As 2022 has come to a close, we’re already struck with the idea of bigger and better moves for 2023. Maybe you’re changing locations, or setting new goals, or cementing resolutions. If you’re a dancer with your sights set on the industry, you might be thinking of getting new headshots, revamping your casting profiles, or nailing down a new look.
But maybe you’re not sure where to start. You know it’s a time for change, but where does that begin?
I got you. I gathered industry pros, aspiring pros, and TMilly Studio staff to answer the question, “What’s something you wish you knew before you moved to Los Angeles?”
Everybody quoted in this article has had their fair share of successes and failures. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. They’ve learned from their time and experiences. Lucky for you (you’re welcome), I compiled all their answers in a single place so that their knowledge is your gain.
I was surprised at the wide array of answers, ranging from industry advice, self-care tips, and confidence-building. It only goes to show that it takes more than just talent to achieve your goals.
Let’s start at the beginning. It’s so important to have confidence in yourself, especially going into an industry that’s prepared to eat you up. You bring a lot to the table, and it’s important that you understand that.
Ray Basa, Dancer/Choreographer and TMilly TV Instructor:
“The true key to success starts with the love you have for yourself – I wish I figured this out earlier. I think as an up and coming dancer in the industry we are sometimes told to, ‘fake it ‘til you make it,’ or always change ourselves to fit any role. I noticed that once I started to love myself more and understand I didn’t need to fit in any mold and to just accept myself for me, that’s when I found the most success – whether it be the perfect roles/jobs or just overall happiness.”
Sam Wixon, Dancer and TMilly Studio Staff:
“I wish I knew that hiding my uniqueness or weirdness was holding me back. I wish I knew my success would arrive when I allowed myself to stand out in a way that was 100% authentic and true to me. And I wish I let myself do that from the start when I moved to LA seven years ago, instead of trying to please people I put on a pedestal.”
Grace Costigan, Dancer and TMilly Studio Staff:
“Not everyone’s path has to be yours. It’s really hard sometimes to see all of your friends moving on in their careers and getting gigs back to back when you feel really stuck. I think people feel obligated to ‘fit in’ to the industry on that aspect and stress out about when or how to start their dance careers, but I’ve learned it’s 100% okay to take your time and follow your career on your own terms!”
Know Your Job
The industry in LA moves quickly. Things are constantly shifting, so you learn quickly how to operate, adjust, and prepare (but even when you’re prepared, you’re unprepared).
Courtney Darlington, Dancer:
“A big thing I wish I took more into consideration is that people have really good intentions and will mention jobs or gigs, but nothing is ever finalized until the paperwork is signed, or the job is done and you’ve gotten paid. I was promised a lot of opportunities, and a lot of it fell through. I let that hit me really hard because I was attached to that and I didn’t understand why people would promise things if they weren’t happening.”
“Be able to separate your professional life and personal life. It can be a little gray, it can get a little wishy-washy. Know your value and know when you have to say no or step away or detach from certain people or certain things. Try not to get so tied up personally, because this is our job.”
Know Your Audience
There’s so much that comes into play when it comes to booking a job. Casting directors and choreographers are looking for very specific things, and you want to fulfill whatever it is that they’re looking for.
Lee Daniel, Dancer/Choreographer and TMilly TV Instructor:
“Something that I wish I had known about the industry before moving to LA for me would be the power of versatility and how it creates much more longevity and opportunity in this field. I understand now, but if I had really taken that to heart at the start then I would have definitely spent more time honing different skills.”
Tori Gorney, Dancer and TMilly Studio Staff:
“Something I wish I knew about the industry is that your “look” is often more important than your dance ability. Find what makes you unique and use it to your advantage!”
Dominique Kelly, Dancer/Choreographer and TMilly TV Instructor:
“I wish I would’ve known that more people watched my face rather than my feet. Whether in commercial auditions, onstage or in real life, sneaker brand was not a factor – how radiant the joy in my smile was!”
Know That You’re Ready
Your best move is to do it. Whatever that step is to you, take it. Don’t be afraid of greatness. You’re strong. You’re talented. You deserve it.
Alek Palinski, Dancer/Choreographer:
“Visit as much as you can. Talk to working dancers out here. Meet with agents. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to approach people. More times than not, they will be honored and feel valued because of the simple fact that you want to know about their experience and ask them for advice. Visiting here will help you make genuine connections, develop friendships and a support system, which will be so helpful once you actually make the big move.”
“Don’t wait till you feel ready. You may never feel truly ready to make that move. There are many things that you will discover, experience, and learn, only after you relocate. Prepare, then bet on yourself. Leap forward. The sooner you do it, the more time you’ll have to achieve everything you want out here. Just make sure you understand the reality of this life and decide that it is what you actually want – a process you will enjoy. Don’t romanticize LA’s dance industry, but don’t fear it either. You’re worth it.”