Dance Advice

Auditioning in Europe: Tamas Detrich – Stuttgart Ballet

Tamas Detrich

Tamas Detrich has had a virtuosic career with Stuttgart Ballet. As a principal artist he has performed leading roles in all the Cranko Ballets with Stuttgart. He has also worked directly with many of the great choreographers of the 20th century: Glen Tetley, Maurice Béjart, John Neumeier, William Forsythe and Jiri Kylian.  As Associate Artistic Director of Stuttgart Ballet, Tamas has restaged many of Cranko’s works for Stuttgart Ballet and for companies around the world.  Dance Informa is delighted to interview him about auditioning in Europe.  

Tamas, can you tell us a little about your current role?

“Every day is a challenge for me. At the Stuttgart Ballet I work as Associate Artistic Director and ballet master/coach. I love working in the studio with the dancers. Another part of my work is planning a new season, working on the current productions or inevitable changes due to injury, etc. together with our staff. Team work is very important to me. Our work at this theatre is very different, compared to companies in the States, for example, because we work in a ‘Dreispartenhaus’ where three disciplines (opera, ballet, theatre) work together and we share the stages of the opera house and the play house. It’s a big puzzle with many pieces. What I find very exciting also, is working as a coach, with other companies, meeting other dancers and many great artists, and teaching them the wonderful ballets of John Cranko, such as Onegin or Romeo and Juliet. And of course, finding new talent and pushing and encouraging them, dancers as well as choreographers.”

Tamas, can you tell us about the process of auditioning for Stuttgart Ballet? 

“For many years we have not held open auditions at the Stuttgart Ballet. The reason for this is that we feed our company through our affiliated school, the John Cranko School. At the moment over 70% of our dancers are graduates of the John Cranko School.

But I remember our last big audition in 2009 with more than 200 dancers. Our Artistic Director Reid Anderson could not be here on that day, but the instruction was that we only needed boys. However, there was a very talented young lady in this audition who is now one of our Principal Dancers. I just had this feeling that she belonged here, so I called Reid Anderson and told him. You never know what will happen in an audition. Sometimes you will find the opposite of what you’re looking for.

If people want to audition here, they send us a CV and photos and if there is a contract open or we can find a place for them, we invite them to audition. Of course, we know that for young dancers it is very expensive to travel to auditions, so if they are passing through and ask to join class, we often agree to this, too.”

What makes someone stand out in an audition process? 

“You can’t find a word for this. It is important that their aesthetic, height and size, fits to our company – our dancers are quite tall compared to others. Of course, their classical training and technique must be of the highest standard.”

What are some ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ of auditioning in Europe as a foreign national? 

“Don’t try to cover up what you don’t like about yourself. You can’t hide those things.”

As an American born artist, you’ve trained in both America and Germany, you’re of Hungarian background, and you are now based in Germany, do you have a perspective about presenting yourself in different contexts and cultures?  

“I always present myself how I am. The first 16 years of my life in the United Stated have formed me, but I’ve grown to what I am in Europe. Ballet is an international art form, which is not stipulated by a country or language, the language we speak is our art.

In our company we have so many different cultures present, we are like the United Nations of Ballet, with 20 different nationalities, but all speak the same language.

On our last tour we went to Oman and brought a part of our western culture to this country. This was very exciting for all of us.”

If dancers are really keen on Stuttgart Ballet, what should they do in between auditions if they don’t get in the first time and want to try again? 

“I think it is our obligation to be honest to a dancer after an audition and tell them if they have a chance in the future. There are many reasons why they might not get in – if they’re not strong enough yet or if we don’t have a contract open. It is important that they keep trying. We have a principal dancer who did not get in until her third audition here, but she was very persistent. Don’t give up. We often keep them in mind and might invite them back for a future audition.”

How much does it matter where a dancer has trained? 

“Not at all. As long as they have a solid foundation of classical training, whether it’s Vaganova, Cecchetti or the Royal Academy of Dance is of less importance. But, as I mentioned before, we will first look at the talent in our own school.”

What sort of investment does Stuttgart Ballet make in their dancers? 

“We invest in them right from their first steps, from their very early stage as apprentices. If they are talented they will be pushed all the way and they will get support from the ballet masters and the Artistic Director. Dancers mature at a very young age, but we must not forget how young they still are. The greatest satisfaction is to see them become Principal Dancers or to see them dance a leading sole for the first time in Romeo and Juliet or Swan Lake and to know you had a part in that.”

By Tamara Searle of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Tamas Detrich. Photo by Roman Novitzky.

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