Career Advice for Dancers

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017
Joshua Simka
Juilliard Journal
Jamal Callender and dancers
Dance alum Jamal Rashann Callender offered tips to Juilliard dancers during a special Lunch With an Alum.

“Social media and Kickstarter have been my best friends,” Jamal Rashann Callender (BFA ’09, dance) told Juilliard dancers at a Lunch With an Alum session.

Callender, who won the Princess Grace Dance Award in 2012 and spent several seasons with Ballet Hispánico in New York, has worked with National Theater Mannheim since 2015. Born in North Carolina and raised in Barbados, Callender also established a two-week, tuition-free summer intensive called the Barbados Dance Project in 2014. The goal was to give young dancers in the Caribbean nation—where there are few professional dance opportunities—a chance to be seen. It was social media and Kickstarter, along with Skype, he said, that allowed him to raise money for and coordinate the project and even conduct rehearsals remotely.

In talking with the dancers, who were nervously thinking ahead to post-graduation plans, Callendar shared a few pieces of advice.

  • “If you’re interested in something—a company or a choreographer—tell people. Even your faculty here at Juilliard. The people you’re sitting next to are your best networking tools. You never know who knows who.
  • “A follow-up email goes a long way. More than you would imagine. Even if you don’t get the job, you don’t know what could happen years down the line.
  • “Believe in yourself and dance for yourself. At some point you started dancing because you love it and the simplicity of that is really important to keep in mind.
  • “If you get that diploma and walk out and say, ‘I did my best and this environment has taught me everything I need to know,’ you’re good. And you have to trust that the work you have put in will carry you forward.”

Joshua Simka (BM '14, voice) is the assistant editor of The Journal. He has contributed to Musical America magazine.