For every contract, project, or event, there are only a limited number of slots for artists. Sometimes, there will be a few candidates for the same role/slot you are eyeing or being considered for. Wouldn’t you want to be the better choice for the production?
Even though you will probably be specialized in your primary act, you can still improve your chances of landing those jobs by considering developing the following skills:
You don’t need technical dance skills (though they might help you too) but at least have good body movement. This is specially true if the production has opening and closing numbers. At the most basic, at least be able to follow counts.
I’ve watched “Getting into Cirque” documentary many times (I recommend watching it too). In one segment, they were auditioning elite gymnasts. After the first cut, they were subjected to learning some choreography. Imagine getting to the last round, but they cut you out for lack of body rhythm and movement skills. Ouch!
Don’t take the risk, and take those dance classes!
The aim of being an entertainer is to entertain. So if you’re on stage hitting those difficult moves, but looking blank-faced and not engaging with the audience, then in essence you’re not doing your job.
Casting agents and directors can see and feel this skill when they look at your videos. It is quite the X-factor that they are looking for in their artists. At any skill level, showmanship generally enhances whatever it is you already have to offer.
You can develop this skill through practice and experience. One of my own methods is to put my audience first. I think that “I am in service to them” – whether I try to flirt with them, make their jaw drop, or just to make them feel good. I also look at my own videos and see if I am bored with my own performance or not.
Hiring an artistic coach will also help you a lot. One of my first artistic coaches, who I admire and also taught me a lot, is Edesia Moreno Barata. We worked together for Cirque du Soleil at Sea, and I realized the benefits of being coached. She offers artistic coaching and consultation with Sparc International (https://sparcintl.com/).
VERSATILITY IN SKILLS AND STYLES
It’s definitely helpful to specialize, but if you’re only a Christmas-themed performer then you’re only getting jobs for one season a year.
Be open to trying and demonstrating different styles and themes. Casting for productions might need your skill but they might need it in a different feel than what you usually do.
When Cirque du Soleil at Sea was coming up with a show, they needed a strange, weird style of performing for one of the characters. I usually do my leviwand act in a graceful style, but when they saw me perform in a more dynamic style, that clicked with them and had me in mind for that role. And yes, I landed that job.
You can also explore different styles when you need to. I’ve seen the banquine troupe in Cirque du Soleil’s ZED go from other worldly to Viva Elvis with some adorable dance moves.
You can also expand your repertoire of skills with different disciplines – aerial arts, juggling, acrobatics, etc. You never know when they’ll need you as a character with your juggling act who has to go up in the air for the sake of storytelling, which happened to my cast mate during my contract for a cruise ship.
Unless you’re a diva or a character with immensely intricate makeup design that entails assistance from a makeup artist, no one else is going to do your makeup and/or face paint.
I’ve seen artists, specifically men, go on stage bare-faced. It’s not condemnable; it’s acceptable for other production companies.
But if production companies needed a character with makeup, and you demonstrate through your photos and resume that you did some form of face paint or makeup before, then you get a better chance over someone else with the same performance skills.
Ever since I’ve learned that circus artists do their own makeup, I started trying it out for myself and have developed the skill over the years. Basic makeup skills are expected of performers – even just the no makeup-makeup look (read: foundation, eyeliner, etc.). It’s also good to invest in a basic makeup and face paint kit for yourself.
There are tons of tutorials in YouTube that can help you learn more about this skill.
This is specially true if there’s a lot of artists in a production. Companies won’t be able to micromanage you so you need to be in charge of your own time, and sometimes even creating your own number with a given music or theme.
It’s a skill that’s not concrete and one that is not taught with tutorials, but it is one that you can definitely develop. Just promptly replying to emails and being on time to rehearsals and shows already demonstrates a lot about your work ethics.
This translates to everything – from managing your own equipment, cleaning up after yourself, taking care of your costumes, allotting time for warm-up before shows, and a whole lot more.
Being able to manage yourself will definitely leave a good impression with your employers and they will probably consider you again for the next job.