I remember when I encountered the color cinnamon. Such warmth and comfort instantly saturated my soul. It was the summer of 2015, a time I will never forget, and I was trying on my first pair of flesh-tone tights. The band fit perfectly on my waist with such a calm gentleness. They were tights that looked like me—not ballet pink, the color that many were taught could be the only one in the ballet world. It was me, all the way from my head to my toes. No breaks, perfect continuity.
Before COVID, having an active social media presence may have been enough to supplement your in-person efforts of auditioning, taking class and planting yourself in your local dance community. Now that most auditions are virtual and online submissions have been on the rise, it takes more to stand out. "Art is going to continue, but it will look different," says Rebecca Herrin, ballet instructor at the University of Oklahoma School of Dance, who advises her students on how to be competitive in the industry. "So many dancers are doing the same thing, and it's important to get your work to rise to the top."To be competitive as the industry adapts and evolves, a professional website is the online presence you'll need to help you stand apart from all the chatter. Here are the basics to get you started.
Why You Need A Website<p>Dani Hernandez, founder, CEO and head designer of <a href="https://redoumediadesign.com/" target="_blank">REDO U Media Design</a>, notes the unforeseeable and uncontrollable challenges of relying solely on social media to showcase your work. YouTube sends viewers away from your content by suggesting relevant videos, Vine is no longer used and TikTok could be banned. "A website is yours," says Hernandez, whose client list includes choreographer <a href="https://alblackstone.net/" target="_blank">Al Blackstone</a>. "You control it, and you don't have to worry about an algorithm."</p><p>What's more, when someone lands on your site, you know they're searching specifically for you and not just anyone in your field. "Directors are looking," says Kevin Thomas, artistic director of Memphis-based company <a href="https://www.pointemagazine.com/collage-dance-collective-2646384423.html" target="_blank">Collage Dance Collective</a>. Thomas has been able to connect with new dancers online by visiting their websites after COVID-19 disrupted the company's usual in-person auditions this year. "This is a way to get a gig," says Thomas, adding that he recently hired a new company member this way, without having to meet him in person.</p>
Stroming's "About" page offers a detailed bio, plus links to her resumé and social media pages.
Courtesy Dani Hernandez, REDO U Media Design
How to Get Started<p>If you opt for the DIY route, there are a number of web platforms, like <a href="https://www.squarespace.com/" target="_blank">Squarespace</a>, <a href="https://www.wix.com/" target="_blank">Wix</a> or <a href="https://wordpress.com/" target="_blank">WordPress</a>, that are relatively easy to use. They're low-cost, with monthly prices of less than $20 or annual subscriptions for a couple hundred. Most will include a custom domain and won't require self-hosting or any coding ability.</p><p>If you're like <a href="https://www.alisonstroming.com/" target="_blank">Alison Stroming</a>, a former member of Ballet San Jose and Dance Theatre of Harlem who's now freelancing in Los Angeles, you may prefer to leave the web design to a professional. If that's the case, you'll invest anywhere from $500 to $2,500, depending on what you want to include on your site, according to Hernandez.</p><p>Either approach you choose will be well worth the investment, Stroming contends. She's landed both auditions and jobs from her website, which Hernandez designed. "I don't remember the last time I went into an audition and handed them my resumé," says Stroming, since directors have typically seen her materials beforehand. "It's really important to have your own site. If you don't have one, get on it."</p>
A drop-down menu on Stromings' site offers separate pages for photos, videos and press.
Courtesy Dani Hernandez of REDO U
Expert Tips from Web Designer Dani Hernandez<ul><li>Use an easy-to-remember domain name. A good structure is "www.[firstname][lastname].com" or "www.[firstname][lastname][dance].com."</li><li>Keep your website design simple. Use white space to ensure that it's not too busy, and stay away from too many fonts or colors.</li><li>Remove the web platform's name from your domain name and site footer. Having "Powered by Squarespace" or "www.[sitename].wix.com" in your domain isn't as professional.</li><li>Align your browser favicon—the small image that displays next to the page title in browser tabs—with your brand. Using the web platform's default image brings credibility down.</li><li>Try not to overwhelm your website with a lot of photo content, as it will slow the load time tremendously. Only choose a handful that you think will showcase your best. </li></ul>
In Pointe's Fall 2020 issue, Bayerisches Staatsballett principal Osiel Guneo talked to us about his career, life as a new dad and what he misses most about his home country of Cuba.
