Do you fantasize about being invited to audition for a major ballet company, or landing a soloist contract during a summer study program? If these scenarios sound far-fetched, they are. Very few dancers get jobs this way. Landing your first professional gig takes persistence, diligence, confidence, and most of all, intense preparation. Here’s a guide to help get you organized.
Four years before:
- Every audition is a performance. Perform as much as you can and take class every day, says Lily Cabatu Weiss, dance coordinator at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas.
- Attend tons of performances. If you fall in love with a company and could see yourself there, educate yourself about it—history, repertoire, artistic director. “If a company has William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian and Mark Morris in the repertory,” says Jeff Edwards, associate artistic director of The Washington Ballet in Washington, DC, “learn more about their work.” The more you know, the better informed you’ll be at the audition.
- Establish a strategy for your next four summer programs. Warren Conover, assistant dean of ballet at North Carolina School of the Arts’ school of dance, suggests working your way up gradually to the major intensives.
Fall of your junior year:
- Work with a trusted teacher who can help you prepare two contrasting pieces of choreography in case you’re asked to perform a solo. Find out when your favorite companies are auditioning and go. You’re probably too young to get a contract, but the only way to practice auditioning is to audition.
- Establish a rehearsal schedule for each prepared variation. Practice it at least once a week for the next year. Attend master classes whenever possible, including modern and contemporary. “Almost every ballet company’s repertory is eclectic,” says Edwards.
Before senior year:
- Hone your approach. In some cases you may be able to audition by attending a company class instead of the open call. There are pros and cons to each. If you take company class, you may be the only auditioning dancer. “It allows you more face-to-face time with the artistic director, the ballet mistress, the company dancers,” says Rebecca Davis of Rebecca Davis Dance Company in Philadelphia. “As long as you have solid technique, company class is the way to go.” Davis looks for a good work ethic and for a dancer who can really “stick in there with the professionals,” she says. “But at a larger audition you often get to show yourself in a piece of repertory, too,” says Edwards. “If you excel in repertory then that can work to your advantage.”
- Get professional headshots and full-body photos taken. Consider two different shots that show contrasting abilities, and make sure that your appearance is attractive. Find out if you’re required to submit a specific body position.
- Establish an audition schedule. Send e-mails to company managers giving your name, age, dance studio’s name, and ask whether it’s appropriate to request taking company class as an audition. Keep the note brief, and consider attaching a low-resolution body shot, resumé and a short DVD clip. Above all, says Edwards, “be respectful of each company’s protocol and don’t send out a mass mailing.”
September of senior year:
- Ask three of your dance teachers to write you letters of recommendation. Create a one-page dance resumé with the names and contact info of your three references printed at the bottom. See DS January ’07 for more details.
- Make travel arrangements. Ask friends, family members and teachers to donate spare airline miles to your audition fund. Ask company managers about inexpensive hotels or youth hostels in the area.
- Find out who’s leaving each company to help you prepare mentally. It’s important to realize that artistic directors aren’t always looking for the most talented dancer in the room. They may be filling a specific set of criteria. That said, there’s always a chance that “you may be so special that the company director throws out all the requirements,” says Cabatu Weiss. Don’t let your assumption about who they might be looking for deter you from trying your hardest.
- Pack your dance bag. Include multiple copies of your resumé, letters of recommendation, headshot, body shot, and CDs of the music for your solos (not every studio has an iPod hookup).
- Take extra time with your appearance. “Everything has to be precise, clean and neat,” says Oleg Briansky, founder and director of the Briansky Saratoga Ballet Center at Skidmore College in Saratoga. Keep makeup to a minimum. “ Don’t dress like you’re ready for a performance,” says Davis, who says she’s a fan of spaghetti strap leotards that show off a dancer’s arms and back.
- Arrive early enough to warm up thoroughly. “I want to see legs from the start of the class,” says Edwards. “I don’t like to see baggy warmers even in pliés because how one does a plié is incredibly important.”
- Every audition starts when you walk through the door. Be ready to be under a microscope—from how you carry yourself and observe the steps, to what you do in between combinations, to how you watch your colleagues. “You want to show a heightened sense of concentration,” explains Edwards.
- Choose your place wisely. “Don’t hide in the back,” says Conover. “You’re competing. Be up front.”
