In a recent Facebook Live Tap Talks Q&A in the iTapOnline Community Facebook Group, Lori, from Florida, asked for advice on starting a youth tap company. This topic is extra timely considering last week’s Episode 027: Are Dance Competitions Broken?

So today’s topic of discussion is pre-professional tap dance companies, including first steps in how to start a pre-professional company, and some pros/cons/differences between running a pre-professional company for children and teens vs. adults.

Definition of pre-professional company: (1:21)

A higher level training ground for dancers who pay company dues and do public performances.

Examples: FutureSTEP Tap Company (New Jersey), Capitol Tap (DC), North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (North Carolina), and many more

My advice: (2:33)

My biggest piece of advice about pre-pro companies is to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. I have seen so many people start pre-pro companies to make money or to get their name out there. These companies usually crumble in their first few years, not because pre-pro companies aren’t financially sustainable but because honest intentions have a lot to do with the success of a project.

Do it because you’re excited about creating work, running rehearsals, helping dancers grow, and bringing tap dance to the stage. Remember that it goes beyond steps and shows. You’ll be building a family of dancers that are seeking your guidance and mentorship. That’s a heavy role to play in someone’s dance journey, so if you’re not mentally or emotionally there, take a pause before moving forward.

Is directing a pre-professional company a good fit for you? (4:52)

Do you have the appropriate knowledge, as in technical, musical and cultural understanding of the dance? Will you provide consistency in your dancers’ training? Ask yourself these questions and know with certainty  that you will be able to contribute to the betterment of a dancer’s journey by being a part of their life in a directorial capacity. Do not take on the title of company director lightly.

All in all, think long and hard before starting a company.

Next Steps: (6:09)

    1. Start it. A lot of times we wait until everything is ready, everything is perfect. Do I have enough students? Do I have the perfect space? The perfect rehearsal timeslot? Perfect time of season? Don’t hesitate. When it’s right, it’s right.
    2. Be prepared to answer questions. Dancers and parents will approach you requesting more information, for example, how often is rehearsal? When and where are rehearsals held? What is the commitment? Where will the company be performing? How many performances will the company do per season? How much does it cost?
    3. Set an audition date – NOT invitations. Everyone must audition. That audition will help you to weed out the dancers who aren’t ready to commit.
  • Bring your vision to life and give your dancers 200%. Do it!

Pre-Professional Companies for Children/Teens vs. Adults: (8:37)

Clear communication is extremely important so everyone understands the expectations of a pre-professional company (it’s not a dance class and it’s not a professional dance company.)

Kids are often easier to get a commitment from. Their schedule is pretty steady throughout the season and parents are financially supporting their child’s dance endeavors. Adults are different. Major life changes can happen mid-season, and you may need to be more flexible with adult pre-professional company members, but you know that they CHOSE to be there.

About my pre-professional company, FutureSTEP: (11:38)

My pre-professional company, FutureSTEP Tap Company is a mix of children, teens and adults, intermediate and advanced level tap dancers ages 10-25 from all over the tri-state area, and it’s everything that I envisioned it would be. I wake up every Sunday, excited and ready to teach, direct and mentor these hungry, passionate tap dancers. It’s truly a joy.

Comment and share your thoughts.

Now I want to hear from you. Are you currently a director of a pre-professional company? If so, tell us all about it, feel free to share anything you wish you knew before getting it off the ground. Or maybe you’re thinking of starting one and you have additional questions? Or maybe you’re a part of a pre-professional tap dance company in your area. Comment in the show notes below or in the iTapOnline Community Facebook group. I always write back.