by Catherine L. Tully
Many years ago when I was a full-time dancer I went to an audition I was especially excited about. A movie was casting dancers for roles–and the director was one I admired a great deal. I prepped for it, worked extra hard in class and outside of it for weeks, steadied myself mentally, and psyched myself up the best I could. When the day arrived, I felt totally ready.
After a short barre, a combination was taught and I picked it up right away. I was chosen to be in the first group, and positioned myself right in front. I performed it flawlessly. Things were going so well!
I got cut–on the first round.
I really felt crushed, and couldn’t understand why they had let me go. For weeks I beat myself up over it until a friend of mine heard my story and laughed out loud. “They wanted short dancers,” she said, “didn’t you read the notice?”
No, indeed, I had not.
What’s the point? Well, the point is, I hadn’t prepared properly–even though I thought I had. And there’s a lesson here too–sometimes you can dance perfectly–and just not be what they are looking for. It isn’t always your fault if you get cut. At times it comes down to a simple matter of genetics, or the preference of a particular director.
That said, with all my time in and around the dance world, I’ve picked up a few tips for auditions that I’d like to share with you today. Hopefully you will find something here to make your life easier the next time you try out for a gig. Here goes:
- Preparation is at least half the battle. If I had just read the notice thoroughly, I would have known that the audition was for people 6 inches shorter than me. Also, audition notices will tell you details such as what you should bring, what you should wear, and sometimes, what you can expect. Go to the company’s website and do a little research. It will give you a “feel” for what they are like, what they seem to gravitate toward and what their philosophy is. All this information is helpful and can ease your nerves before you walk through the door.
- Appearance matters. You are going to be judged on how you look, and your appearance will contribute to this as well as your dancing. Be neat–but try to be comfortable too. Take classes in the clothing you are going to wear for your audition for a few weeks before you go. Wear your hair the way you are going to wear it that day. The more natural things feel, the less jittery you’ll be.
- Do not, under any circumstances, be late. Seem like common sense? Well…it is, but many people run into a glitch or two along the way. Bad traffic. Forgotten ballet slippers. Poor directions. It happens, and it isn’t a good thing. Leave plenty of time (and then some) to find the place. Come up with an audition checklist of items you will always need to bring to help insure you don’t forget anything. Set two alarms. Do whatever it takes.
- Keep your eyes open. You can tell a lot about what is going on at an audition by watching the faces of those who are evaluating the dancers. What are they watching–or more importantly–who? Are they looking at dancers who are doing the combinations or peering around the room at the dancers milling around? Sometimes your behavior may be evaluated as well as your ability. Always be attentive.
- Execute, don’t embellish. Focus on executing a particular combination perfectly rather than adding difficulty or embellishing the movements with your own interpretation. Showing personality is good, but changing the movements is not. If the combination calls for a double pirouette, don’t do a triple just because you can. Make it a flawless double instead. This isn’t the place to show off–it’s the place to show that you can follow direction.
Do you have any good audition tips to share–or a funny audition story? Please tell us about it in the comments section below!