- Focus on the experience as a chance to be enriched instead of obsessing over whether or not you’ll be picked. “Auditions are like master classes,” says Edwards. How often do you get to take class from a wonderful teacher and do really exciting choreography?”
- If you don’t make the cut say thank you and leave graciously. Never approach an artistic director after the audition. He or she will likely not have the time to give you constructive feedback, and could get annoyed. Davis suggests sending an e-mail about two months after the audition with your headshot, a description of what you wore or a snapshot of you in your audition outfit and an update on what you’ve been doing.
- If you don’t get a contract, don’t feel like it’s a wasted day. “You’ve already gotten that far and we know you more than the kid who didn’t show up to the audition,” says Davis. “Even if you’re not a match for a particular company, the artistic director or someone from the organization might refer you.”
Today’s post is by Alexandra Cownie the author of “How To Be A Ballet Dancer”. She dedicates her life to educating dancers on how to have a healthy life and to be confident and less stressed while becoming professionals.
Auditions are a very important and often highly stressful part of a dancer’s life. More than a job interview, at an audition dancers need to show versatility, technical skill and intelligence. They must appeal to a company director with subjective and unpredictable criteria relating to artistic style. So let’s look at what you can do to stand-out from the crowd!
1. Do not approach your audition like it’s a dance competition.
It’s vital to understand that in auditions, it’s not the “best” dancer (often confused with most technical dancer) that gets the job, but the one that fits the best the artistic criteria set by the company director and artistic board.
Approach your auditions with confidence in your own unique abilities and make an effort to be yourself while dancing – your best skills will naturally shine through and give you the job in the right company!
2. Research the company/dance group you are auditioning for.
Most dancers need to audition to a certain number of companies before they get a job. The danger is that it can quickly become “I’ll take whatever I can” instead of “I’ll audition in the companies that are right for me”. The problem with that is that you will have no idea (or too little) what the artistic style the company is endorsing, what choreographers work for the company and what the daily training is like. There are huge differences between companies and it’s extremely important that you know who you are auditioning for in order to give yourself the best chances of fitting in! A great thing to do is go to see them on stage.
3. Visualise yourself as a member of the company the night before.
The night prior the audition, you should already know the style of the company and their daily routine and approach to dance. Take 20 minutes to close your eyes in an active meditation and visualise yourself as a full-time member of their company. Be one of them, take class with them, rehearse with them, interact with them in the change rooms, be on stage with them. You will find that you will feel more at ease and peaceful the next day. Remember a company director will look for someone already at ease with the company’s style.
4. Do not try to change your body 2 days before the audition!
This is another very common mistake dancers make: A few days before the audition, they decide that they want to look perfect and therefore start a new diet, over- exercise to get new shapes and muscles on their body, etc. As a result, by the time of the audition they are often exhausted, sore and lacking energy. Doing the opposite is the way to go: Sleep well, eat very well (get enough proteins, good fats and lots of veggies – reduce sugar as much as possible) and train normally – no more or less. It’s important that you understand that nothing that you will do to change a few days before an audition will actually make a difference on your looks! I see it more as self-sabotage!! Be smart about it!
5. Eat well and test what foods give you the most lasting energy in your regular classes.
A great way to prepare for an audition is to test before a class what foods give you the most lasting energy without feeling heavy. This will be different for everyone, so make sure you test this well in advance! The things you need to assess are:
– How long before the start of the class should I eat? (1h, 30min… ?)
– What foods work makes me feel light?
– What foods give me the longest lasting energy (the last thing you want is a drop of energy if you get qualified for the choreography part of the audition!)
– What snacks work best for me during breaks?
– How much water do I need to drink at any given point to feel on top of my game? (small sips taken more often usually work best and keep your body hydrated without feeling full)
6. Remember: You are ALL in the same boat!
It is easy to be impressed by all the other dancers around you in an audition, especially in the 30 minutes leading to the first class. You will see people more flexible than you, more technical than you, appearing very confident, some with better bodies, some with better outfits… And you will start talking yourself down. What you really need to keep in mind is that everyone here is stressed, worried, anxious, wanting to get the job and thinking the same things about YOU! By realising this and stop worrying about what they have to offer rather than focusing on your own unique attributes, you will be miles ahead of your competition!
7. Use meditation as stress-relief before your audition.
Stress is one of the top issues dancers face in audition. This is why I have prepared an audio meditation to take care of that for you! The best way to use it is the night before as well as 30 min to an hour before the start of the audition. It has already done wonders down-under for many Australian dancers and I am sure you will love it too! You can find more about it in my book: How To Be A Ballet Dancer.
