowships of $25,000 each to Minnesota choreographers. Mid-career choreographers in financial assistance are encouraged to apply. In addition, your work must display artistic excellence.
  • Danspace Project is a performance venue for contemporary dance. The venue supports a variety of emerging artist in developing their work. Their mainstage performance series, Danspace Project Presents, features 15-25 weeks of dance work by select local, national, and international artists per year.
  • USArtists International provides grants to ensembles and individual performers in dance, music and theatre invited to perform at significant international festivals.
  • New England Foundation for the Arts’ (NEFA) The Regional Dance Development Initiative (RDDI) “provides professional growth for dance artists in regions across the U.S. through a 10-day “dance lab” designed to refine work, hone public presentation skills, and strengthen partnerships between artists and presenters.” NEFA also offers the National Dance Project, which supports artists and nonprofit organizations in the creation and touring of contemporary dance.

While it may be challenging to have a career in dance, it is definitely possible. Use this list to jumpstart your search and gain access to the spaces that help you grow professionally.

Attend workshops to perfect your craft. Visit festivals and perform with your peers. Join membership organizations and share your experiences about dance. With consistent training, mentorship, and the mastery of your technique, you can create a significant career in dance.

To find more opportunities for dancers, use NYFA Source, a free searchable database of 12,000+ awards, residencies, and services.

Related ArticleCreative Careers: Get Your Start In Dance

– Glory Edim, Program Associate, Online Resources

Image: Michou Szabo (Fellow in Choreography ‘13)

Amy Aronoff
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