How to Create a Successful College Dance Portfolio

by Danielle Hernandez on March 05, 2019


Present yourself well with these tips to build a great dance portfolio

You have always loved to dance, and being a dancer has been an integral part of your identity. Do you know that you can get your dance to represent you at the elite college of your dreams?

Your dancing abilities could very well be your ticket to a college seat you have been aspiring for.

All you need for it is a portfolio.

What Exactly is a Portfolio?

How do you make sure you have one that attracts the attention of the admissions team? Let's find some answers! What is a dance portfolio? Your portfolio is an essential part of your self-presentation as an artist. Portfolios are an opportunity for you to showcase compelling images and videos that best captures your training, talent, and preparedness.

Remember, a portfolio is NOT a CV because a CV tends to be shorter and more formal. While a performance portfolio tends to be comprehensive, includes more background information and images and videos of work you have done.

There is no correct template for a dance portfolio. All colleges have different preferences, and so do agents and your potential dance companies.

How to Start Compiling a Dance Portfolio?

A dance portfolio is your visual resume. It can be used to supplement an admission application, even getting selected for your dream college dance team. In short, it's a handy tool which you can use wherever you need to showcase your dancing skills and experience in a quick, easy way. You can’t just go ahead, throw together some clips on a phone app and call it your portfolio.

Here are a few things that you should start doing now.

1. Collect Your Dance Clip

Collect Your Dance Clip

Check your phone storage, dig up your hard drive and find all your best work from the past. Ask your friends who made the videos for you. Choreography, performances, concept videos, the works. Recall all the details about each clip and compile it in one folder.

You may need some video editing help to trim down each clip to only the best, most relevant section. Remember to choose solos or the ones where you are in the center or very easily visible. Don't forget to check the quality of the clips too! That high school pep rally video shot on a camera phone? No way!

Also, remember to keep them short- under 10-15 seconds. Most colleges would not entertain bulkier files, and anything more than 5 minutes is undoubtedly going to bore them out!

Work out how you want to organize all this footage, start with your strongest and most recent clips. You must be able to hold people’s attention for the first few seconds.

2. Make it a Point to Shoot Extra Footage for your Dance Portfolio

It's not just about your past performances. Your dance portfolio must include a couple of clips prepared specifically for college application. You can either self-choreograph it or use a pre-choreographed number which you have performed in the past. Record a new piece ( solo is the way) on a high-quality camera in a nice location- like your dance studio or a gym. Our tip is to speak with your instructor and choose a quiet time of the day. You can do it in the night if the studio has great lights and take the help of a friend.

Combined with your past performances, this latest clip of your dance will showcase how much you’ve grown as a dancer.

3. Include Impressive Content

Include Impressive Content

Remember to include credits to the original choreographer and also for the soundtracks. You can create a separate slide with these two details along with the description to be displayed before each clip in your portfolio.

Check out profiles of previous alumni of the college who have got selected because of their dancing portfolios-Understand what they did, and without being a copycat, create something that would appeal to the admissions team. Chances are, the admissions team is going to forward your portfolio to their dance faculty for evaluation. Make sure you have included some elements based on your research about the dance faculty. Our tip is to incorporate different features to keep your portfolio interesting. You may include some quick clips to upbeat music as well as a longer clip with more cinematic qualities in the mix to keep them engaged.

Relevant captions that won't distract from the dancing ( a separate slide or lower center or corner of frames) and including keywords shows your preparedness, professionalism, and experience as a dancer.

Make sure to include your Youtube channel or website details if you have some at the end of the video. This gives the evaluator a chance to watch more once you have got their attention the first time.

4. Get the Right Music

While you have the old videos of your performances where you can not do anything about the music, make sure that your latest video being prepared has the best music that elevates your performance. You must include a self-choreographed video clip. You will be dancing at your best when it is something original and composed by yourself. It also gives a chance to show your leadership qualities and risk-taking abilities as an artist and as a person.

5. Make Sure to Include Some Photos

You can also add some photos tastefully- (introduce the title, choreographer and music credits on your headshot, for example) into your portfolio. A headshot, a staged shot or even some relevant performance shots are a great combination. You can add them in the clip, or you could save them as PDF documents(this ensures the formatting remains the same, and most uni’s don’t accept image files any other way) and include it along with your video.

6. Clothing, Hair, and Make-Up

Prepare as you would prepare for an actual on-stage performance

Since you have already sifted through your past videos and selected the best of the lot, this tip is only for the video you would be preparing now. It is imperative, and evident that you look your best. Take some time to think about which dancewear will be most flattering, and which colors work best with your skin and hair tones.

Do you let your hair loose or tie them up? Prepare as you would prepare for an actual on-stage performance. Use the right accessories and styling products.

Make sure you wear your best dancewear, for example, if you are preparing a ballet performance, make it a point to wear your best leotard and tutu set along with your ballet shoes.

Your make up should be enough to look your best in the lights that you will be performing in. Through trial and error, you can find what seems best. Remember, you may not have the same harsh lights as you would on a stage, and too much make up is worse than having no makeup at all.

Some Parting Tips that Might Come in Handy

  • Before you record the video or go for a photo session, make sure you have practiced the poses that work best for you. The angle of your face, the stance, and minor details like the side of your hair partition all should blend to give a great shot.
  • Practice with your dance teacher or your dance partner to make sure you have a second opinion on your poses, stance, and moves and to make sure your techniques are as perfect as they should be.
  • Be honest. You don’t want professional videography with special effects on your dance portfolio. Your portfolio is only about your dance. By going overboard and spending a lot of money, you are just going to repel the admission authorities or prove that you are too desperate.
  • Most dance teachers keep an open mind about the background and skill sets of the applicants. You may have tonnes of certificates of awards to back your claim, but if you do not have the openness, the desire to try new things and showcase your talent in the compact 5-minute capsule, you may not make the cut.
  • Your resume is as important! Don't rely solely on your performance video; your CV will help provide a context to your dancing skills. Your training choices, affiliation to theater companies, high school dance teams or studios also comes into the picture.
  • If there are two dancers with similar dance portfolios to choose from, the one with higher SAT scores will be given preference.
Your portfolio is a 5-minute window to your personality. You may or may not major or do a minor in dance once you are granted admission, but your dance portfolio will surely help you make heads turn and capitalize on your skill set as you make it to your dream college.

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