At the end of the day, your performance and preparation are only half of the decision for you to join or not a specific company. If you can leave an audition feeling empowered, having learning new things and feeling more confident about your ability as a dancer (without relying on the results of the audition) then you will be a winner no matter what!
Auditions are a fact of life for the dancer. They are your chance to show your skills and talent to a panel of judges. Whether you are auditioning for college, a dance company, or an entertainment position, they can feel overwhelming to prepare for. Here are some tips to help get you on the right track.
1. Practice Regularly
Take dance classes in different styles consistently. During your classes, take your training seriously so that your technique is in peak form. Perform each combination in class to its fullest potential and take corrections in stride, employing them immediately. This will help condition your body and mind to the rigors of the audition world.
Know what style of dance you excel in, and then try something completely different. You never know when a choreographer is going to throw some ballet into a hip-hop routine these days. Versatility is a sought after quality in a dancer.
It also helps to take new classes regularly; that way you are continually testing your mental ability to pick up choreography quickly.
2. Gather Your Information
Be informed about what you are auditioning for. Are you auditioning for a Swan Lake role, or a music video backup dancer?
Learn as much as you can about the role or company you are auditioning for beforehand. Find out if there is a fee to audition and be sure to bring it with you. Then, find out if you need to bring or submit any documents. If the audition requires a resume and headshot, start to prepare the required documents.
Make sure your resume highlights your strengths and recent accomplishments, and includes your name and phone number. Also be sure to mention where you have trained, who you have studied with, and performance experience.
Your headshot should be a professional photograph. Some auditions may also require a full body photo. They may require you to apply and send this information in advance; others may want you to bring printed copies that they can keep.
3. Cross Train
Become a stronger dancer by cross training.
Increase your cardio health through running, biking, or swimming. Lift weights to increase your strength for partner work. Do yoga or Pilates to stretch, strengthen your core, and focus your mind. Be patient to find what works for you.
This will help you get through a long audition. Cross training also keeps you in physically good shape, so that the judges are seeing your best self when you audition.
4. Be Healthy
Get plenty of sleep in the week and night prior to your audition.
Maintain a plentiful and balanced diet. Focus on eating whole foods rather than processed foods as much as possible, especially the night before and day of the audition. Have a good, healthy, and filling meal the night before your audition, but don’t overdo it.
Eat a light meal an hour or so prior to your audition. This is very important so that you can function to your highest ability when auditioning. Drink plenty of water regularly.
5. Dress Appropriately
Be smart about knowing what you are auditioning for. A ballet role is going to want to see you in leotard, tights, ballet slippers, or pointe shoes. A hip-hop role will allow you to express your personality through your outfit.
If appropriate, wear something that helps you stand out in the crowd. Be edgy, but, keep it clean and neat. Inquire if you have any questions about the dress code. Bring the correct dance shoes as well.
6. Be Prepared for Anything
This may mean choreographing a short solo piece, participating in a group class, or performing an improvisation.
Find out if the audition will require a solo, and prepare by choreographing in advance. You can choreograph it yourself or have someone else choreograph it on you if you are more comfortable with that. Make sure your choreography suits the style of the audition and also shows off your technique and artistic ability. Practice your solo regularly.
This also means to bring back up supplies such as hair bands, bobby pins, band-aids, extra water, other dance shoes, knee pads, or anything else you think you might need.
7. Arrive Early
Give yourself time to check-in and warm up. A good, thorough warm up is essential to any dancer being able to perform at their best. Take time to center yourself, stretch, and move, even if they are giving you a warm up in the audition.
This time will also help orient you to the studio space. If you start to feel nervous, take a few deep, slow breaths to calm yourself down.
8. Be Positive
Remain lighthearted and natural if you begin to feel nervous at all. Channel your nerves into enthusiasm for the choreography.
The more you can allow your talent to shine through your dancing ability, the closer you will be to landing the job! Be there for yourself and your desire for the job.
There is no need to compare yourself to others, so leave your judgment at the door. Be optimistic in the time leading up to the audition and bring that passion into the studio with you. Be yourself, relax, and have faith in your abilities.
When the time comes to audition, focus your mind on the present moment rather than what the results will be.