Gouneo and Laurretta Summerscales n John Cranko's Onegin
Serghei Gherciu, Courtesy Bayerisches Staatsballett
Gouneo as the title role in Yuri Grigorovich's Spartacus
Serghei Gherciu, Courtesy Bayerisches Staatsballett
Olivia Duran started ballet when she was 3 years old, and it was love at first plié. From there, "I just kept going," she recently recalled over the phone, "and that was that!" Soon, she found herself at Elmhurst Ballet School, the prestigious training program affiliated with England's Birmingham Royal Ballet. She completed the school's full eight years of coursework, but as she neared the professional world, Duran felt more drawn to life as a cruise performer than as a traditional ballerina. Her final year was marked by audition circuits in London, which eventually landed her a contract with MSC Cruises.
After graduation in 2019, Duran returned home to Hampshire, UK, for a few short months to wait for the contract to begin—but with the onset of COVID-19, cruise ships stopped sailing and the job never came to fruition. Her stay at home became far more indefinite, and she was left to consider a life without dance at its center.
Olivia Duran (second from right) performs Paquita with the Elmhurst Ballet Company.
Andy Ross, Courtesy Elmhurst Ballet School<p>Duran is definitely not alone—as COVID-19 continues to prevent the dance world from returning<strong> </strong>to the stage, many advanced students and young professionals struggle with increased uncertainty as they try to launch their careers. Jessica Wheeler, the school principal at Elmhurst, currently works with several recent graduates who never had a chance to audition before the pandemic's start. Now, Wheeler allows them to return to school and receive free training in return for work experience alongside the school's staff.</p><p>But as the return to performances lingers further into the future, more young grads may be left wondering: Is this really for me? </p>
Evaluate Your Relationship to Ballet<p>Patch Schwadron is a career-counselor supervisor at <a href="https://actorsfund.org/" target="_blank">The Actors Fund</a>, which supports artists in the U.S. in their post-performance lives. (<a href="https://actorsfund.org/services-and-programs/career-transition-dancers" target="_blank">Career Transitions For Dancers</a> became a program of The Actors Fund in 2016.) Recently, she's spoken with clients and colleagues about the "chaos theory," a notion that Schwadron describes as "basically, nobody knows what's going to happen, so the best thing dancers can do is add to their skill set in preparation for future opportunities that align with their interests."</p><p>To start, Schwadron suggests asking yourself: "What is my relationship to ballet?" Make sure you answer honestly, and only for yourself. Then, let that guide your responsibilities going forward. "If it's 'I need to be a ballet dancer because it's the thing that really makes the most sense while I'm on this planet,'" she says, your responsibility is to keep in shape. But maybe you like working backstage or studying dance history—those would require different responsibilities, like researching education programs and perhaps finding local mentors to guide your search. Make a timeline for yourself to keep reevaluating. Every three or six months, ask if your relationship to dance has changed, and if it has, you can shift those responsibilities along with it. </p>
Think Beyond Your Dance Skills<p>Wheeler employs similar advice with her students, and tells them to think about the future through the lens of a portfolio career, or one that incorporates multiple jobs. "The kinds of contracts where you would see dancers go to the Birmingham Royal Ballet or another large company and then just stay for a very long period of time are getting fewer," she explains. This was happening even before 2020, and COVID-19 will no doubt change the landscape even more. Now, she sees opportunities for students to build their future from a larger array of options: Some graduates "ended up setting up their own business or going into teaching or becoming a dance photographer," she says.</p><p>Going forward, Schwadron tells clients to start seeing themselves as people with expertise in a wider variety of subjects; in other words, you are a consultant with a range of services. One of the services will be your excellent dance skills, but during the wait for theaters to reopen, now might be a good time to develop some more. The Actors Fund offers no-cost workshops for strategies like this, but Schwadron also encourages students to try volunteering in their local communities. Start small, and only stick with what you like. </p>
Getty Images<p>Many of these tactics helped Duran weigh her options after her contract was canceled. At home, she took advantage of the extra time to research another longtime interest: midwifery. After some more reflection, Duran officially changed course and is now in the beginning stages of midwifery training. "For me," she reflects, "it was when I would go to dance class and I would just enjoy it. It sounds like a really strange thing to say, but it was no longer 'I want to do this, this is what my life is.' It became just 'I love doing this for fun.'"</p><p>The distinction took time to identify, and sometimes it was hard to separate the feeling of change from the feeling of failure. But "it's not failure to decide that it's not what you want anymore," Duran says, "it's really growth." </p>
The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!
Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams
Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet
Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT
Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following
Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet
Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote
Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet
Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song
Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet
Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB
India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.
Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB
Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake
Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet
Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.
Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet
Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet