Tips for Landing a Company Contract Mid-Season
In early 2020, Sophie Williams was about to embark on a supplemental contract performing with English National Ballet. But as the COVID-19 pandemic began forcing many ballet companies to cancel performances, Williams’ position fell through.
Determined to find employment, Williams searched company websites for potential job openings every morning. “I was extremely vigilant,” Williams recalls. “You never know when a company will need another dancer.” One day, she saw on Instagram that the Royal New Zealand Ballet needed to fill a spot immediately. Williams sent her materials and got a call that night asking if she wanted to join the company. “Within 24 hours I was on a plane headed to New Zealand,” she says.
For professional dancers who haven’t renewed or secured a company contract during the typical audition period (generally January through April), autumn can feel especially disheartening as seasons start back up. Yet there are still ways to position yourself to join a company throughout the year. As Williams’ story shows, spots can open up for a multitude of reasons, such as when a dancer gets injured, retires, or leaves unexpectedly. And some companies offer supplemental corps de ballet contracts for large ballets like The Nutcracker or Swan Lake. Read on for some tips and best practices for finding work mid-season.
Scour the Web
Nevada Ballet Theatre dancer Robert Fulton admits finding jobs mid-season is a bit more challenging. “It might take more work to research and seek out contracts, but opportunities do pop up,” Fulton says. “It’s just a matter of consistently checking the web for auditions or opportunities.”
In fact, that’s why he founded Ballet Scout, a platform dancers can use to find auditions, training, and seasonal or guesting gigs. Several years ago, some of Fulton’s friends learned that their contracts hadn’t been renewed for the following season. However, they received such latenotice that most companies had already held auditions and made new hires. “I wondered why there wasn’t a comprehensive database for information on auditions year-round, so I created Ballet Scout,” he says.
Developing the platform has made Fulton realize just how many opportunities are out there.“If you don’t have a successful audition season, keep looking at the websites and audition boards, because companies do have positions open up at the last minute.”
Short-Term Contracts Can Lead to Long Term Jobs
Fulton himself started working at Nevada Ballet Theatre mid-season, while a trainee with Ballet West. NBT had asked his trainee-program directors if they knew anyone who might be interested in filling a number of corps roles in their production of Dracula. Fulton took the gig, which went so well that it led to more guesting opportunities with NBT and, ultimately, a company contract the following year.
Fulton thinks guesting and short-term jobs are one of the best ways to secure a longer-term contract because you can get better acquainted with the organizationand see if it’s a good fit. Even asking to simply attend company class allows dancers to make a connection. “It puts you on their radar and can potentially lead to a conversation about auditioning,” Fulton adds.
If a company doesn’t have openings, Fulton encourages dancers to offer their services as a supplemental dancer for large-scale productions like Giselle or Swan Lake. A short-term contract can help you stay in shape, gain experience, enjoy performance opportunities, and make connections for the future.
Utilize Your Network
Manassas Ballet Theatre dancer Annemieke Bruce suggests networking and enlisting the help of past connections. “My biggest asset has always been my relationships,” Bruce says. “I’ve kept in contact with a lot of people from my ballet career and have always had individuals in my corner that were willing to make introductions or help me get an audition.”
In fact, a colleague helped Bruce secure an audition with Manassas Ballet Theatre mid-season. After learning that there was an opening for a dancer to join MBT’s Nutcracker production, Bruce’s friend alerted her and invited her to attend company class. “You never know who will open up doors for you, and you shouldn’t be scared to ask for those introductions,” Bruce says.
Keep An Open Mind
Williams, currently in her second season with Texas Ballet Theater, has danced with over 13 different companies; over half of them were mid-season hires. “If you love ballet, you have to trust yourself that you’re going to find work, and then you have to put in the effort,” she says. “But it’s really all about your mindset.”
Williams says to be open. If a mid-season contract isn’t with your dream company, it still provides an opportunity to dance and do what you love. She also advises acting quickly if you get an offer. “In my experience, if you take too much time to think about it, they’re already offering that contract to the next person.”
At the end of the day, getting a contract is a numbers game, so it’s all about resilience and persistence, Williams says. “You can get a million no’s but you just need one yes.”