Name: Kelly Allen
Industry: Dancer & Choreographer in the television, film, theater industry.
Location: Based in Los Angeles, California
ME: How many years have you been working in this industry?
KELLY: 10 years professionally. I grew up dancing & training in all styles of dance from ages 3-17 in San Luis Obispo, California. Began teaching & choreographing at the age of 15. Made the move to Los Angeles when I was 17 years old and have been working professionally since.
ME: How many people are currently on your team?
KELLY: I have agency representation (BLOC talent agency), there are about 4-5 agents there that I communicate with. But I work independently. Sometimes it depends on the job, with how many are in a creative team or cast for particular project.
ME: When you are feeling like giving up what keeps you going?
KELLY: One of my mentors, Marguerite, said this years ago and it always sticks with me... “When you're feeling like giving up or losing your confidence you should wake up every morning, look yourself straight in the mirror, and say to yourself ‘Damn...I am FEIRCE’.”
Thinking of that always brings a smile to my face. I began doing something along those lines a few years back when I first heard Marguerite say that...and IT WORKS. It's a great reminder to speak the truth about yourself even on days you have doubts about yourself or your abilities. The words you say and think about yourself daily are powerful. I work to keep believing "I am a STRONG, CAPABLE BAD ASS DANCER & CREATOR. Watch out world."
There are so many ups and downs in an artist's career. Not always, but in most cases, as an artist you go from job to job to job...auditioning or interviewing for the next opportunity, several times throughout the year. It's easy to feel down when being "rejected" from jobs. But the reality is, it's competitive, you will get rejected at some point, and its part of the job....how you handle rejection is all about your perspective.
I try to think, OK, maybe I didn't get this particular job because the timing for that in my life right now is just not right. Or maybe this means there's another opportunity that will present itself and it may be even better than if I had got the other job. I do my best to TRUST that the projects that are meant to be, will be.
Another tactic when I'm feeling low, is pulling up my resume, and reading it thoroughly. Pulling up my reel and watching it. Or look through old notebooks of lists of goals I dreamed of doing one day.... and look what I have checked off so far.
There's a lot I have not accomplished in my career as dancer and choreographer. But there's also a lot that I have done that I should be proud of. I didn't give up then. I'm not willing to give up ever. Anything is possible.
ME: What is one thing people didn’t warn you about?
KELLY: OH BOY :) Especially when you begin your career, and in a new city, NETWORKING is a huge part of the industry. A great deal of how I got my first few jobs was through choreographers I've got to meet, know and created relationships with. Of course you've got to have the goods when you step up to the plate to perform. But It's important, when starting off, for people to be able to connect a name with a face. Then it’s really your consistent with your talent, hard work, and dedication to your craft to KEEP those relationships.
I wasn't aware when I first moved to LA, just how important the initial networking would be, and continue to be throughout my career. It does get a bit easier as you establish your work, your portfolio and when you've been around for some time BUT the industry keeps growing, evolving, shifting. I will ALWAYS need to continue creating new business relationships.
ME: Who or what inspires you?
KELLY: Bob Fosse, never fails! Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire, Alvin Ailey. When creating, I look to some of my favorite iconic directors and choreographers for inspiration.
My dance teachers that trained me growing up...that's where it all began. And my mentors here in LA. They all put so much time, energy, support and love into making me the best dancer & choreographer I can be.
They have so much belief in me...their support inspires my work.
ME: What has been one hard knock moment?
KELLY: A few years back, I was offered a job with a choreographer (personal connection) I had worked with several times before. The contract sent over by producers looked like it had a strange way of wording the legal points. But the main points I was looking at all seemed correct....I signed, returned and completed the job. I missed having them correct an important point on that contract. I thought I had understood everything correctly, but missed something!
Almost ALL of my jobs go through my agency so they can look at the contract, make sure everything legally looks OK before signing. And they can clarify anything so I am 100% clear. That's what they're there for.
I did not send this one in particular contract through my agents since it was a job I booked directly through a personal connection. I should have sent it to them anyways! If I was questioning points being made or anything looked different, I know now, it's better to bring them the contract, have them review, and give them the 10% agency fee.
It's better to be safe and legally protected, than sorry.
ME: How do you stay organized as a freelance artists?
KELLY: I have notebooks, planners, binders for my work to keep me on on track. I'm constantly creating lists and setting goals for myself. Typically every 2-3 months.
Here are some examples of my lists and goals:
-Who are the choreographers or directors I'm dying to work with or have yet to work with in my career.
-Who are some veterans in the biz I can connect with to shadow & learn from/assist.
-Who are the other dancers I'd love to work with &/or continue working with.
-What are the jobs I've got my eye on at this time... which jobs am I dying to do.
*I post this on my refrigerator, put it in my planner, or any place I often look.
And the most important list : HOW AM I GOING TO ACCOMPLISH THE GOALS ABOVE?
-What/who's classes will I hop into to make this happen.
-Who can I reach out to about my aspirations.
-Keep my website, resume, social media up to date and current with what I'm working on.
-What events or workshops can I make it to now, to make a connection & relationship with new people (or people haven't seen in awhile).
I'm also a big advocate of VOCALIZING my goals to others. Whether its to the choreographers/dancers I'm looking to work with, friends, family. It's helpful for me to hear myself talk about the things that I want. And saying "I'm planning to do this." Putting it out into the universe. The universe talks back.
ME: How would you define success?
KELLY: When you can go about your day, doing what you are passionate about.... can look at what you have going on and feel excited & challenged. You are not "working" because you love what you do.