By Raquel Alder
Professional Dancer and Pro Performer Founder
Learn how to maximise your chances of becoming a Dance Captain, with Moulin Rouge Star, Raquel Alder
The privilege and responsibility of the Dance Captain role is lusted over by many dancers in the industry. But few dancers are actually offered the opportunity of becoming a Dance Captain during their careers. The percentage of Dance Captains around the globe is a small minority, considering that only an estimated 10% of dancers who train in the field actually land professional jobs in the industry.
Sculpting certain skills can boost your chances of landing the Dance Captain role, though this may not apply to certain professional classical and contemporary companies, who often have Artistic Directors or Ballet Mistresses in place of Dance Captains. Improving on these certain skills however, can also help you reach such a job as a Ballet Mistress, usually with longer, loyal commitment to a company. No matter the style of the company or contract you are involved in, enhancing these few skills may help you exceed your current level and improve your work ethic.
The overall goal of this article is to help you demonstrate your capability and prove
your excellent work ethic to your Artistic Director, Supervisor and/or Dance Captain.
Among other critical reasons, Dance Captains are often chosen because of their work ethic, their level of talent, their ability to learn quickly and because they add value (both to the team and the show), often requiring a high level of skill to ensure the standard of the team is lifted up to an elite professional level, not lowered down to a mediocre one. It would be quite rare for a dancer to land their very first job in the industry as a Dance Captain; it is a role one must often prove they’re capable of executing well and one that requires certain professional traits that blossom with
experience in the industry.
So, if you’re interested in taking on the responsibility of the DC role someday in your career, here are a few steps you can pursue now and on future contracts to increase your chances of obtaining the position.
1) Commit to a better you by improving your talent
As mentioned above, part of the Dance Captain’s role is to make sure the team (and production) is lifted to as high a standard as possible. Being led by a Dance Captain with lower levels of skill than the performers in the team, could have negative effects on the quality of the production- so take every opportunity to improve your talents and become a better artist. The committed desire for improvement (and the skills that follow after it) is often the type of example a good Dance Captain should seek to lead others with. Cultivate this desire in yourself, grow your skills, and lead by example.
2) Work on your counting and musicality
For some, this area comes as naturally as breathing, and to others, not so much. An imperative aspect to becoming a Dance Captain is one’s connection with musicality and ability to count while teaching or cleaning choreography. It can be a painful process for fellow performers if the Dance Captain lacks skills in this area. To improve, begin counting in your head each time you practice choreography without anticipating the counts or rushing ahead. Become entirely comfortable with each count and don’t rush a single movement. It may feel robotic at first but it can help differentiate the counts your movements should be on.
Practising with the music will also ensure you don’t neglect your musicality skills (which are equally important as your counting abilities). If you’re stronger practicing choreography with the music, then work on your counting skills, and vice versa. When going over the choreography with other performers in your team, offer to count (whilst partaking in the practice) to build strength in this area.
3) In your spare time, learn how to re-block
Take an act or routine from your current production and create a hypothetical scenario where one performer is missing from the scene. Scribble down how you would re-block to fill in the gaps and cover each moment that particular performer is involved in. Doing this task on your own time at home, allows the current Dance Captain of your contract to re-block with a clear mind when in an actual re-blocking situation, and respectfully avoids stepping on their toes. (You can even use those cast re-blocking moments to analyse how your Dance Captain re-blocks and learn from their methods.) Practicing this task may not help you land the job, as these skills likely won’t be put into play unless in a Dance Captain / Assistant DC position and are required to perform a re-block, but it will certainly help you in your abilities as a Dance Captain if you are offered the role.
4) Improve your brain health and functionality
According to The Centers For Disease Prevention And Control, dancing is an activity that actually improves your brain’s processing speed and memory (which explains how dancers get so good at picking up and retaining choreography) and can decrease chances of Alzheimer’s and Dementia later in life. So, help your brain work better with other mentally stimulating activities too, such as reading, jigsaw puzzles, Tetris, Solitaire and Chess to name a few.
Implementing daily brain activities into your lifestyle is proven to elevate brain health and speed, which will boost your abilities to think quicker on the spot and thrive in high-pressure situations.
Brain-healthy Dance Captains are better Dance Captains.
5) Improve your organisational skills
As part of the Dance Captain role, you may need to organise anything from classes and events to wardrobe and dancers, stage teams, evaluations and reports- the list goes on depending on the level of responsibility the position requires and the scale of the production. Be prepared and up your game with better organization in your life. Make sure your costumes are in order, ensure your spot in the dressing room is organised and clean all contract-round. Time management also falls under the bracket of organisation, as does the task of decluttering. Choose beneficial ways to organise your life inside and outside of work to strengthen that skill.
Communication skills are needed too! This is another point that comes naturally to some, and not so much to others. Learning to give clear understandable instructions in a friendly, receivable way, and being able to listen to others, will help you run a smoother show and build a positive relationship with your team. Demonstrate your capability by implementing great communication into your current relationships with your current cast members, dance captain and production teams. Listen to the corrections you are given in rehearsals and ensure they are fixed the first time they are given. Listen to the corrections given to others too, ensuring you’re not making the same mistakes other performers are making.
Don’t be afraid to asked detailed questions on choreography, and be comfortable with admitting when you’re wrong. Also, an imperative communication factor; be kind to those around you. It is a simple choice to make, it takes little effort and will help you build a good reputation.
7) Show your eagerness to help
Being kind and offering your support around the dressing room or the theatre can show the artistic director that you demonstrate responsible traits. Helping out during rehearsals by organising costumes, sewing bits and bobs or even just offering your assistance to the Director and current
Dance Captain, would show them you could be a good fit for the role.
8) Most importantly, show Leadership
Though the Dance Captain role can have many management aspects to it, it also requires fierce leadership skills. Make the decision to act as a role model and set an example of how you would want your performers to act if you were the Dance Captain:
Would you want your performers looking lazy on stage?
So set an example of how you would want your performers to look, by performing at your very best, every time. If others in your cast are not dancing full out, then the answer is to dance harder, dance stronger, dance to your absolute best ability. This will encourage them to perform at a higher level, or they will soon realise they need to step up their game.
All of the points above are great for building great leadership skills, but it can also be
helpful to read up on inspiring leadership stories and understand how the best leaders
treat their peers.
While these eight methods will help you work towards becoming a Dance Captain in your career, there is one final point, and one which is probably the most underrated of all in many cases. It is this: Don’t forget that your casting director is human. It can be easy to feel intimidated by the position of a casting director, but they’re just people like you and I.
It can help to have a simple conversation with them to express your willingness to take on the opportunity in the future and state that you feel you would be a good fit for the DC position and could handle the role well. You may even want to ask for simple advice on the matter or personal mentoring towards that goal.
In the meantime, confirm that willingness by building on the above skills. Commit to
long term growth and prove that you can grow into the role, by developing the necessary skills needed to thrive as a Dance Captain.
Raquel Alder – Professional Dancer and Performance Mentor
Raquel Alder, Professional Dancer from Australia, has been performing in the industry for 9 years. She recently finished a contract with the famous Parisienne cabaret, the Moulin Rouge, among performing in an array of dance contracts and productions world-wide. With extensive experience on stage, Raquel continues to fulfil a satisfying career in dance performance and coaching in the UK and Europe.
What Percent of Dancers Become Professional?
Dance Parent 101
The Centers For Disease Prevention And Control
‘Dance Your Way to Better Brain Health’
June 4, 2018