Dallas — The spring season of dance is known for two things: a ton of shows to go and see and auditions.
Auditions, the most stressful part of a dancer’s life, of any performer’s life, really. It’s scarier than a job interview, because you never know what is going to be thrown at you. And at how many job interviews have you been asked to do your splits in every direction and execute a clean triple pirouette? An audition is the most unpredictable situation you could ever put yourself in as a dancer, but it can also be the most rewarding, because, at the end of it, you’re employed.
Now, this might seem like an obvious statement, but you have to prepare for an audition. There is something to be said for taking a chance and just getting out there and trying. Being spontaneous and putting it all on the line. But you should try to be as prepared as possible. That means you have to have been putting the work in before, making habits that are for your benefit, and taking class.
“Being a dancer” doesn’t just mean you woke up one morning and decided that today, you were going to dance. “Being a dancer” is a lifestyle. It’s what’s been decided for you. Your life has shaped you into being a dancer. It’s what you can’t live without. The day feels empty if you haven’t danced, if you haven’t thought about dancing, if you haven’t found yourself doing a plié at the bar at Starbucks. It’s second nature.
You live for class. And that desire is vital in preparing your mind and body for an audition. Taking various styles of dance will help you become physically prepared and will extend your knowledge of a variety of techniques that will help round out your dance education, because you never know what you will be asked to do in an audition. You might be going in for a ballet audition, and then they ask you to improvise a contemporary or modern phrase, or you go in for a contemporary jazz audition and they want a short improvised acting/miming bit. It’s just as important that you train your acting body, as it is to train your dance body.
I’m not saying that all dancers should be actors, but you could learn so much from taking an acting class. It’s a new way to emote, a new way to move, and a new way to understand the narrative that is behind a lot of dance shows. It can teach you new performance methods that can only benefit your career, and enrich your education. And don’t we all just want to be the best that we can be?
So, you’ve been taking class, you’ve found an audition that you feel like you are suited for, and you have the call sheet in front of you. What do you do next? Follow the instructions.
For most auditions, you have to make an appointment, and the casting directors are serious. You have to make an appointment. Don’t just show up the day of thinking that they are going to see you, and don’t show up empty handed. Call up or email the show or the company, make your appointment to audition, send them a headshot or dance photo, and have your resume ready. And be sure to send a photo that looks like the current you, not the you of three years ago, or the you from college with leg muscles to kill for. You have to represent the you of today. Day of, print copies of those and bring them with you to the audition.
Also, day of, arrive at least 30 minutes early. This will give you time to stretch, calm your nerves, get familiar with the space, and pee. Because, once those nerves kick in, I know I’m hightailing it to the bathroom! But maybe you have your own pre-audition warm-up ritual. A full body stretch, some Laban, some Bartenieff, a floor barre, some major core work, whatever it is, give yourself the time to do it. The more relaxed you are, and the more in your body you are, the better you will feel and do. Translate those audition-day jitters into excitement and adrenaline, and don’t bother checking out the “competition.” At the end of the day, those other dancers are your friends. The dance world is small, especially in Dallas; so you know whom you are up against, don’t let them get under your skin. Attack the audition as best as you can, and don’t stress about the other dancers, because they are just as nervous as you are.
An audition is basically a free class. It’s not about being better than everyone else in the room; it’s about doing the best you can. You want to show the casting directors that you’re not just there to get a job, but that you are willing to work hard, that you are passionate about what you do, and that you care about the details.
And please, for the love of the dance gods, dress appropriately. Wear what you feel comfortable in, but consider the kind of company you’re auditioning for. Is it classical or contemporary? You want to look like you’ll fit in with the other dancers. Check the audition call sheet for “suggested attire” and research the show, company, or gig. Say for example, you’re attending a dance call for a traditional musical: wear black tights, a leotard, with shorts or a skirt that can be removed, and don’t forget your character shoes. If you’re going out for a character role: bring items with you that are indicative of that character. If you’re auditioning for a concert dance: you can’t go wrong with all black. Remember, you don’t want to hide your body; yet, you don’t want to show off all the goods at once (wear undergarments that fit, and I’m talking about a supportive bra, ladies).
Be eager. Remember to smile. Show your personality. A director can tell instantly if you really want the job and if you are right for the part from your emotion. What your face is doing is just as important as your feet. Sometimes we don’t even realize what emotion we’re portraying in class. Are you focused, eyes open, attentive? Or are you yawning, looking off into space, constantly checking your phone in between exercises and phrases? These little habits matter. Take a step back and evaluate how you function in an every day class. Is that how you want to portray yourself at an audition? Think about the message you’re projecting. The vibes you send out have an effect. How do you want to be perceived?
In case the audition bug has bitten you, the Dallas Theater Center is having their general auditions on April 21 and April 22. They will be staging The Rocky Horror Show and for dancers, this would be a party on stage! Also, check out the Dance Council of North Texas for an on-going list of local and regional auditions. Get out there, audition, and dance your life away!
P.S. Be on the lookout for a behind-the-scenes breakdown of my own journey through the audition process next week.
» Danielle Georgiou is a dance educator, critic and writer. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) and is a working dancer and performance artist. Her column Sixth Position appears the third Sunday of the month on TheaterJones.com.
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