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How TikTok has changed the dance industry, becoming a ‘goldmine’ for performers looking for their big breaks and driving choreography
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Jazz dance shoes are shown in mid-movement with a bright pink phone hovering in front of them. Small sparkles frame the phone and shoes on either side.TikTok has changed the lives of several people in the dance community.

iStock; Robyn Phelps/Insider

  • Watching, learning, and choreographing dances on TikTok has been popular since the app launched.
  • It’s helped professional dancers land jobs or secure brand deals and companies recruit talent.
  • Dancers, choreographers, and companies explain how the platform has benefited the industry.

This story is the first in a series examining TikTok’s influence on the entertainment business. Welcome to the era of CultureTok.

When dancer Neha Dharmapuraum joined TikTok, she never imagined it would lead to her Broadway debut.

But that’s exactly what happened when, in May 2022, two choreographers came across the 21-year-old’s social-media account. Dharmapuraum, who had around 70,000 followers on the app at the time, had been putting Bollywood or Indian classical dance twists on popular trends. The choreographers encouraged the New York-based dancer to attend a South Asian workshop, where casting agents would be recruiting talent for Broadway-bound musical, “Come Fall In Love — The DDLJ Musical,” based on the hit Bollywood movie.

Dharmapuraum went to the workshop, was invited to audition, and landed a role in the production. It paid as much as she’d been earning in corporate marketing, which allowed her to quit that job and throw herself into 10-hour days rehearsing for the show.

“This app is a goldmine for artists like me who are still looking for their big break,” Dharmapuraum said. “You never know who’s scrolling through and might see your account — it’s become my portfolio.”

TikTok first arrived on the global stage in 2018 after it merged with the short-video app Musical.ly. The social-media platform, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has since surged in popularity, with an estimated billions of downloads worldwide and 150 million US monthly active users, according to the company. Today, TikTok is so ubiquitous that it’s drawn scrutiny from lawmakers in the US, Europe, India, and elsewhere, who worry the Chinese Communist Party could pressure the app into handing over sensitive user data or influence the content shown to users.

However, the platform has also pushed pockets of the entertainment industry forward in big ways. As people watched and created TikToks for their amusement, many accounts dedicated their videos to one particular art form: dance.

Some of the first TikTok creators to reach stardom were trained dancers like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae. They choreographed 15- or 30-second dances to popular sounds or songs, going viral as thousands of people recreated their movements.

As TikTok has ascended, popular artists from Dua Lipa to Lizzo have integrated TikTok dances into their promotional strategies and seen their songs go viral.

TikTok creators, professional dancers, choreographers, and dance companies who spoke with Insider said the app had changed the way they choreographed, helped them earn more money, and given them access to career opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

“People in really small towns or remote locations now have a shot at the same opportunities as dancers based in cities like Los Angeles or New York City,” said Sharayu Mahale, a professional dancer with 74,500 followers on TikTok. “It levels the playing field and has made it more equitable for everyone.”

American Ballet TheatreTwo American Ballet Theatre dancers in a production of Swan Lake.

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Dancers are landing jobs through the app and some companies are using it to recruit

Before TikTok, many dancers relied mostly on in-person auditions or industry connections to secure lucrative jobs like dancing for a company or in TV commercials. Several artists and dance organizations said the social-media platform had revolutionized hiring and recruiting.

Content creator Enola Bedard, who has 16 million TikTok followers, said she’d landed multiple jobs through TikTok over the past two years, including dancing with well-known artists like Daddy Yankee and Shania Twain. The LA-based dancer, who is from Quebec, Canada, posts her own choreographed sequences and hops on popular trends, usually in a hip-hop or contemporary style. Artists who want her to choreograph music videos or perform at live events now reach out via DMs on the app as well as through her management agency. 

“It’s what I’ve dreamed of doing since I started dancing, and I honestly don’t think it would have been possible without TikTok,” she said. “I never expected my platform to blow up the way it did, but I’m so grateful it happened because of the opportunities I’m getting now.”

@enola.bedard While waiting for the metro, we decided to shoot some tiktoks🤣 do you think the people in the back were entertained? Dc: @Valeria sandoval ♬ GATÚBELA – KAROL G & Maldy

TikTok has also given dance companies and agents access to talent they otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

Dance agent Kuidee Davie, 28, said she had used TikTok to scout potential dancers for campaigns. When brands like Nike and Adidas reach out to ask for commercial performers they can work with, and her dancers are already booked, she scrolls TikTok to find others who would be well-suited.