Auditioning is a skill that should be practiced often and will improve over time. Remember to learn what you can from both good and bad audition experiences. Remain hopeful in yourself and dedicated to your craft to continuing growing as a dancer and performer.
Following these tips to prepare for a dance audition will give you the confidence you need to succeed. And remember…you have already done most of the work through your training!
Once, the novelty of receiving a resume package that included a video was enough to help any dancer stand out above the rest. These days, dance companies routinely use audition videos to pre-screen talent, so it pays to create a video that has impact. “I tend to make up my mind pretty fast,” says Anthony Randazzo, a ballet master at Boston Ballet who screens videos. “Sometimes I have a stack of them to watch, so it really helps when a dancer gets to the point. I will use the fast forward button.” DM talked to dance professionals who see mountains of videos every year, and they shared their tips on making a winning tape.
How long should it be? Everyone agrees that audition videos should run between five and 15 minutes. “The first impression happens in a fraction of a second,” says Randazzo. “Sometimes I just give a glance at the screen.” Make sure only your best images make the video editing cut.
What should you wear? Wear tidy, body-hugging outfits that don’t blend into the background. If the floor is black, don’t wear black tights because your legs won’t show up. If the wall is white, don’t wear a white shirt. As for leg warmers, sweats, or a skirt, “Leave them in the dance bag,” says William Whitener, artistic director of Kansas City Ballet. “A practice tutu for a classical variation is fine but not necessary.”
How about your hair? Hair should be well-groomed. It should be pulled back for ballet women, and for modern, jazz or hip hop, at least partially pulled back. Your hair should never hide your face or be distracting to the viewer. Use good judgment.
Should you say something at the start?
There is nothing wrong with saying your name, location, why you want to dance with the company, and what you’re about to perform. Speaking can help make a positive impression. However, be brief. This portion of the video can be filmed in close-up. “It might help register the dancer in the viewer’s memory more than a wide shot,” says Amy Reusch, dance videographer. Look directly at the camera as if you are talking to a friend, and speak clearly.
What kinds of exercises should you include?
Most directors want to see you demonstrate some basic dynamics. Ballet dancers should show adagio, turns, petit allegro, and a grand allegro. Contemporary dancers should present three short pieces (sections of a dance or exercises) that show a similar range—slow movement, spins, fast jumps, and big jumps. Students should also demonstrate some barre work. “We like to see both sides of the barre,” says Arlene Minkhorst, director of Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Professional Division, “so we see both legs working.” And barre work needn’t be long. Students might show four or five quick exercises: plié, tendu, rond de jambe, adagio, and grande battement.
What kinds of pieces should you perform?
Professional dancers should also dance a variation, perhaps from a well-known ballet like The Sleeping Beauty, or include an excerpt from a stage performance (only if the video quality is good). Carefully select pieces that are well-suited to the company. “We’re looking for a level of intelligence,” says Brenda Way, artistic director of ODC/San Francisco. “So make sure you research the company and send an appropriate video.” Don’t send jazzy examples of your personal choreography to American Ballet Theatre, for instance, because you’ll only be showing them you don’t know what they do. “If you send us something that is outside the boundaries of what we present,” says Randazzo, “it might brighten our day, but it won’t help you get a job here.”
To pas de deux or not to pas de deux?
Ballet men absolutely should perform a duet. “We’ve started asking men to show some basic partnering in auditions. Seeing it on video is definitely helpful,” says Randazzo. Showing partnering moves is also advisable for contemporary dancers. “Regardless of gender—man partnering man, woman with woman, woman with man—I like to see how a dancer relates to other people in a duet,” says Way.
What shoes should I wear?
Professional level ballet women should definitely dance on pointe. Directors of ballet companies want to know you are proficient and strong. Modern dancers may want to show some combinations in bare feet, and others in jazz shoes or dance sneakers.
How to film? Recruit a friend or fellow dancer to film the video. Use a tripod. Adjust the camera at chest level to the dancer or slightly lower. Make sure the dancer’s entire body stays in the frame at all times. Make sure there is enough light in the location—daylight from a big window or skylight is best. Beware of windows in the background, you don’t want to shoot your dancer against too much backlight. If you have a studio with windows all around, consider shooting at night. At night time, use clamp-on lights from the hardware store to fully illuminate the studio if the regular overhead lights are not sufficient. Remove all clutter from the background—stuff like dance bags, rosin boxes, chairs, posters, towels, pianos, water bottles. Make sure the music source is near the camera’s microphone. If you are lucky enough to get a pianist, place the camera’s microphone (if it can be removed) under the piano.
