It took Taeler Cyrus three tries before she
found the right agent. She was performing with
Ailey II when she signed with her ;rst. “I got
a couple of commercial gigs, but I wasn’t able
to make it to auditions regularly, so that one
let me go,” says Cyrus. On a recommendation
from a friend, she found a new agent. “I didn’t
get enough direction from them,” remembers
Cyrus. “I let them go because of the lack of
relationship.” On her third try, Cyrus met her
match at McDonald/Selznick Associates talent
agency. Three years later, Cyrus has booked
gigs from “Saturday Night Live” to a Kanye
West video to her most recent job dancing in the
ensemble of An American in Paris on Broadway.
Dancers of all genres seek out representation
to help them ;nd commercial opportunities and
book gigs for ;lm, television and Broadway.
Finding an agent to represent you—and getting
work once you have secured one—has as much
to do with talent as it does with hard work
and availability. Agents represent performers,
submit for auditions and negotiate contracts for
dance jobs, while managers deal with overall
career management, from leading a public relations team to negotiating contracts for non-dance
gigs. Though some managers may act in the same
capacity as agents, most work for dancers when
their career has appeal beyond the world of dance.
WHO NEEDS REPRESENTATION?
According to Lakey Wolff, a dance agent
with CESD Talent, there are two categories of
dancers that can bene;t from having represen-
tation. The ;rst type are dancers looking for
work who are professionally ready. “You have
to know that out of 100 people, you will likely
be the one to book the job,” says Wolff. The
second type of dancer is already employed in a
professional company for most of the year, but
is willing to make herself fully available during
any layoff period. Some agents and managers
will not work with dancers who have full-time
employment with a company, but many do.
“If the dancer is 100 percent willing to communicate when she is off and available, I will
submit them,” explains Wolff.
WHAT DO AGENTS DO?
Agents communicate with casting directors and
are in the know about opportunities, auditions
and upcoming projects. They submit your
headshot, resumé and other materials to casting
and can often schedule invited calls or general
meetings beyond the required open calls. If you
make it through to the ;nal callback but don’t
book a job, they will try to get feedback from
casting directors to ;nd out why and help prepare you for your next audition. Once a job is
booked, they negotiate your contract and make
sure you are paid correctly. A talent agency’s cut
is typically 10 percent of the dancer’s total pay.
For Cyrus, the advice on headshots she received
from her current team at MSA, which includes
four dance agents with different areas of expertise, was invaluable. “Getting the right headshot
made the biggest difference,” says Cyrus. “My
agency helped me ;gure out my look. Now I
look a little older and I can do more styles, from
sophisticated to sultry.” Agents are also there to
push you. “It is my job to know a dancer’s skills
better than they do,” says Wolff. “I had a dancer
nervous about auditioning for Twyla Tharp, but
I pushed her to go and she booked it.”
FIND YOUR MATCH
While some agencies have periodic open calls
to ;nd new talent for their roster, many agents
look for referrals from casting directors, choreographers and other dancers. “I have been lucky
in that I have found agents through recommendations,” says Cyrus, “but I have been smart about
who I’ve asked for help.” Don’t approach dancers
who would be jealous or feel protective. Instead,
ask friends of the opposite sex or colleagues
who are not in competition for the same roles as
you. Maybe they can recommend your upcoming show to their agent. Make sure you have a
headshot ready and a reel that is easily accessible,
so that anyone you do happen to meet is able to
quickly see what you can do. “It is not just about
getting any agent. You want to ;nd the agent that
is right for you,” says Wolff. “The joke is that it is
really like dating or ;nding a doctor.” Agents can
be as specialized or versatile as dancers.
HELP THEM HELP YOU
Your agent or manager can only do so much—
ultimately, your success is in your hands. “You
have to be someone that people want to work
with. I want to know if I send you to an audition, I am going to get great feedback,” says
Wolff. Be diligent and smart with social media.
Go to class regularly and take workshops with
choreographers you want to work with. Let
your agent know who you’ve met and who’s
familiar with your work so they can make
connections for you. If you’re auditioning for
Broadway, make sure you’re working on your
singing. “Dancers should know choreographers,
teachers, who is getting cast,” advises Wolff.
There is no shortcut to doing the hard work. As
Cyrus puts it, “A friend said to me once, ‘Your
agent only does 10 percent of the work.’;” ■
Land the right agent—or manager—for you.
BY CANDICE THOMPSON
What About a Manager?
Manager Gilda Squire first heard of Misty Copeland from a friend at a party.
Her instincts told her that Copeland’s story was unique, and she decided to
approach her about signing as a client. It would be two years of nonstop
work before their first endorsement opportunity came about. “Some dancers
don’t have extra time, but Misty is really great at multitasking,” says Squire.
Managers typically have fewer clients and, because of that, may sign dancers
to longer contracts and take a cut larger than 10 percent. If you have both
an agent and a manager, that means that 20 to 30 percent of your income
will go to representation, so your career needs to be big enough to warrant
employing such a team. “When I talk to dancers, I remind them that they must
put in the groundwork first,” says Squire. “Start building an audience, and use
social media to make people more aware of what you are doing.” —CT
figure out my
look. Now I can
do more styles,
cated to sultry.”
Squire with Misty Copeland