There comes a point in every dancer’s life when you’re faced with the decision to pursue dance as a career. While it may be a no brainer for you, what may take some time is the decision between going East Coast or West Coast.
East Coast being New York City and West Coast being Los Angeles.
While there are many other great cities and dance opportunities residing in other places across the US map (and beyond), for the purpose of this blog, we’re focusing on these two giants of the dance scene. We’re here to help you decide which direction your dance career should go based on your goals and desires.
EAST COAST VS WEST COAST
1.) CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
The biggest difference between East and West is the types of opportunities you will be auditioning for. On the East Coast, the focus is definitely more musical theatre. You will constantly see auditions for things like regional theaters, national tours of musicals and, of course, BROADWAY. On the West Coast, the scene is more commercial-based. Opportunities include music videos, commercials, movies and television.
In addition, both of these cities have their own unique classical + contemporary dance scene with companies ranging from small to large. NYC is home to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Martha Graham, NYCB and ABT. LA is home to LINES Contemporary Ballet, LA Dance Project and Shaping Sound.
2.) The Audition Experience
There’s one thing that both of the above scenes have in common: it’s extremely massive audition turnout. Because of job scarcity on both coasts, there could be hundreds of dancers at every audition. The audition experience itself, however, is very different between coasts.
East Coast auditions for theatre have equity regulations that will limit your ability to even audition (you can learn more about this on the Actor’s Equity website). In addition, if you are interested in musical theatre, it’s important to be a true triple threat with the ability to not only dance, but sing and act.
On the West Coast, casting may be looking for something extremely specific. If you are headed to an open call, you may go into a room and just be kept or dismissed based on your type or what you look like.
When it comes to representation, some may argue that it is not necessary to have an agent on the East Coast and it’s extremely necessary to have an agent on the West Coast. On the East Coast, there are a lot of open calls where you are able to build relationships with casting/choreographers and get your own foot in the door.
On the West Coast, however, it’s more important to have an agent to get you into the room and make the introduction. Agents on the West Coast have access to a lot of the high profile gigs and jobs. If West Coast is where your heart lies, finding an agent would be a great first step when you make the big move.
Training on the East vs West coast can vary, as well. The main hubs for dance on the NYC scene include Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, Peridance and Gibney Dance. On the West Coast, you have the infamous Millennium Dance Complex, The Edge and Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio.
Taking class is an important facet to any dance career on either coast. The best dancers are always training to learn and grow. That being said, class is also a great opportunity to create new relationships with choreographers and explore new styles.
While this is a rough overview on East vs West coast dance scenes, there is a lot of overlap. For instance, you can in fact audition for commercial jobs in NYC and theatre work in LA. Agent representation is really just a matter of what works best for YOU, and you should always just be prepared for anything when it comes to auditioning. Our best advice is to test the waters in both cities before taking the plunge. You’ll be sure to figure out right away what environment is best for you and your dance career!