What else to send? Send the video with a cover letter, resume, full-body photo, good reviews, and referrals or letters of recommendation. Make sure the presentation is tasteful. Use a computer to type and print, but don’t rely on the spell checker—get someone else to proofread everything carefully. Print the resume on a high quality paper like 25-pound bond in buff, cream, or white.
How to label? Label all audition materials with your name in large letters followed by phone number and address or e-mail address. Write the length of the video and a brief description of each section on the video’s label.
What format? Some people have DVD players and others still have VHS. Don’t make any assumptions. Look on company websites or call to find out which format the company prefers. You can always send both VHS and DVD to be safe. If you’re sending a video to Europe, make sure you get it professionally encoded to PAL so that their machines can read it. If you’re in Europe sending to America, make sure the format is NTSC, the U.S.’s standard format.
Finally, remember this: Your ability to present yourself well on video will help the director know you can present yourself professionally on stage. Good luck!
Tips Prior to the Audition
- Train hard in every class so that you are technically ready. Focus on every exercise as if each combination were the entire class.
- Hear a correction only once. Apply the correction. Train yourself to self-correct.
- Practice putting your technique and your presentation together. One cannot exist without the other. Don’t sacrifice your technique to perform, nor loose your presentation and become only a technician.
- Keep your memory sharp! Without this you will never be able to show off your skills if you can’t remember the combination.
- Be physically and nutritionally healthy.
- Preparing for auditions should be an ongoing activity; not only when you are expecting an audition.
- Research what you are auditioning for… college dance program, dance company, agent, commercial, cruise line etc. Do your homework!
- Know your availability prior to the audition.
- Prepare your headshot and resume (not always needed- but good to have!).
- Headshot should be a current photo
- Resume should include name, phone number, email, address, age, height, weight, hair color. Limit to one page only
- Plan your audition attire.
- BALLET- Black leotard, pink tights (no holes, runs, smudges), pink ballet shoes, no skirt, clean bun with colored hair accessory for recognition
- JAZZ- Tight top/leotard, tight pants/shorts, jazz shoes or bare feet, hair off face (not distracting), bright colors and unique dancewear are best
- TAP- Tap shoes, pants should be away from ankles, hair off face (not distracting), bright colors and unique dancewear are best
- HIP-HOP- Sneakers, loose fitting pants (no jeans), bright colors, memorable hat or accessory. Be funky!
- MODERN- Leotard, tights/leggings, hair in bun or clean ponytail, bare feet
- Wear make-up (females) and be well groomed (males).
- Undergarments should not be visible (no bra straps or underwear sticking out).
- Cover tattoos with clothing or make-up.
- No jewelry.
- Arrive early and collected. You may need to complete paperwork so allow extra time.
- Make a strong first impression.
- Find a place to warm-up on your own even if there is a warm-up as part of the audition.
- Keep your number pinned on your front in an easy-to-see location.
- Have a small bag of clothing/shoe options you can quickly change into if needed (prior to audition).
- If you start getting nervous, try running in place. It will get you warm, your blood pumping and burn off extra adrenaline.
Tips During the Audition
- Don’t audition next to your friends. You will be tempted to talk and you may dress or dance too similar to your friends. You want to stand out, not blend in.
- Don’t hide in the back. Stand in the front only if you are confident you know the material. Don’t be rude or pushy, but also stand your ground. Be confident. Never stand in front of the teacher!
- Memorize names (Instructor, Assistant, Choreographer, Director, Producer etc…)
- Don’t change/add/remove clothes once audition process has begun
- Use your dance etiquette
- Never sit down
- Don’t lean on barres/walls
- Do not talk during audition
- Do not turn your back to the Instructor
- Don’t chew gum
- Do not bring in a cell phone
- Clap for other dancers auditioning
- Clap to thank the Instructor at the end of the audition
- Focus on the material being shown. Learn quickly. Watch for all details. The goal is to get everything correct in one showing.
- Begin all exercises well. Finish them well.
