Dance Advice

10 most common audition mistakes 

Matthew Prescott. Photo courtesy of Prescott.
Matthew Prescott. Photo courtesy of Prescott.

Auditioning can be a nerve-wracking experience. Lots of eyes are on you, you probably feel pressure to do well, and you of course want the job. In order to help you better succeed at your next round of auditions, Dance Informa turned to three industry professionals and directors – people who are on the other side of the audition table – to compile a list of 10 of the most common audition mistakes for dancers. 

#1. Wearing the wrong thing.

Of course, it’s important to dress the part and make a good first impression by looking professional and pulled together, but there is such a thing as too much attention. Avoid busy leotards and outfits, unless that sort of attire is asked for. 

“It is not good to have stripes, patterns, which may be more attention-grabbing than your dancing,” advises Davis Robertson, artistic director of New York Dance Project. 

Instead, wear something solid-colored and something that fits well and that you feel good in, too. 

#2. Letting nerves get the best of you.

Matthew Prescott. Photo courtesy of Prescott.

Matthew Prescott. Photo courtesy of Prescott.

One audition is not the be-all and end-all of your dance career. Robertson points out that you’ll likely attend many auditions but not book the job every time. That’s okay! So try to relax as much as possible. 

“The importance of relaxing and not stressing about doing something a little off is paramount,” Robertson says. “The dancer who looks comfortable and energized in the moment will be noticed.”

Matthew Prescott, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet School Musical Theatre in NYC, London and Las Vegas, and Cirque Arts summer intensives, agrees, adding that, for him, auditioning was always challenging.

“Taking the time to find ways to calm myself and focus on the task at hand is important to being able to nail an audition,” Prescott says. “I tell myself and my students a mantra that we began every show with when I danced at Complexions – ‘You have nothing to prove and only to share’ – as a way of easing myself. Even though it feels like you have everything to prove in an audition, remembering that sharing your unique self, talent and passion to the person at the front of the room is really the most important.”

#3. Not being nice.

Did you know that at an audition, directors are often watching more than just your dancing? They’re also paying attention to your demeanor, how you enter the room, how you react to other dancers. Do you smile? Or are you projecting a “too cool for school” vibe? Be nice to the people who check you in, smile at the other auditionees, thank the director afterward if there’s an opportunity to do so. No one wants to work with a diva, so don’t act like one at auditions.

#4. Not being prepared. 

Were there specific instructions on what to bring to your audition? If so, pay attention and come prepared with the necessary materials! It probably doesn’t hurt to bring a neat, easy-to-read resume and headshot with you anyway. But keep your resume at one page; directors don’t want to be fishing through a lengthy document to find out what school you went to.

Ryan Saab, manager of Casting Operations for Royal Caribbean Productions.

Ryan Saab, manager of Casting Operations for Royal Caribbean Productions.

“Many dancers don’t come prepared for what and who they are auditioning for,” says Ryan Saab, head of casting for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. “It’s incredibly important to show up prepared so that you can show your best in the audition room. Creative teams love to see prepared dancers.”

#5. Forgetting that directors are rooting for you.

You should remind yourself that directors and the creative panel are rooting for you in the audition room. They want you to succeed! “We want them to do amazing and love when we see confident dancers,” assures Saab.

“Show the people at the front of the room that you’re going to work hard,” Robertson adds. “Everyone wants that in a dancer.”

#6. Blending in in the back.

In an audition, you have to be seen if you want a shot at getting the job. Don’t hide in the back.

“Don’t just blend in to the back of the room in an audition,” Prescott advises. “You have to assert your presence in a room full of dancers, but be careful not to be overbearing in this effort. Be sure to smile. You would be amazed at what a little eye contact and a genuine smile can do for you.”

#7. Not “packaging” yourself.

Matthew Prescott. Photo courtesy of Prescott.

Matthew Prescott. Photo courtesy of Prescott.

Are you the classical ballerina with an edge? Are you the red-headed triple threat? It’s not a bad idea to have a “look” and to present yourself in your unique way.

“I am a strong believer that dancers need to package themselves as a brand,” Saab reveals. “Presentation is so important, as it tells us how they will conduct themselves in the rehearsal room and onboard one of our 26 vessels. How one presents him/herself not only in the audition room but also through his/her social media footprint is incredibly important during the casting process.” 

#8. Not having your “lights” on.

You’re auditioning for a performing arts job, right? So make sure you show the directors and panel that you can and love to perform! Turn on those “lights” – open your eyes! And smile! Doing so will give casting directors a glimpse of what you’d be like on stage.

#9. Taking the audition too seriously.

Yes, this is an audition, and there are probably many other dancers who are vying for the same position you are. But even given the situation, try to have fun. Don’t take yourself, or the audition, too seriously.

#10. Thinking that getting cut is the end of the world.  

New York Dance Project. Photo by Ani Collier.

New York Dance Project. Photo by Ani Collier.

If you get cut from an audition, remember that it is just one audition out of tons that you can attend. You likely won’t get kept at every audition, and you likely won’t book every job. And that’s okay. And also, it may be physically impossible to book every single job ever; you’re only one person…

“Understand that getting cut from an audition only makes you closer to booking a job,” Saab says. “We’ve had dancers audition for us half a dozen times before booking a job. It’s always a matter of time before you will book your dream job.”

“Auditioning is part of the performer’s life,” adds Prescott. “Everybody has to go through it, so you are not alone in your experience. Try to see it as part of the journey of a dancer, and just one more step in the road to achieving your dreams.”

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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