Feature Articles

Audition Advice from the Pros

By Rain Francis.

Do you have an upcoming audition?
Dance Informa wanted to give you a headstart with some top audition advice. And who better to ask than the directors of some of the best dance companies in the world?

Advice from Stanton Welch, Artistic Director
Houston Ballet


What’s your most important piece of audition advice?
It’s very important in an audition that when you walk in you pay attention. The way that you engage the person and how you look are very important. You need to be dressed appropriately, you need to make sure that you learn the exercises with detail and that you show that you have a level of artistry. Don’t look fearful, and try to give them as broad a range of all the best qualities of you as an artist as quickly as possible.

What’s the biggest mistake dancers make when auditioning?
Trying to show off too much. In a few auditions that we’ve had, a teacher might set an exercise very specifically because we want to see a certain type of ports de bras or an arm or a jump, and then the dancer changes it so that they can show us their thing. Inevitably what they’re showing us is that they can’t learn in detail what you’re presenting.

What do you look for in auditions?
Of course you want a good dancer. I think there are many good dancers now so by the time you narrow it down, what makes you stand out is your work ethic and your artistry. You need to be a smart and intelligent dancer, as well as being someone who can completely transform into any role.

What can dancers do to be prepared?
Somehow I think it’s important that a young dancer gets through a process of practice auditions, so that by the time they walk into the real audition, they’ve somehow calmed their nerves down. I would suggest going to as many auditions as possible, put on as many numbers as possible, and do as many Eisteddfods as possible so that you’re so familiar with walking out and presenting yourself that it’s like a performance.

Advice from Rafael Bonachela,  Artistic Director
Sydney Dance Company

What’s your most important piece of audition advice?
Wear the appropriate clothing, as a choreographer always likes to see the body of a dancer.  Don’t try to hide under a thousand jumpers and twenty pairs of leg warmers.  It shows confidence in yourself and who you are.

What’s the biggest mistake dancers make when auditioning?
Wearing too many clothes.

What do you look for in auditions?
There are different things I look for.  A strong classical and contemporary technique and being able to mix with a group but to have enough individuality and charisma to stand alone on a stage – after all, I only have 17 jobs on offer.
What can dancers do to be prepared?
The only way to be prepared is to work hard, be committed and focused.  To get to the highest level of quality, dance cannot be only a five day week commitment, it’s for life.

Advice from David McAllister, Artistic Director
The Australian Ballet

What’s your most important piece of audition advice?
Don’t be nervous! All directors want you to be great and they want to see what you can bring to the company, so turn those nerves into excitement and just enjoy the experience. Always wear practice clothes that are neat and simple. Make sure you don’t cover legs with legwarmers and sloppy trousers as we will think you are trying to hide something. Ladies should always wear pointe shoes as the ladies in most ballet companies spend most of their time dancing en pointe.  

What’s the biggest mistake dancers make when auditioning?
Someone who cannot pick up the exercises and has difficulty with basic technical material will lose my attention quickly, and someone dancing off the music is definitely not destined for a contract.  For ladies, wearing a lot of makeup and too many accessories (hair and jewellery) is also distracting.

What do you look for in auditions?
Musicality is the thing that usually first attracts me to someone in an audition. Confidence in their ability and sureness of technique. I don’t mean that competition confidence, but an inner strength and grounded quality that draws the eye rather than acting as a beacon. Before the audition, I will look at their CV and preferably a DVD of them in action. I look at things like where they trained and who taught them, if they have had any previous employment and if not, any other stage experience. All these things count.

What can dancers do to be prepared?
Don’t do an audition if you don’t feel prepared both emotionally or physically as first impressions count; you’re better to reschedule if you are sick or injured. Do a good warm up and have a copy of your CV just in case.

Advice from Stephen Page, Artistic Director
Bangarra Dance Theatre


Why do you choose to hand pick dancers rather than hold auditions?
All of our dancers are indigenous and they generally perform with the company for a minimum of four years, and sometimes for as long as twelve years. Sometimes we have a number of positions available in the same year so when this happens we do conduct auditions. We tend to be aware of indigenous students in tertiary institutions training at a professional level in contemporary dance and from time to time we offer secondments to graduates.

 What sort of process do you use for recruiting?
Because highly trained indigenous contemporary dancers are reasonably rare we are generally aware of them through their years of training and we are always open to hearing from dancers who are keen to work with the company.

What do you look for in potential dancers?
I look for someone with contemporary dance training who has an understanding of traditional Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander culture. The dancers I find particularly interesting are those that respond well to Bangarra’s cultural philosophy and choreographic style.

What’s your advice to dancers hoping to find work in the industry?
I would advise all dancers, including indigenous dancers, to have a breadth of experience in all forms of dance so that they are creatively flexible and open to new ideas. Most important is for a dancer to have a great sense of themself as a person and as a performer.

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