Preparing for Dance Auditions
Preparing for dance auditions can be very stressful, especially when you don’t have a set routine to prepare yourself. Growing up in a competitive dance setting, I attended many dance conventions and intensives. I took part in a lot of auditions at these events, where I would always be known by number rather than by name. I remember there being so many other dancers in the room who were equally as nervous as I was, and who were far too worried about what others would think of them.
Warming up was always difficult because there wasn’t much room and I too would be nervous and distracted by the other individuals around the room. At some point, I started becoming familiar with faces and ended up making friends with some of the other dancers at these events. We would connect over social media and sometimes even exchange phone numbers. The auditions became routine after a while and I became better at mentally preparing myself to do my best.
Eventually, I had created an auditioning routine with a basic warm up method I learned while in high school which started with bodily movement; getting the heart pumping quickly and raising body temperature. After breaking a light sweat, I would then move onto some isolations followed by stretches and strengthening exercises. Many times in auditions, dancers may feel like they don’t have enough time to properly warm up. This causes nervousness and a feeling of being unprepared. As a result, the dancer becomes unfocused and most of the time loses confidence. There is always time to warm up! You just have to be in a calm and focused mind set to do so. As soon as you start thinking about other things that stray away from your practice, time vanishes quickly, and you begin feeling like you’ve completed very little.
The method I use when warming up is to hold a stretch for at least thirty seconds and do at least two reps of whatever strengthening exercise I choose. I’ve seen many dancers pop into their splits and do the most impressive things during warm up. I realized early on how unhelpful and unrealistic this method was. The most important thing for me was to listen to my body and figure out what areas were the most sore, or needed the most attention with regards to stretching or strengthening. In the same fashion, breathing became a vital component of warming up, allowing me to channel my energy while helping me stay calm and positive.
While studying in University, I decided to add another personal element: music. I would put my earphones in and play a variety of my favourite songs while warming myself up in my usual routine. Most of the time I would have a song that I would listen to almost every day, acting as a ritual for my practice. Other times I would play different songs depending on my mood or how my body felt that day. The word “ritual” is very important with warming up and audition preparations. Pertaining to the arts field, a ritual is a habitual practice that one develops to prepare themselves for success. Thus, a ritual practice can go beyond just drinking a cup of coffee in the morning before your audition. Rituals may evolve to specific positive mental phrases you tell yourself before your number is called into the audition room, or to taking a couple of minutes to utilize imagery tactics and visualizing yourself nailing the audition. My ritualistic practice is certainly my warm up. By implementing the idea of a ritual, it makes the art of dance and entertainment more sacred and meaningful rather than just a task.
When I began auditioning for jobs I started to become nervous again, but had to realize that I had done so many auditions in the past and that there was no reason to freak myself out. Ninety-nine percent of the time your mind doubts your skill and leads you to believe that you are incapable of reaching the goal you want. I came to realize that the most successful contenders in the field were individuals who went for what they wanted and who weren’t afraid to fall on their face in front of their peers and get back up again. I comprehended that confidence was the key to auditioning and that it was the hardest thing for me to personally improve upon. Confidence in not only being a technically sound dancer. It is also being in touch with your own unique artistic flare. This helps you to emote specific traits such as sexy, funny, strong, passionate, etc. In the past, I never really had the confidence to emote in auditions or during performances, and so I would focus on developing a character in my head who would take on the audition or step out on stage during the performance. It was sort of like an alter-ego. Over time, I had played around with so many characters that I finally felt confident enough to stop making up characters and instead, embrace the emotions that I had experienced throughout my life.
Some words of advice for any artist auditioning would be to have a nice blend of three qualities: being precise, humble, and driven. Adding a pinch of humour is a bonus. It’s good to be precise in auditions because you want to show that you can listen and follow directions. Likewise, being humble is a great trait to have while auditioning. Your attitude speaks volumes in the audition room; casting directors can easily read if a dancer will be able to drop their ego at the door or if they will hold themselves on a pedestal above others. Eleven times out of ten, directors don’t only want to hire a dancer for their talents. Directors are looking to see if a dancer’s personality will allow them to mesh well with other dancers in the company and if they will be able to represent the company well. So be humble, because people would rather work with someone who is dedicated and a team player, rather than someone who is a egoistic drama queen. Drive is also fundamental in dance. If a dancer is not driven, there really is no point in pursuing work in this profession. When the people behind the tables see someone who is driven and pushing themselves to their full potential, they most likely will want to work with that person. Finally, it is always nice to work with someone who can laugh at themselves and know how to have fun during a process. When auditioning, it’s great to show others that you can work hard and pick up choreography, but it is a plus if you have a personality that can tune in to the fact that we are human and can make mistakes. Of course the last quality cannot be practiced as it is just a state of mind and self-acceptance that allows one to be able to have a little humour.
Once you’re inside the audition room it is important to remember a few things that can improve your dance audition experience:
- Choose your spot carefully. Make sure you stand in a place where you are at least able to see the choreographer and perform a smart mark. This is super important because you don’t want to miss details and specific instructions the choreographer is showing.
- Be aware of your surroundings. This is super important when you are showing the choreography in groups. You want to make sure that if you are put in a formation that you stay in that formation. This skill will show the people behind the table that you can hold a space down while dancing and that you won’t cause issues when blocking routines for a show.
- Breathe! In auditions we tend to get nervous and forget that breathing will help. Breathing can actually enhance your movement and performance and will make everything so much easier.
- Start performing while learning the choreography. This is such a helpful tip and has personally been a huge life saver with my audition experience. Often we don’t like to fully perform until the very last moment when we are called out onto the floor and might be filmed. Nerves take over and habits start to show, and all of a sudden you’re thinking too hard and your lips mold into a plastered smile. Then, before you know it, your time is over and you have to wait on the side and watch everyone else execute the dance. Regret and “I should have done that instead” kicks in and you feel bad for not doing better. So instead of heading in that direction do the following: start to figure out your purpose or character in the choreography you are learning. Begin to embody what story you want to tell and how you can stand out from the other individuals auditioning. Use not only your movement, but your eyes. Some people may say this is silly but trust me, if you follow this advice, you’ll be thanking me later. Once you step onto the floor to perform the routine, if you show your confidence you won’t have to worry about that extra layer of ornamentation, you can simply enjoy performing. By continuing to practice these things, you will develop a more positive outlook towards your dance audition experiences.
To sum up all I have discussed in this blog, I firmly believe that auditioning can be made into a fun experience if one choses to be optimistic and prepared. Being focused on yourself is key, but paying attention to your surrounding and staying humble is also an important factor to balance. Always arrive earlier then you are called and warm up properly to give your body what it needs. The holding room is a place for you to mentally and physically gather yourself and is not your bathroom to do your hair and make-up. Of course you should pack extra outfits, extra resumes, shoes, hygienic supplies and make up for touch ups or last minute changes, but do not arrive to the audition looking like you just got out of bed. One last word of advice that becomes a plus to your networking skills: always call or message for permission from the person/people you would want to be a reference before you arrive to the audition. Write a list of these individuals’ phone numbers and emails on a piece of paper or have them sorted in your phone. This is important if you want to stay connected to choreographers, teachers or past employers. Also, it is the moral thing to do, so that the individual is prepared to talk about you with the future employers or choreographers.
In the end, be confident and don’t shy away from auditions, even if you don’t think you’re cable of getting the job you are going for. Everyone deserves a chance to be seen and there is a place for every detail-oriented, humble, and driven dancer in this industry whether it’s Broadway, cruise ships, or simply handing out flyers in a flashy costume. If you have any questions or want to hear more about this subject or another topic, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck with your future endeavours! xo