- Don’t “mark” audition material unless asked
- Do the steps exactly as asked (examples: don’t do a triple pirouette if they specifically asked for a double, don’t kick the leg 160º if they asked for the battement to be 90º)
- Pay attention to directions (examples: “numbers 1-5 go first”, “odd numbers exit to the left” etc…)
- If you have to ask a question, ask quickly and clearly. Try to avoid asking questions by listening to others and watching. Only ask questions during an appropriate time. Say “thank you” to the Instructor if they answer your question. Don’t ask a question that has already been asked!
- Learn to recognize the beat and phrasing quickly. Find the beat immediately and prepare yourself for the tempo of the movement.
- Stand tall with your arms to your sides. Don’t cross your arms or put them in your pockets. (This will make you look more confident and you will not risk covering your audition number).
- Be expressive in your face. Smile, be graceful, be passionate, be energetic etc…
- Don’t look at the floor while you dance.
- Don’t make a “face” or bad expression if you mess up… pick up the choreography and keep going!
- Continue to review your choreography when other groups are auditioning. Keep it fresh.
- Be prepared to freestyle/improve. Know what you are good at. Don’t try new “tricks” in an audition.
- Don’t talk while waiting to audition outside or when you are exiting. Be listening for tips/clues (“the floor is slippery”, “they will want you to growl”, “they are only looking for 3 dancers” etc…)
- Show the audition panel that you are exactly what they are looking for. Believe in yourself!
Typical Audition Structures
- “Cattle call” auditions are open to anyone vs. “agent only” auditions
- Height, weight, hair color, ethnicity are major factors and could “cut” you at the very beginning
- Material is usually taught to the entire group first and then auditioned in smaller groups.
- Depending on the adjudicators, dancers may be “cut” or asked to leave during the audition process
- Dancers may also be asked to return later for a “call-back”
- Know your limitations in advance.
As a voice/theatre student in college, I auditioned for many musicals for the university theatre company and for summer stock theatre. I wasn’t as fortunate as students are today. There was no Internet with helpful articles to read. I had to rely on books and instructors to assist me and teach me how to properly audition. I think my best teacher was the audition process itself. Mantra for the day: The More You Audition – The Better You Get!
I will list some helpful hints for auditioning but the most important thing to do IS audition for as many musicals as possible. Don’t worry if you THINK you’re not right for any part. You never know what the director/producers are looking for! Even if you are NOT cast in a show, go to the next audition. Each audition will make you better, more confident and it will be easier to go through the process.
As a producer/choreographer I watched for the confident, well-dressed and best prepared people. THOSE were the ones I chose for call backs. The following suggestions will help you prepare for your audition.
- When you call to schedule your audition time, make sure you have nothing else planned for that day. Ask where, when, the exact time, how long is the audition time and what you need to bring to the audition. Find out whether you’ll just be singing or if you need to prepare a monologue, if you will be reading dialogue and if you will be dancing. Generally auditions are two to three minutes long. Make sure you have a monologue that shows your strengths and is a minute in length. Your music piece should be sixteen bars of a piece that shows your range. Dance auditions are usually held separately and later after the individual auditions. If you are required to dance, bring appropriate clothes and shoes.
- Acquaint yourself with the musical you’ll be auditioning for – either read the script, watch a movie or video, check the Internet, YouTube or attend the show. If you’re auditioning for summer stock, find out the theatres attending and do some research as to what they’re planning for their summer schedule. Be informed. Your audition will be better if you know what part you want. You will be confident and have a better audition.
- Make sure your resume is up to date and have a professional head shot. Your resume should be one page and your head shot should be attached and look professional. That is the first thing a producer/director sees. Make a good impression. If you’re not sure your resume or head shots are correct – do your homework and research it. Prepare your music. No large books. Remember – it should be only 16 measures. Photo copy the piece, tape it together accordion style and make sure it is easy to read for your pianist .
- Prepare a musical piece that is in your range and that you feel comfortable with. Do not prepare a piece from the show you are auditioning for unless you are asked to do so. Find something that might be similar.
DAY OF AUDITION:
- BE ON TIME. DON’T BE LATE. I can’t emphasize that enough. Arrive at LEAST 30 minutes before your scheduled audition time especially if it’s an open audition. Check in, know where you are auditioning, ask where the restrooms are and where, if any, is a warm up area/green room.
