By Laura Di Orio
Auditions. They’re like swallowing your vitamins. All they take is a little practice and some mental reassurance, and then you can come out stronger and, in this case, maybe with a job. Dance Informa spoke with leading working dancers and choreographers across the US to get their tips and audition do’s and don’ts.
Where to Look
Nowadays, audition listings, like most other information, can be found over the Internet. Dance Informa provides nationwide audition listings (click here to view the current listings) and even craigslist and facebook have news on upcoming auditions and gigs. There’s also good old paper: most dance studios have a bulletin board with audition listings and job offerings. For some dancers, word of mouth and/or recommendations are also good audition hunting tools. And for those interested in company work, attending workshops or classes by prospective companies can be valuable. They often have company mailing lists, which inform recipients of upcoming auditions.
Audition Prep for the Mind and Body
It’s important to get enough sleep prior to an audition in order to stock up on ample energy and concentration levels. If nerves or other factors prevent you from getting the zzz’s, then help yourself with an energy drink, suggests choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. You need to be “on top of your game because you have to show in no time what you’ve got,” she says.
Nothing is worse than feeling unprepared. “If you can, research the project or company choreography,” says Clymene Baugher, a company member of Elisa Monte Dance in New York City. “Wake up early and give yourself time to orientate yourself to the day, not only preparing your body physically but also giving yourself time to mentally prepare.”
Mentally, it’s crucial that as an auditioning dancer you exude confidence. “Believe you are worth watching and that you have something to offer the company,” Lopez Ochoa says.
“Think of auditions as dress rehearsals, the more relaxed you are the better,” Baugher adds.
Show it Off!
Wear dancewear in which you feel good, something clean and neat and in a bright color. Unless it fits with the style, Lopez Ochoa says to avoid baggy clothes, “too sexy” looks and leg warmers. “A dancer should reveal his/her body because if you hide it in baggy clothes, the choreographer tends to be suspicious,” she says. “It’s all about honesty.”
Courtesy Goes a Long Way
During an audition, you’re being tested on more than just dance skills. How do you behave toward the director or choreographer and your fellow auditionees? “Being courteous to other dancers and the casting people is incredibly important,” says Drumlin Brooke, currently a trainee with First State Ballet Theatre in Delaware. “A lot of directors are looking for people who will mesh well with their company.”
How you behave in an audition also gives directors an idea of how you would work in the studio. “Listen very well to what a director or choreographer is asking you to do,” Lopez Ochoa advises. “Usually he/she does not expect you to be perfect, but he/she is just testing if you listen well and react to what he/she is saying.
“Don’t constantly look at the director to check if he/she’s watching you,” she adds. “That can be utterly annoying.”
Stay in your Comfort Zone?
There’s debate about whether or not to audition for something out of a dancer’s skill level or comfort zone. Lopez Ochoa says to avoid such auditions. “You’d be wasting the time of the choreographer,” she says. “It’s already hard enough for a choreographer to perceive all the qualities of the dancers in such a short time and in such big crowds.”
On the other hand, Christine Cox, co-founder of Philadelphia’s Ballet X, says go for it. “I think it’s important to know how to audition, and the more experience you can gain from it the better,” she says. “Who knows, you may get the job. If it starts to make you feel depressed and insecure, then stick to what you know and keep your confidence building.”
Likewise, Brooke says, “If you go you might get the job. If you don’t audition you definitely won’t.”
Depending on the style of the company or specifics of the gig, choreographers and directors look for different qualities in dancers. Lopez Ochoa looks for generosity, a strong technique, versatility and, most of all, musicality when she’s auditioning a dancer.
For Cox, attributes like musicality, good work ethic and amazing technique make dancers stand out. “You can’t fake being a good dancer,” she says. “You either are or you aren’t.”
“There’s no band-aid for rejection,” Lopez Ochoa says. “It’s always hard and disappointing when you’re not chosen.”
The key, then, is to trust that there’s a place out there that would be happy to have you as a dancer. “If a director does not hire you, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad dancer,” says Lopez Ochoa. “It usually means that you don’t fit the style of the company.”
Most importantly, when faced with rejection, don’t give up. “Being a dancer is one of the hardest professions, and rejection hurts,” Baugher says. “If you want it bad enough, then you have to push on and continue to attend auditions and put yourself out there.”
#1 Do’s and Don’ts
According to these working dancers and choreographers, here are their number one do’s and don’ts:
Lopez Ochoa’s #1 DO: “Show that you love dancing. You’re not at an audition to get a job, you’re there to show how much you love your art. It’s a slightly different state of mind that makes a huge difference in how and what you radiate.”
Lopez Ochoa’s #1 DON’T: “Don’t stand in front if you don’t know the combination.”
Brooke’s #1 DO: “Pay attention! Nobody wants confused dancers who aren’t listening.”
Brooke’s #1 DON’T: “Don’t be late. Being early is both respectful and smart, and you want to be able to take your time to prepare.”
Cox’s #1 DO: “Show who you are as an artist in the audition. Be expressive and daring.”
Cox’s #1 DON’T: “Don’t show attitude.”
Baugher’s #1 DO: “Enjoy! Being a dancer is not easy. Think of auditions as miniature journeys.”
Baugher’s #1 DON’T: “Do not beat yourself up. Not getting the job often means absolutely nothing about you as a dancer, but most especially does not reflect your worth as a person.”
Try to enjoy the audition experience and the journey, and work hard. Your persistence could someday soon pay off.
Top photo: Clymene Baugher, company member of Elisa Monte Dance. Photo by Cheryl Mann.