It’s very commonplace when seeing your favourite artist perform live on T.V, for them to put on some sort of show with back-up dancers. So when should you use backup dancers and how to do you hire dancers for a video?
When to use back up dancers: Back up dancers are performers who dance behind, or with, the artist(s). Their movements can provide a visual symmetry and rhythm to the song being sung. Backup dancers can be hired for events, shows and music videos.
But it is also important to remember that sometimes to make a magical performance, all you need is you and your voice! However, if you want to include back-up dancers in your performance, here are some ideas and tips on when to use back up dancers.
Back up dancers for singers
If you’re a singer, you may be considering using backup dancers as a part of your act. You probably will have noticed how often celebrity judges bring in dancers to accompany a song in high profile TV talent shows. This is because it enhances the overall effect and impact of the performance. Songs with a strong beat especially benefit from moves, and a dance routine works far better when performed in by a group.
What do backup dancers do?
Backup dancers perform a routine to complement the main attraction. This might be during part of a song, or throughout the whole number. The backup dancers may be in the background, or right up front with the star of the show. Their job is to make the artist or artists look even better.
Back up dancers are often used in up-tempo numbers and are a mainstay of the pop genre – especially street or hip-hop dancers. But they can be found in other musical styles too, performing anything from contemporary dance to ballet, to tap dance.
They will be part of your team. You’ll practice together and perform together, be it on stage, in the studio, in front of the camera – or all three. Artists often form strong allegiances with particular backup dancers as a result.
Tips for when you want to use backup dancers in your performance
Ideally, it is better to include back up dancers in your performance if you are a solo act, rather than a group, as this might look messy visually if there are too many people trying to fit on the stage. If using back up dancers you should have them on for more than 5 seconds, but not necessarily for the whole song, as you want your time to shine, after all.
It’s important to remember the most important aspect is you, so maybe start off the performance with it only being you on stage is a good option to consider. Then as the song gets going, a great place would be a change of tempo; the back up dancers can join you to give the performance visual dynamics.
Done well, backup dancers can add a lot visually to give a real show, done badly and it can look a shambles become distracting and lead to a very amateur performance. So as always practice, practice and practice some more.
Warning: when using back up dancers; in most cases, it’s likely you will perform a more scaled down version of the routine or run the risk of it feeling detached and disjointed. Furthermore, if you try and do the same routine it is very likely you will get out of breathe and your vocals will suffer.
However, do think about how they can come on stage, as a simple walk on from the side looks a tad dull, and too much like a school talent show, but at the same time, you don’t want them to be distracting the attention away from you. It’s all about using every tool you can to engage and entertain your audience.
Backup dancer auditions: getting the best backup dancers
If you’ve come to the conclusion that your act would benefit from some backup dancers, then the next step is to hold an audition. As with any kind of performance, with backup dancers, you need to see them do their thing. You may well want to interact with them and dance with them – if you plan to be part of the dance too, rather than singing while the dance goes on around you.
To hold auditions you’ll need a public venue – don’t ask professional dancers to come to your home to audition, unless you have a dance studio in your house. You can ask them to bring a prepared piece, but you must also get them to learn and perform some new choreography at the audition.
A part of the audition you should carefully watch how they respond to a new dance. This is because you need to see how they cope with direction and how well they pick up a new routine. Do they perform it with flair? Or is it lacklustre and technically poor without large amounts of practice?
You may need to hire a choreographer for this part of the audition. Or you can create and teach your own routine if you have dance experience.
Dancers for music videos
If you’re seeking dancers for music videos, there will be another consideration to take into account during the audition process: how do they look on screen?
Some people are just more photogenic than others and work brilliantly well on camera. Others just don’t have the right type of charisma or are better suited to live gigs.
The only way you’ll be able to tell which is which, is to film the auditions. This is why even A-listers have to screen test for movies.
Pro Tip: Get yourself a camera rigged up and make sure you watch the footage back before you do any hiring.
Backup dancer salary
If you’re considering working as a backup dancer – or just curious – you’ll be wanting the lowdown on backup dancer salary. And if it’s you doing the hiring, you need to know the going rate. Let’s take a look at backup dancers and money…
How much does it cost to hire dancers?
This will vary tremendously according to the project and the dancers who are involved. To get a ballpark figure, check out adverts for dancers for events, shows and videos of a similar scale to yours. Or, you can refer to the Equity Trade Union, who publish rate cards for all performing artists and theatre practitioners, including dancers.
How much do backup dancers make?
A decent average is around £450 per week in the UK. But land a dance captain role with a big name and you might be looking at ten times that.
Pro Tip: Supplement your income as a backup dancer by doing some choreography or teaching ad hoc in dance schools. This will enable you to take backup jobs that may not be as well paid but will further your career.
Famous backup dancers
A few backup dancers find fame and fortune thanks to this type of work. They can also make a lot of money in the process.
Ashley Everett salary and net worth
Ashley Everett is Beyonce’s most famous backup dancer. She was on the Single Ladies video and performed at Coachella. As a freelance dancer, she doesn’t have a salary as such. This is because she works for different people and organisations, on contracts.
