30 Tips for a Career as a Top Contortionist
By: Jasmine George Straga
Want to be a top CONTORTIONIST, here is your bible, 29 tips for a long and safe contortion career:
There is so much more to cover, but I really hope that all of you can take these factors into account. You will most likely learn from trial and error, that is the way I had to, because I had nobody to guide me and no proper coach to make sure I did things well, but at least of of you can learn from my mistakes and achievements.
- I strongly recommend to having a stage name and never revealing your real name on the internet as there seems to be getting more and more sleazy people. I would suggest only a fan page with the stage name so you can filter who bothers you and when. Your web presence is extremely important as it is also a GREAT marketing tool if used wisely.
- Do not reveal your address or phone number to anybody
- Do not do photo shoots for pay stretching sites, these will have a negative affect on your public image.
- Have a good research into where you can find a good trainer. Who have they trained before? Do any of their ex students have big careers. Have any of their ex students suffered serious injury to the spine.
- Find a good choreographer.
- Music choice: Music can make or break a routine. Choosing slow music without strong dramatic changes will not get you decent and on going work. When choosing your music, you must think if you are in a big show, what will the boss have to put before and after your routine (Which acts) If your music is slow for example, the boss will need to pay two VERY strong and energetic acts to wake people up
- Be careful of web trainers, especially if they don't have a strong background in training elite professionals, have had top results and have worked for well known employers. Your training sessions may be recorded and you don't want that on the internet, or being resold to weirdos.
- Costume choice. For over 18's Choose something elegant with maybe a touch of sexy, but only a little as most circus's wont hire girls that look slutty, so you must find a very safe and decent balance between the two. Spend a decent amount of money on your costume, it should look amazing from both close up and far away, not just one or the other. Under 18's, please do not wear sexy costumes, there is nothing more uncomfortable and inappropriate than seeing somebody that you can imagine is your daughter wearing something provocative. Choose something age suitable. Use Swarovski crystal or unusual material choices or layer different items to make unusual design, be creative!
- Train 5-6 hours per day until you find a full time contract, then train approx 3 hours per day as show time will be too hard for your body to make the 6 hours. Warm up at least 1 hour and a half before your shows, you must make sure your body is ready to perform contortion or injuries occur.
- The majority of injuries in circus happen in matiné's (Morning shows 11am and before, so make sure you wake up extra early on your matiné days and warm up properly both mentally and physically.
- Learn how to do proper stage make up. ALL circus's require you to wear fake eye lashes, not the small ones, but big awful ones. Really, from far away, they look fabulous and make people that are sitting 15 rows back still see your beautiful eyes. If you need help with make up ideas, ask me
- Hair: Yes I know Nina Burri has short hair, but she is one of those lucky ladies that has been able to make it work. Have your hair at least medium long so that you can put it up in a high ponytail. Many contracts will require you to wear a pony tail wig, which you wont be able to do if your hair is super short.
- Have 2 websites: One with your contact details and one without. The one without contact details is known as an "Agent Friendly" website. this means the agent can forward your website and videos without worrying that the client will go over their head and contact you direct. Try not to make Flash websites as agents wont be able to easily right click and save the photos to send to their clients.
- Make a youtube account: Be careful what you place on there, for example, if you place your acts on there, don't place a silly video of you out with your friends, really, agents will go through the whole youtube account to see the other acts you do and get an idea of your style. 1 out of 3 artists make this mistake to have personal videos mixed with professional.
- Don't sign exclusive with ANY agent unless that agent will also pay your living expenses when you don't have work. Somebody that you are exclusive with, is known as a manager, not an agent. Managers are OK, for example if they paid to make your routine and costumes or choreography, but it is not normal if they have not made a significant investment in your act and have ensured you have a certain amount of work...
- Take Ballet classes, the lines that ballet will give your legs, feet, arms and movement is priceless.
- Take contemporary dance classes, performing is also about what you do with your face and how you express your movement.
- Take Physical Theatre classes, This will take you out of your comfort zones and get you used to performing different emotions and making them believable to the audience.
- Be responsible on contracts, always be well mannered to your bosses and co workers... A team player is very important and somebody that understand hierarchy of the workplace is priceless.
- Never be late to rehearsals, this shows your commitment to the job at hand and shows your respect to those above you trying to make the show happen. If you are late, don't offer excuses, just say I am very sorry, it won't happen again and admit you are wrong... Worst thing is to make excuses for your lack of professionalism.
- NEVER, EVER close a door behind you, whenever you leave a contract, no matter how horrid or unpleasant it was, leave on a bad note. Sometimes the biggest opportunities comes out of the ones you least suspect. Many of my best contracts were found on the silly contracts where I wasn't paid much or where it wasn't so fun to work. So always make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. The longer you are in our industry, the more you will learn how small our industry is, everybody knows each other, if not directly, then through another person.
- Make a good showreel and a good full length video of your act, most clients will not accept a cut routine when you audition, they will want to see the complete unedited act. Try to get some good lighting and hire out a local theatre space to film it, or even offer a visiting circus to perform for free for a day or two so that you can film it in a professional setting.
- Don't be afraid to take low paying contracts to get your foot in the door and work your way up. Not everybody is blessed to land the big contract right away and working your way up will definitely make you a well rounded artist who can cope with any situation thrown at them.
- ALWAYS save money. Big problem with circus artists, is they don't have to pay rent or electricity, sot hey have a tendency to blow it all away each week on clothes or partying. Many get stuck on bad contracts because they have no way to get themselves home. Remember an injury may arise one day and you may have to stop performing, how will you support yourself or pay your medical bills.
- Always have a return ticket home, if not a return ticket, then enough in your bank to get you home in an emergency.
- NEVER take a "no" as enough to stop you following your dreams, you will get 90 "no's" for every yes that you receive, so grow a thick skin and let it slide, take every criticism as a positive way to see what you can change, evolve and do better. If you can't take somebody giving you negative criticism, you probably shouldn't be in our industry, because even the top artists still get "no's" all the time.
- Try to never be a DIVA, it's a very big problem with some of the top artists, they become difficult to work with, hard to place in a team and expect too much.Employers tend to grow tired of this.
- Make sure you get some good agents representing you and always ask the agents their honest opinion of your acts and what they think you should change, this feedback is priceless, remember you will get lots of different feedback, it will be up to you, what you pick and choose to change in your act. Make sure you also represent yourself, don't just sit at home and wait for things to fall in your lap, look in every corner for work, both local and international.
- Industry: Remember that industries are very different and what they look for is also very different. Corporate may look for a slow ambient piece or themed piece to fit their event. Circus may look for an energetic piece and Variete for an entertaining piece. It also varies from circus to circus, so know your client before you apply for the job, what were their past shows like, what were their past acts like.
- Invest money into your props, you will be paid more money for the more expensive that you act looks.
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