Pro Dance Companies Fit for Comp Royalty
For years, it was hard for competition dancers to find professional jobs that made full use of their technical polish, astonishing versatility, and onstage ease. But recently, some (smart) companies have begun recruiting comp kids, drawn to their adaptability and fearlessness. We’ve compiled a list of nine companies that are fit for comp queens and kings. Get ready to put them on your audition radar.
The following companies have deep roots in the convention and competition world, with company founders and directors who not only teach on the circuit, but were also raised in it.
Royal Flux, L.A.
Jaci Royal, artistic director of Royal Flux, says she created her company to be a crowd-pleaser—something that would appeal to the masses. “It’s not abstract,” she says. “It’s work that audiences can relate to, understand, and appreciate. Competition dance is the same way. I provide a place for dancers to continue doing what they’ve been training in their entire lives.” Though Royal didn’t design her company for competition dancers exclusively, she always knew they’d be a good fit. “They’re able to perform under pressure,” Royal says. “They have natural fight in them, and they are hungry. I can trust them to always take our craft to the highest, most physical level.”
Soul Escape, Fort Worth, TX
SoulEscape artistic director and founder Justin Giles created his company in part because he was disappointed with the professional opportunities available to him. “I was frustrated that there was nothing out there that was right for me and all the training I had done,” Giles says. “I wanted something that would allow dancers to move the way they wanted to.” And that’s exactly what SoulEscape is: a haven for contemporary movers. Though Giles says he doesn’t make a conscious effort to recruit competition dancers, his connections to that scene means they’re natural fits for the troupe. “Many of my first introduction to the dancers in my company have come from conventions or competitions,” Giles says. “These dancers have exposure to a vast array of creative processes. Studios bring in multiple outside choreographers every year. They’re equipped for almost anything.”
(From left) Shaping Sound’s Chantel Aguirre, Kate Harpootlian, Gaby Diaz, Lindsay Leuschner, and Chelsea Thedinga (Mat Hayward, courtesy Break The Floor Productions)
Shaping Sound combines trendy movement with powerful storytelling. And watching the company perform is like looking at a comp-star family reunion: Every artist involved has either taught, assisted, or won at a range of major competitions. Their founders alone (Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Kyle Robinson, and Teddy Forance) practically run The Dance Awards. So, it’s safe to say your competition experience and connections will give you a leg up at the audition.
These concert companies are relatively new to the dance world. They don’t require specific training backgrounds—their dancers come from all over—and their reps incorporate a range of styles, making them a potential fit for competition standouts.
BODYTRAFFIC dancer Jamal White (Samantha Clink, courtesy BODYTRAFFIC)
Founded in 2007, BODYTRAFFIC helped bring world-class concert dance to L.A. Its repertoire includes elements of ballet, jazz, hip hop, and modern—and competition dance is one of the few training backgrounds that require you to be proficient in all of these styles. “We need someone who can do it all,” says BODYTRAFFIC dancer and former comp kid Jamal White. “There are only seven of us here. Everyone has to be able to do everything.” Tiare Keeno, another BODYTRAFFIC member, says her competition-dance background prepared her well for the rigors of life in a small company. “Through the fast-paced convention world, you not only learn to pick up movement quickly, but also how to pick up movement quality and nuances quickly,” Keeno says. “At BODYTRAFFIC, I’ve had to step into many distinctly different roles in very little time. My background has made that possible for me.”
L.A. Dance Project, L.A.
Set in the heart of the commercial-dance world, the critically acclaimed L.A. Dance Project combines avant-garde creations with tried-and-true classicism—a line competition dancers already know how to walk. The repertoire is a mix of creations by founder Benjamin Millepied, reconstructions of historic works, and new commissions from up-and-coming choreographers. The company also frequently produces multidisciplinary projects, exploring film and new technologies. Competition dancers interested in being on the cutting edge while maintaining high-level technique should set this company in their sights.
These more established groups are grounded in classical and modern training, but their contemporary reps are incredibly physical, requiring the full range of their dancers’ powers. If you’re technically proficient and fearless (as so many of you are), one of them might be right for you.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet, NYC
Complexions dancer Tatiana Melendez first discovered the company while at competition. “I took class with [Complexions co-founder] Desmond Richardson at New York City Dance Alliance when I was 12 years old,” she says. “From then on, joining the company was always a goal of mine.” Created 26 years ago by Richardson and Dwight Rhoden,the renowned troupe prioritizes diversity in both its dancers and its rep, which blends classical, contemporary, and more. “We even dance to Kendrick Lamar,” Melendez says. Pulling off that range of styles requires the kind of confidence that comp kids, with their wealth of stage experience, have in spades. “As a competition dancer, I was always onstage, and I learned self-assurance,” Melendez says. “Without competing, I wouldn’t have developed the performance quality needed for this company.”
Parsons Dance’s Zoey Anderson and Justus Whitfield (Lois Greenfield, courtesy Parsons Dance)
Parsons Dance, NYC
Parsons Dance, founded by modern-dance innovator David Parsons in 1985, has a high-energy, high-power movement quality that’s an ideal fit for competition dancers. Company standout and former comp darling Zoey Anderson says Parsons values her diverse background, and often uses it in his works—frequently asking her to incorporate her ballroom training into his choreography, for example. “I can contribute so much to new works and processes,” Anderson says. “David stays true to his modern influence, but loves to blend it with other dance styles. He loves to see someone with experience in tap, hip hop, ballet, and gymnastics.”
Alonzo King LINES Ballet, San Francisco, CA
A draw for powerful, charismatic ballet dancers since its founding in 1982, Alonzo King LINES Ballet—led by King and showcasing his dynamic choreography—offers a home for competition standouts with a classical bent. And as a relatively small ensemble, its dancers dance a lot. When comp alum James Gowan first joined the company, he was asked to learn three different dancers’ roles in the same ballet, and says it was his competition background that prepared him to succeed. “My training and efforts in competitions are completely credible in this environment,” Gowan says. “The skills I acquired from that training bolstered my professional endeavors.”
(From left) Former Hubbard Street dancer Alice Klock and current company member Rena Butler in Crystal Pite’s Grace Engine (Todd Rosenberg, courtesy Hubbard Street Dance Chicago)
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Chicago, IL
The prestigious Hubbard Street Dance Chicago—which was founded in 1977, and has an impressively wide-ranging rep—is made up of technically adept, versatile performers who aren’t afraid of taking risks. Sound familiar? In fact, the company is known for hiring competition stars, including The Dance Awards 2014 Senior Female Best Dancer winner Alyssa Allen and “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 12 winner Gaby Diaz. Hubbard Street also offers a professional training program for dancers interested in exploring the company—the perfect option for competition standouts looking to dip their toes in the concert space.