Hello! My name is Hannah Douglass and I've been dancing professionally for almost 9 years. I trained mostly in ballet and jazz growing up, however my professional career has taken me in every direction stylistically. When I graduated high school I moved to Los Angeles for a year long scholarship training program at Edge Performing Arts Center where I trained in all styles. From that point on my career has been all over the map! I have appeared live and on television with artists such as Beyonce, Jay-Z, Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg and Leona Lewis. I have danced on TV shows including Glee, 90210, Dancing with the Stars, NBC's Fashion Star, and performed on multiple industry award shows. I can also be seen dancing in feature films including What to Expect When You're Expecting, Footloose, Iron Man2, Bedtime Stories, and Glee Live in 3D, and my commercial and industrial credits include Nike, Pepsi Max, Fruit of the Loom, Apple Ipad, Chevrolet, and Guitar Hero. The past few years I have toured the world with the "The Mrs. Carter Show", and the "On the Run" tour with Jay-Z and Beyonce - a personal highlight for me!
Why did you decide to become a dancer?
There was no way I could give up dance. I devoted SO much time, heart, and energy to it growing up, and I couldn't fathom the idea of just stopping my passion and my progress at 18 because it was time to go to school and get a "real job". I was very lucky to have the support of my parents (they urged me to go for it!), and I took the risk because my heart was in it. I also knew I could always go back to school. My dance career was now or never.
How does someone become a professional dancer?
The first step to becoming a professional dancer is training at a professional studio - (Edge, Millennium, and Debbie Reynolds to name a few in LA). Get into class with working dancers and choreographers, and observe and soak in as much as you can from the professional environment. It is also important to do your research - study other dancers' careers, watch YouTube videos, attend industry events and shows, etc. The next step is to get an agent. Most agencies hold open auditions, which are posted online and at most studios, and some take referrals. Once you are signed with an agency, they will take you through the next steps, including taking new head shots, building your resume etc. When you are set up with your agency, they will start to send you out on auditions that fit your style of dance and your look, and you can begin auditioning for professional dance jobs.
What is the pay like?
Job rates vary quite a bit. I would recommend exploring dancersalliance.org. They are constantly working to fight for the rates dancers deserve, and they include some detailed breakdowns on their website. Most film and television jobs are sag/aftra, which you may also look up online. Tours vary from around $1500-$3000 a week, but even those rates are extremely inconsistent. It completely depends on the job, production, budget, artist, camp etc.
What are the best parts of being a dancer?
I get to do what I love for a living and I wouldn't change that for the world. It never really feels like work at all. My career has allowed me to travel all over the world, and to work with some of the most inspiring people in the entertainment industry. The dance community is also wonderful - eclectic, open and extremely supportive of on another!
What are the biggest challenges in being a dancer?
Auditions can be brutal (ie: 500 girls showing up for one or two spots), and it is never easy being told no over and over and over again. Its imperative to have a thick skin and not to take rejection too personally. It's a very competitive industry so you really have to LOVE what you do. Auditions and work can also be inconsistent, and there are months you could be living pay check to pay check. (But it's worth it I promise!)
Best advice you've ever received?
Don't let anyone else define your career. And never let rejection get to you. I have heard the word no millions of times. I've even had someone tell me I'd probably never work in this industry. Just get up and keep going - keep training, keep auditioning, keep dancing. You set your own limits.
Any helpful resources or links on this topic?
The best research can be done through documented performances - old tour DVDs, dance films, YouTube, past award shows etc. Dancersalliance.org is helpful with rates and updates about the industry. And, I personally love the book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life