“Now, most casting agents don’t even look at your website or the portfolio you send in,” Davie said. “They head straight to your Instagram and TikTok, so it’s kind of like an artist’s resume.” 

Even dance companies like American Ballet Theatre have gotten on the bandwagon. It pays two senior dancers to film behind-the-scenes content for its 610,000 TikTok followers, showing dancers at private rehearsals, warm-up classes, and breaking in their pointe shoes. The account, which has viewers from all over the world, has increased ABT’s applicants for its summer intensive programs, according to the company.

“It’s been an incredible way of showcasing what dancers really go through to prepare for the performances you see on stage,” said Lourdes Liz, ABT’s chief marketing officer. “It’s definitely resulted in more people wanting to join us, so competition is steep now.”

TikTok has helped dancers find financial stability, thanks to brand deals and other projects

Mahale said TikTok had also helped artists like her earn more money, especially during a dancer’s “off season,” which is the period when they are auditioning for new opportunities.

She said she’d made around $1,500 from brand deals in the last three months, which Insider verified with documentation she provided. She said content creation is a better side gig for dancers than working in restaurants, or performing at weddings, because it allows them to make their own schedules and earn more for their time.

For example, it usually takes Mahale — who’s trained in Indian classical dance styles like Bharatnatyam, as well as Bollywood and hip-hop — an hour or two to choreograph a 20-second video, compared with eight hours to prepare for and perform at a wedding.

“TikTok has opened up this avenue where my skills are more valued and placed at a higher monetary rate compared to other jobs,” the New York-based dancer said.

 

Tay Marquise’s viral TikTok dances have also helped him land deals with brands like Calvin Klein, Planet Fitness, and Nerf. The 22-year-old has also gotten various short-term dance gigs, like when he was paid $3,000 to dance in a promotion for the action-comedy movie “Bullet Train.” (Insider verified these earnings and deals with documentation.)

As a college student studying musical theater, Marquise dreams of working full-time as a dancer or actor, but has worried the career path won’t support him financially. Through TikTok, where he has about 600,000 followers, Marquise has been able to supplement his income from dance with paid partnerships. He charges at least $4,000 per TikTok video, although final compensation depends on the brands’ specific terms and conditions.

“It’s really persuaded me to keep going after I graduate,” he said.

While TikTok has opened up new doors for dancers, it’s not the only forum for performers to showcase their work and reach new audiences. Some in the industry, including ABT and Bedard, have been looking to platforms like Instagram and YouTube should US lawmakers follow through on their calls to ban TikTok in the country.

“Some people do prefer TikTok and hope it isn’t banned, but there are other social-media platforms out there so we’ll adapt if we need to,” Liz said.

Rihanna Super Bowl Halftime Show PerformanceRihanna performs at the Super Bowl halftime show with her dancers.

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Choreography timing and style has changed, and access to different styles of dance has increased

Still, TikTok’s influence on the industry isn’t going away any time soon. It’s even started to influence how dances are structured and taught.

Bedard said she’s had to rethink her choreography for TikToks that include multiple performers to fit the app’s vertical frame, for instance.

“Choreography is more vertical now to fit the frame of a video on TikTok or YouTube, but that’s hard to do when you have a lot of people,” she said. “To fit the screen of a TikTok, we use more staggered lines so each dancer can be seen.”

She said famous choreographers like Parris Goebel, who arranged Rihanna’s performance at the Super Bowl halftime show, have mastered this. That performance quickly went viral on TikTok as users recreated moments from the show, which featured the artist in a red jumpsuit surrounded by dancers dressed in white.

As more people have hopped on TikTok dance trends, creators, especially those of color, have called for proper crediting for choreography, which the app has tried to address with more tools.

On TikTok, Bedard also highlights her most dynamic moves first, like jumps, splits, or turns to draw viewers in. She searches the app to see what music or sounds are trending, too.

“The audience needs to be caught up in the dance right away or they scroll,” she said. 

It’s led some dance teachers to put the most dynamic moves at the start of their routines rather than build toward them, said Brandon Powers, an LA-based professional dancer and founder of the immersive-art organization Constellation. This approach could influence how the next generation of dancers structures choreography.

Powers said TikTok is already introducing people to different dance styles, from Afrobeats to salsa, and boosting enrollment for various types of dance classes, based on his conversations with dancers and instructors in California.

“It’s really opened up an awareness for dance movements from all parts of the world,” he said. “TikTok is now a form of dance education.”

TikToks courtesy of @enola.bedard and @sharayumahale.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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