Teaching What's Missing
On a recent teaching tour throughout New York City I had a series of conversations with students, parents, studio owners, other teachers, etc. and realized something: a lot of people don't know the difference between training to be a professional dancer and taking social media "hype" classes. Actually, I'm learning that a lot of people didn't even know a difference existed! I'm hoping, with this entry, I can unravel this ball of confusion. Here's the way I look at it: there's so much information flying at us on a daily basis between a million and one social media platforms, phone calls, e-mails, texts (Lord help you if you have the news pushing through to your phone), all with their own notifications and dings, and, as a result, who can keep up? But, when it comes to your career and your training, you HAVE to keep up and you absolutely must DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Lesson #1: Taking a dance class does not necessarily mean that you are effectively training for a professional career
If you're wanting to make dance your career, you should be researching your teachers! It's simple! What professional work have they done? Have they done work similar to what you're looking to do? What choreographers have hired them? How long have they worked professionally? Answering these questions alone will tell you whether or not you're taking the right classes and, what's great is that all of this information is at your disposal thanks to the internet! Take me, for instance: you can google my name and a number of links come up, one of which is my Instagram account. In addition to seeing pictures and videos of some of the work I've done, you'll see the link to this website which includes my up-to-date resumé, class videos, pictures from jobs, etc. Now that is just little ol' me. Take some great, long-time working, choreographers and teachers like Richy Jackson, Kennis Marquis, Rosero McCoy, Sho-time, Anthony Thomas, Shawnette Heard, Ed Moore, and several others and you'll find LOADS of real, professional experience from dance, to choreography, to visual direction, and more. These greats have real knowledge and experience to share with their students and a lot of them are teaching all over! I have been blessed enough to study and work under some of those names listed above and I can tell you right now, those are the caliber of teachers that every aspiring professional dancer should be looking to train under. So, ask yourself: who are the teachers I'm taking from and what experience do they have that could help me in my career? All it takes is one Google to find out exactly who is who and who's done what.
Lesson #2: Number of likes/views & subscribers/followers DOES NOT EQUAL RELEVANCE
One more time: number of likes and followers does not equal relevance in the professional dance industry! Think about it: simply because a dancer/teacher has a huge following does not automatically make them qualified to prepare you for a professional dance career. Herein lies the fundamental difference between working professional dancers/choreographers and social media "famous" teachers: the number of followers does not equal the amount of experience. There are SEVERAL professional dancers/choreographers/teachers who do not have an insane social media following simply because they don't have the time to develop that following. These people are oftentimes too busy working on real, professional jobs to develop a following and some have been working in the industry long before social media was even a "thing!" Now, this is not to say that a legitimate professional can't have a massive following. There are a bunch of professionals who have a well-deserved following. You just, once again, have to do your research to decipher who is who.
To be clear, I am not anti-social media. Social media has done a lot for us this past decade: we can connect with friends from elementary school, we can see what our old next door neighbors are up to, we can keep extended family updated on what's new and vice versa. It's truly remarkable! However, there are pro's and con's with everything and one of the cons of this digital age is the ability for anyone to create a persona of perfection or a facade of "#BookedandBlessed" when reality does not support the status update.
This current "reality" that a person's relevance is based on how many followers they have on social media is nothing short of disconcerting to me. Moreover, this unfortunate theory has bled into show-business: a growing number of casting directors, choreographers, agents, etc. are requiring a certain number of followers before letting a hopeful even walk into the room. It sounds crazy, but it's the direction the industry is moving and unfortunately this is creating an overwhelming amount of false prophets. Anyone can buy followers in bulk and automatically appear "insta-famous." Their "influence" is fabricated and more and more people (dancers, parents, students, studios, agents, directors, etc.) are buying into these fabrications. This is why I'm stressing for everyone to do their research. The truth can be exposed with a dose of some old school research. I encourage you all to do your homework--look into the people that are influencing your kids, protect your career and honor what it is you're looking to do. You may end up on the road less traveled, but the unbeaten path is typically the one that leads to greatness.