Dance Advice

Audition tips not from the panel…but from a fellow dancer!

dancer in an audition

In the past couple of years, I have been in all kinds of audition settings for all kinds of different jobs. We all know the basics (be on time, look your best… We’ve all heard them.). And I’ve often heard of audition advice coming from panelists, but it’s rare to have advice from other dancers — you know, the more practical tips, not just about what to sing! Here is my little list of tips, gathered over a couple years of auditions.

#1. Every audition is different. Don’t expect your next audition to be the same as the one you just had, and don’t spend your energy on trying to guess what the next one will be like.

I have done all kinds of auditions; the list is endless. More often than not, they have each been in different locations (I once sent an audition tape that I recorded in the basement carpark of my apartment block.); under different circumstances (I once got really lucky and got flown to an audition for less than an hour, and other times I’ve booked my own flights across the country.); and over different lengths of time (some for 45 minutes, some over a week).

I have also spent a lot of time pondering, along with other people in the audition room, about what the structure of my next audition will be like. Thinking about if we’ll sing or dance first, if they will give us material or if it will be improvised, when the callbacks will be, how many people will be there… Again, the list is endless!

The truth is, you won’t know until you’re there. Even if you’ve heard how the day has been run from earlier auditionees, the directors may change it. Don’t spend your valuable energy thinking about all the options. Instead, use that time to focus and stay calm.

Norwegian Cruise Line is visiting Australia this month to audition for lead roles and for male dancers.

Norwegian Cruise Line is visiting Australia this month to audition for lead roles and for male dancers.

#2. Be ready – but comfortable!

Naturally, you have a million things to think about during an audition. The last thing you want to be worried about is if your top will fall down or if your leotard is going to ride up your butt! Dress appropriately for the role, but consider your comfort level. Discomfort reads loudly.

In addition, make sure you bring the right shoes! Nobody likes having to lend a pair of chorus shoes to another dancer right before the dance call, and then having to remember to get them before you go home. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility but your own to make sure you are prepared. Bring all the right shoes, your own water and snacks, and your own sheet music.

#3. In the room, know your number.

As much as you are trying to remember counts of choreography at such short notice, try your best to remember your audition number, too. Time is precious to the panelists, and more than likely you will be addressed by your number. Don’t be the number they are waiting on. Directors and panelists often list out numbers very quickly during a cut, so be ready to listen for your number for the next round!

#4. Understand that there is a bigger picture.

Once, during an audition, I was asked to demonstrate how hypermobile my fingers were because flexible fingers were an integral part of the choreography.

Sometimes it comes down to being more than just the best dancer in the room; sometimes it’s about being able to fit the jigsaw puzzle that the casting team is trying to piece together.

Lisa O’Dea, choreographer for the upcoming We Will Rock You Australian tour, talks more about this. “The casting process definitely needs to remain flexible and open, especially in light of the style, content and music in our story,” she explains. “We Will Rock You is set well in the future, and the script references local cultural and musical icons, so we need to entertain casting choices that reflect a quirky and current sense of diversity. Having said that, there are specific casting requirements we need to bear in mind, like character age, voice type/range, and a general trust that performers have the dance, acting and vocal technique to deliver eight rigorous performances a week with consistency. In addition, the overall casting must incorporate tiers of ‘understudies’ to cover each principal role, so the process becomes a bit like a 3D jigsaw.”

The cast of 'We Will Rock You'. Photo courtesy of www.wewillrockyou.com.au.

The cast of ‘We Will Rock You’. Photo courtesy of www.wewillrockyou.com.au.

#5. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again (and again).

There are always more dancers than there are jobs. That’s just the nature, and reality, of the dance world. Don’t forget the previous tip — that there is always a bigger picture, and assembling a large jigsaw puzzle is not a reflection of your talent.

In addition, O’Dea says, “I try to reiterate with each group of auditionees that not everyone can leave with a job, so at the very least, ‘have some fun, enjoy the experience, and know that you’ve done your best’. It’s easier said than done, of course. Auditioning is never easy, but sometimes by giving dancers the open consent to enjoy themselves, it can help relax the room a bit. I think it’s also important to reassure young people especially that not everyone is suited to every show. If you don’t get a recall, it doesn’t always mean that you’ve done a poor audition. It comes down to ‘suitability’ in the end.”

And here’s one extra bonus tip from O’Dea: “My number one audition tip: ‘Listen!’ It’s always important to try to apply the directives given, because every show has different stylistic requirements.”

We Will Rock You opens in Sydney beginning in April 2016. Dates and venues are available at www.wewillrockyou.com.au.

By Elle Evangelista of Dance Informa.

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