We don’t know Ashley Everett’s salary, as, like Bey’s other dancers, they’re not telling. But her net worth was reported to be over half a million dollars last year – which tells us that she’s doing ok!. This isn’t purely gain from her tours and music videos though. She’s a star in her own right now, with extra income from TV appearances and social media streams.
How do you hire dancers for a music video? Finding music video models for hire
To find dancers and models you can either advertise a job yourself or go to an agency or directory to find suitable candidates.
Backup dancers wanted
You could place an ad on a jobs board. Make sure you include all the details of what the role entails, and how to apply. Here are some of the best websites to use:
And here are some more great tips for how to source dancers or models for your music video:
You can never practice enough with your back up dancers, if you know exactly what they are doing and where they will be on stage during your song, it will save any surprises or distractions when it comes to your performance.
Sometimes it can go wrong with your backing dancers too, no matter how well trained and good they are. Do you remember the Brit Awards performance in which one of Madonna’s backup dancers accidentally caught her cloak, causing her to fall? This is why you should always do plenty of practice in situ and in costume, with your dancers. Sometimes accidents will happen though. Take a tip from the queen of pop, as to how to handle it like a true pro…
Dancers for hire UK – hire dancers for an event
Perhaps you don’t want to deal with what could be thousands of applications from dancers and models. If you’d rather find a troupe yourself, or want a specific kind of dancer in a particular area, then you can approach an agency or dancer directly.
But how do you do this and where do you find the contacts?
Here is a list of organisations who supply dancers and/or models, with whom you might want to get in touch:
Street dancers for hire
Or if you’re specifically seeking street dancers, you might want to go to a specialised agency. Street dance agencies include:
Ballroom dancers for hire
Ballroom dancers are often needed to create a background effect at an event, or in a music video. Perhaps Strictly fever has increased the demand for ballroom dancers for hire. If this is what you’re looking for, try these specific agencies:
The image of your back up dancers is just as important as your image. If you don’t all match in some way on that stage, then the performance will feel very disconnected.
How to become a music video model
Music video modelling looks very glamorous. And it can be. But do be aware, it can involve long hours, lots of hanging around and is very competitive.
How much do models charge for music videos?
Basic rates start at around £15 per hour for freelance models. If you source them via an agency that increases to nearer £40 per hour. If you want a supermodel to appear in your music video though, it’s going to be thousands -r even tens of thousands – per day, depending what’s involved.
Girls in rappers’ music videos
The models and dancers who appear in rappers’ music videos have their own term: video vixens. Rappers in particular often want really attractive young women and when it comes to dancing, twerking is the number one move to perfect. While there are more male rappers, there are many females on the rap and hip hop scene too. This means a combination of male and females dancing in rappers’ videos.
Make a music video by yourself: How to record a music video
You may be reading this for tips and info on how to go about hiring dancers if you’re making your own music video. If you’re doing it yourself, then it’s likely you have a small budget. The good news is that we all carry amazing tech in our pockets, so getting something YouTube-worthy is easier than ever. Or you could spend a bit more and hire some decent equipment for the job.
If you do plan on going it alone, we have a whole article of advice for how to shoot a low budget music video.
Hire models for a music video – UK talent
The best approach if hiring models or dancers in the UK for a low budget video is to be really honest about pay. Don’t try and lure in talent with great promises. Be straight about your terms and conditions from the start – and that includes their daily or hourly rate.
If you’re short on cash, try advertising to dance students. Those just starting out in their careers will be much more likely – and happy – to work for little pay if it means getting a good credit on their CV. Let them know who they’ll be working with and give them access to your work. You’ll attract a better calibre of dancer or model if they think you’re an artist or group who’s on the up.
Save cash by recruiting and doing the work by yourself. You’ll pay more by going through an agency for models and dancers.
A final word on when to use back up dancers
Only use back up dancers if it goes with the tone of the song, otherwise, it will look very mix ‘n’ match, and will leave the audience confused. If you are certain you want to include back up dancers then make sure that the style of dance matches the song’s lyrics. It’s no good having a group of dancers popping and locking if the song has a more contemporary feel to it.
Remember, just because you may be a solo artist doesn’t mean you need to have back up dancers to make your performance stand out.
If you’re confident and know how to work the stage by putting your personality or emotion into the performance than this is just as good, if not better, than trying to put on a full–blown creative show. Sometimes the rawest of performances is what engages the audience more.
- How much do music video models get paid?
This will really depend on whose music video it is, and how in-demand the model is. If you’re talking supermodels appearing in a famous artist’s videos, then it can be tens of thousands. If it’s a low budget starter rate, then it may be anything from £15 per hour (or even nothing at all).
- How much do professional dancers make?
According to the arts publication The Stage, the average dancer earns as little as under 5k a year. This is a cover-all figure, however, including all types of dancers. It’s said that the dancers on Strictly Come Dancing earn £50k per year though, with the judges raking in as much as £150k – £250k.
What’s your opinion on when to use backing dancers? Have you hired dancers for a music video? How did you go about it? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below.