- Dress appropriately. Ladies – don’t dress like you are going to the club. “Ho” dresses, deep cleavage, micro-mini, 7 inch spike heels do not impress. Dress in good taste. Be comfortable in your attire so that your audition exudes confidence. Gentlemen – baggie pants around your behind, old tee shirts with brand names spilled across them and baseball hats are NOT what you should wear even if YOU feel they might be part of the “costume” you will wear for the show! Jeans are acceptable unless they are so TORN you look like you ran through a leaf shredder! Use common sense when dressing for an audition.
- Come warmed up. Rise early, sip warm (not hot) water with lemon and honey, stretch, vocalize and breathe. Our bodies are stiff in the morning. Early auditions are a beast but you can conquer them with a good attitude. Avoid caffeine, dairy, energy drinks, soda and heavy foods. Tell yourself you will be great! Positive thoughts. Avoid worry! Arrive EARLY! Find a place you can warm up. Run scales, mouth exercises and other warm up techniques taught by your instructors .
PROFESSIONAL HELP FOR A GREAT AUDITION:
- Look and act confident as you walk on the stage. Watch your posture. Slouching and shuffling indicates lack of self confidence. Keep your shoulders back, walk tall, head held high and step confidently on stage. As you take your position center stage, smile, address the producers with “Good Morning (Afternoon)” or “Hello” and announce your name, your musical piece you’ll audition with and/or monologue piece. Indicate to the pianist you’re ready. Take a deep breath just before you sing your first note. Begin! Don’t tap out the beat or snap your fingers for the pianist as you begin to sing. You should’ve gone over your music in the brief moments you had before your audition. Doing that on stage is unprofessional. If for some reason the pianist doesn’t play your music exactly as you indicated or you forget your words, just breeze over it, keep going – finish with a smile and a thank you and leave with confidence. Don’t say “Stop”, berate the pianist or make excuses. That was for high school – leave it there – this is professional theatre.
- Do not have gum or a throat lozenge in your mouth. Sing with expression. Don’t overdo hand or arm motions or try to dance. Don’t grab your clothes or play with your fingers or hands. Just SING. Use your technique that you have learned and do the best you can. With the monologue, keep the stage movements simple and unencumbered. Don’t try to stage the entire monologue. The producers/directors want to hear your voice, projection and interpretation of the monologue. Make sure your have TIMED your audition to the required time given. Nothing worse than going OVER the timed limit. It shows unpreparedness and can annoy the auditioners. There are others waiting.
- After your audition, smile, nod head in a bow of thanks and/or say “thank you”. Indicate the pianist in a gesture of thanks then walk confidently off stage. Quietly thank the pianist, gather your music and return to the green room to wait for call backs. Present a good attitude. Accept any part you are offered as an opportunity to grow and learn.
Study with a professional voice coach, take acting lessons and “be a sponge” – absorb the world around you and learn from each experience. Have a great audition – hope you get the part!
By Terri Cabral
Designed for aspiring musical theatre performers with busy schedules, NYFA offers a variety of intensive, short-term and long-term musical theatre courses and programs across acting, singing, and dancing disciplines. Visit our Musical Theatre Program page to learn more and apply today.
Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn’t possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.
1. Follow directions.
Before filming, research what each school you’re interested in requires. “It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that,” says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. “If the guidelines haven’t been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through.” You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.
2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes.
“Keep it short, simple and direct,” advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. “You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it.” Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don’t ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.
3. Exercises should be appropriate to your level.
“It’s hard to see the dancer’s potential if the combinations are too difficult,” says Lydon. Have a teacher present while shooting to help design exercises and provide feedback.
4. You should be the only dancer in view, and clearly visible.
For barre, shoot at an angle instead of straight on—it may be less flattering, but it allows the faculty to see details like whether you’re fully closing in fifth, or if your hip is hiked in développé à la seconde.
5. It doesn’t matter if your video is shot on an iPhone or by a professional videographer,
says Lydon, “as long as it’s well lit, clear and the dancer stays in frame.” Have a friend, or better yet a teacher, film for you, and avoid shooting through the mirror.
6. Pay attention to your outfit and grooming
“Cleanliness and professional appearance goes a long way,” says Neal, “because it shows discipline and how you’ll behave when you show up.” Opt for a simple leotard and pink tights for girls, or a well-fitted T-shirt and black tights for boys. Keep your hair and makeup clean and understated, and resist the urge to wear warm-ups. “The video you’re sending is in lieu of you going to an audition,” says Lydon, “so prepare accordingly: Follow instructions, look your best and show your best self.”
