California Dreamin’ - How to Crack the Commercial Scene and DancerPalooza

Uber-festival DancerPalooza is gearing up to take Long Beach, CA by storm July 21-26.  Presented by Break the Floor, the week-long event features intensives, classes, tons of performances, and Beat Street (where vendors and dancers, both professional and aspiring, can meet and mingle). The World Dances spoke with DancerPalooza co-producer Nikole Vallins for tips on getting the most from the festival, breaking into commercial dance, successful auditioning, and more.

What makes DancerPalooza special?

We’re kind of setting a whole new bar for the idea of a dance festival. This is all about the next generation of dancers—all kinds of dancers. Shows like So You Think You Can Dance have really changed the world of commercial dance. Commercial-contemporary dancers now have chances to do things they’ve never had the chance to do before.  Even recently, your options were basically to either dance behind a recording artist or in a classical or contemporary company. We’re proving that you can have other aspirations and helping dancers achieve those goals. It’s the same with Shaping Sound. They give opportunities to dancers who may have grown up in the convention world to perform in a world-class professional company doing what they love to do.

How can dancers prepare to maximize their experience at DancerPalooza?

Get as much rest as possible because it’s non-stop, all day every day, for that entire week. Taking care of your body is the main thing, definitely. That goes for dance teachers, too. We offer the option for teachers to observe as many different classes as they want. We have all these amazing teachers under one roof for the week. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn from some of the best faculty in the world. If you come in with an open mind, there’s so much to take in.

What about for dance vendors?

For venders, prepare by really knowing your audience. There will be students from as young as 9 years old, professional dancers, parents, and studio owners. Take a while to figure out how to make your booth stand out to the people you want to attract in your specific market. There will be a lot going on!

You recently moved to Los Angeles from New York. What’s the transition between the different dance scenes like?

It’s completely different in LA, interestingly. The NY dance scene is more company-based, whereas LA is much more commercial-based. The dance scene in LA is really booming at this time. New doors are opening for dancers and choreographers here every day. I was very involved with the Broadway scene in NY, so this is a whole new chapter of life, being here working with commercial dancers. It’s exciting!

What advice would you offer to dancers considering the commercial industry?

My biggest advice is to just to do it! It’s kind of an aggressive approach, but you have to take the shot. I think a lot of people postpone. They say they’ll do it, then before you know it, it’s ten years later and they haven’t. Make the move! There’s so much happening and there are always opportunities out here. You’ll never know if you’ll be successful until you show up and try.

You were a casting director in New York before becoming the producer for Shaping Sound and co-producer for DancerPalooza. What advice do you have for dancers who are auditioning? 

Never take any opportunity lightly. Always be ready and prepared. A lot of people aren’t. They just come and sort of coast. Any time you’re in front of anyone in a professional capacity—whether it’s a casting director, producer, or choreographer—you have to bring your A-game. Know who and what you’re auditioning for. This preparation shows through in how you present yourself. Think about who the choreographer is and what he or she wants. Are you going in for a recording artist? What kind of music do they make? What have they done before? It doesn’t mean changing who you are.  It just means be prepared and do your research. So many people think that showing up is enough, but it’s not. The same thing goes for the Broadway world.