Are Agents Good For Dancers?
YOU BET THEY ARE!
Intro by Grover Dale
A quick trip back to "pre-agent" days reminds us how lucky today's dancers are. The memory of cattle calls, contractual abuses, and sub-standard wages are a powerful reminder that a dancer’s working life is a far cry better today than it was twenty years ago.
The era of "the dance agent" began in 1985. A popular dance teacher, Julie McDonald was teaching jazz dance in a Venice, CA studio. An unexpected knee injury changed everything. Julie was forced to rethink her future. Uncertain if dance could remain a part of it, she struggled through endless job searches and ended up enrolling in a 3-week career-development course. Daily classes (starting at 5am!) soon triggered new possibilities. One in particular spoke to her. She uncovered a niche in the entertainment field that had never been filled: Representation for dancers.
Julie with a choreographer client, Russell Clarke
Within a few weeks, a small ad appeared in Variety saying, "Wanted. Dancers For Representation." The ad directed dancers to an audition where Julie had enrolled Gene Castle to teach a tap combo, Russell Clark a jazz combo, and Michelle Zeitlin a ballet combo. 300 dancers showed up. Days later, a dance department was installed at one of L.A.'s top commercial agencies, Joseph, Helfond, & Rix (JHR). Julie was the entire department. She was given a phone, a desk, 50% of any commissions she brought in, and the opportunity to create something new. The rest is history.
The fusion between "dance" and "agenting" exploded beyond everyone's expectations, including Julie's. Today, there are dozens of dance agencies around the world serving the employment needs of dancers and choreographers.
HOW DID THE AGENT PHENOMENON TAKE HOLD?
It's a no-brainer. Dance agents save production companies time and money. Within hours, agencies are able to supply casting directors and producers with ‘pre-screened’ talent. For this stress-free service, employers simply contribute an extra 10% to each dancer's salary to cover the agent's commission! What a deal!
HOW DO DANCERS SECURE REPRESENTATION?
Since the 90's, open auditions were held by agencies 3 or 4 times a year. In addition, traditional photo/resume/demoReel submissions were accepted via mail. Upon review, dancers were contacted and invited to the next scheduled agency audition. This lengthy process is still in place today... with one exception.