Emmanuel Faure/The Image Bank/Getty Images
- M.A. in Literature, California State University – Northridge
- B.A. in Creative Writing, California State University – Northridge
A queasy feeling settles into your stomach. You are surrounded by a group of gossiping men and women who sip cafe mochas while complimenting each other’s headshots. Suddenly, the casting director calls your number. “What monologue will you be reading for us today?” she asks.
“Oh, sorry,” you reply. “I didn’t know I was supposed to bring one.” Her annoyed expression tells you everything. You won’t be getting a callback.
This scenario can be easily avoided by following these simple audition tips.
Read the Audition Notice Carefully
Actors should arrive at auditions fully prepared, not just ready to perform, but also to present any requested material. Examine the audition notice. Should you prepare one monologue? Two? Make certain you match the material to the play. For example, if you are auditioning for Oedipus Rex, prepare a scene from Greek drama, not The Odd Couple.
Finally, based on the audition notice, make certain you are trying out for an appropriate part. If the casting director is looking for a tall, bald man in his 60s, don’t show up hoping that they will change the script for your short, frizzy-haired, thirty-year-old self. Follow whatever guidelines are offered to ensure that you arrive at the audition as organized as possible.
Show the casting director how reliable you are by showing up at least fifteen minutes before the audition. Be courteous, but don’t be too talkative. Don’t pester crew members or fellow actors with idle conversation. Spend your time privately readying yourself.
Most casting directors expect you to bring a headshot and resume. This might not hold true for community theatre productions. However, if you are committed to a career in theater, you may want to bring these along just to make a favorable impression.
In general, think of an audition as a job interview. Avoid inappropriate behavior, whether its chewing gum, using profanity, behaving too shyly or brashly, or making long-winded speeches as to why you are perfect for the role.
Usually, it is best to wear “business casual” attire. You want to exhibit charm and professionalism, but you don’t want to look like a stock-broker or a banker. Remember, many new actors make the mistake of wearing costumes to audition. Perhaps they say to themselves: “Hey, I’ve got a great pirate outfit from last Halloween! I’ll wear that!” Sadly, this is bound to cause casting directors to chuckle under their breath. They might be amused, but they will definitely not take the actor seriously.
If you are auditioning for a dancing part in a musical, wear dance attire. It should not be anything flashy or expensive. Any choreographer worth her salt will focus on your dancing ability, not your sequins.
Perfect Your Monologue
If you are asked to bring a monologue, make certain that you have rehearsed it completely. Do not just know the lines, know the character you are becoming. Let the directors see a striking difference between the person that just said hello to them and the character that is now coming to life on the stage.
At the same time, be flexible with the audition material. They might have you read the lines over, asking you to take on a different personality. Sure, you may do great when you perform the monologue with tears in your eyes, but be prepared if they ask you to do the same lines in a calm, icy voice or a whimsical British dialect. If given the chance, show them that you can interpret the role in many different ways.
Get to Know the Play
Many auditions involve reading “sides.” Sides are small, hand-picked portions of a script. Sometimes they are a brief monologue. Sometimes they are short scenes involving two or more characters. Most of the time, you won’t know exactly what scene you’ll be reading. In that case, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the play in general.
If you are auditioning for a popular play feel free to buy a copy of the script online or at your local bookstore. Better yet, visit your local library. Watching a film version of the play might help as well. Don’t simply mimic the movie actor’s performance, though; casting directors want to see what you can create, not what you can imitate.
Practice Cold Reading
If the play is rather obscure or brand new, it may be difficult to purchase a copy. In that case, you’ll want to polish up your cold reading skills. Cold reading is the act of performing lines as you read them for the very first time. It can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with practice, most actors can become quite adept at it.
The best way to become a fluent cold reader is to read aloud as often as you can. When you cold read during your audition, do not worry if you stumble over a word or two. The important thing to remember is to stay in character. Create chemistry between you and your fellow actor. Make the casting director, and anyone else watching, believe that you are thinking and feeling the words on the page.
After an audition, an actor becomes his own worst critic. Often times, hopeful thespians are tempted to explain themselves to the directors. They provide excuses or even apologies in hopes of gaining sympathy. Avoid this as much as you can. Thank the casting director and leave the stage knowing that if you are right for the part, they will contact you. If not, know that you did your best. And remember: there are many other wonderful roles out there just waiting to be filled.