Comparison of the Dance Culture, Classes and Jobs in NYC and LA

Dancers may find that, in order to further their careers, they need to move to a city like New York or Los Angeles. Also, a dancer in one of the two cities may decide to move to the opposite coast for different opportunities. The following comparisons give a glimpse into dance life on the east coast and west coast of the United States.

Dance Fashions in NYC and LA

Dancers in New York City embody the diversity of the area, where no particular “look” or style is preferred. While fashion does not play a large role in the dancer’s ability to get a job, confidence is key. Whether or not a dancer is dressed in the latest trends is not an issue, but he or she must be conscious of portraying their self-confidence to an auditioner.

In Los Angeles, fashion is at the forefront of society, and this also applies in the dance world. Stylish sweatpants can be worn for class, with most women preferring bra tops and short shorts. Men typically wear deep v-neck t-shirts and boots. Watching the LA audition episodes of the reality television show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ can give a dancer an idea of these styles.

Open Dance Classes in NYC and LA

Classes in New York City are notoriously crowded due to the opportunities they provide to work with star-quality teachers. Some well-known schools with packed classes are Steps, Broadway Dance Center, and The Ailey School. Others include Peridance, Dance New Amsterdam, City Center, and Studio 5-2. Sometimes the schools will schedule special workshops that require registration and are limited in the number of participants. Checking the school websites periodically will help dancers find these special opportunities.

Popular schools in Los Angeles include Millennium, the EDGE, Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio, The Basement, and International Dance Academy. The televised dance competition ‘America’s Best Dance Crew’ holds their rehearsals at IDA. In LA, top choreographers regularly teach classes, and their classes can be seen as mini-auditions, since they try to nurture their upcoming talented dancers in class. Because of this, classes can be competitive, but taking as many classes as possible from as many different teachers as possible can help a dancer to keep their skills fresh and their presence memorable.

Dance Jobs in NYC and LA

In New York City, there are shows running constantly at all levels, and the job market may be seen as somewhat flooded. There are also more non-paying dance jobs available due to economic stress on companies. Dancers can work with agencies like Bloc or MSA. The publication Back Stage and their website also post available performing jobs. also posts dance jobs that include choreography and administrative positions. Companies have also begun posting opportunities through Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, so dancers should create professional profiles on those sites and regularly check for job postings.

In Los Angeles, there are more opportunities for awards shows, movies, music videos and commercials, rather than stage productions. Most concert tours also rehearse and audition on the west coast. Dancers need to be readily available in LA, for last-minute openings or calls from agents. They can also go to or read Back Stage for job opportunities. Many dancers work as teaching assistants or choreography assistants for open classes as well.

Overall, choreographers on both coasts now require that dancers be versatile and be exposed to many different dance styles. The “Triple Threat” of the past (dancer, singer, actor) is now the expected minimum level of talent in an audition. Not only must a dancer be able to get by with their singing and acting abilities, but they must also be well-versed in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, ballroom, hip hop, b-boying, bollywood, etc. The dancer who can successfully perform a headspin and a triple pirouette in an audition is the one who will get the job, whether they are auditioning in New York or Los Angeles.

Ballet for All in South Africa: Children of the townships find joy in dance.

In the outskirts of Cape Town, Philip Boyd returns to his homeland of South Africa to aid the youth community in a way that has been unimaginable to most non-profit organizations. For Philip Boyd, director of Dance for All in Guguletu, South Africa, and formal principal dancer of the Capab Ballet (now the Cape Town Ballet), dance is a commitment and discipline that provides township children with an alternate activity to wandering the streets. Pirouetting, leaping, and running on their toes, coming to class at Dance for All is more than just fun for the township children.

Philip Boyd along with his former Royal Ballet soloist and prima ballerina abssoluta wife, Phillis Spira, created the Dance for All program in Guguletu in 1992. Students were gathered by Philip in the old African settlement of Guguletu to bring them to class. During that time, the students viewed their white South African dance teacher as something like a god. As Dance for All has grown over the past fourteen years, dance styles and teachers have expanded to encompass African dance (taught by Hope Nonguonga), musical theatre, jazz and contemporary dance which is taught by Pauline van Buitenen.

The children of the small South African townships of Guguletu, Nyanga, and Khayelitsha must overcome great odds while living in these settlements. While stricken with extreme poverty, malaria continues to be of greatest concern. Almost 90% of those diagnosed with malaria in the world live in Sub-Sahara Africa; this disease kills over one million people, most of whom are children under five years old (Globe & Mail: Canada). Aside from these threats, there are dangers within their own community; some 60 children being raped every day in South Africa.

Dance for All has about 600 students, and one day Philip Boyd and his teacher staff hope that they will soon have enough dancers to make a new South African youth dance company. Besides providing a joyous activity for the children, ballet has provided them with a life goal and possible ticket out of the townships. This unusual and unique work of philanthropy has caught the eye of the Western world. A documentary was made in 2002 called “Guguletu Ballet”. Currently, the Dance for All program is funded by the David Poole Trust, the Cape Town City Council and some local township businesses. Dance for All also has its own sponsor-a-child program.

Image Source: Dance For All