Sydney Dance Company to hold auditions this March

Sydney Dance Company. Photo by Pedro Greig.
Sydney Dance Company. Photo by Pedro Greig.

Sydney Dance Company will be holding auditions on 29 and 30 March, at the company studios. Dance Informa had the pleasure to speak to Chris Aubrey, six years as rehearsal director, and previous company dancer, in relation to the audition process.

Why did the company decide to hold auditions at this point in time?

“We are auditioning all the time, but we do aim to hold auditions around every year-and-a-half. Deciding to do a large-scale audition process is partly to increase awareness of the audition process and also to give an opportunity to dancers around Australia and overseas to consider the opportunity.”

Chris Aubrey. Photo courtesy of Sydney Dance Company.
Chris Aubrey. Photo courtesy of Sydney Dance Company.

How many dancers are you looking for? Is Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela looking to expand the company?

“I think Rafael would love to expand the company, but there are no plans to do that at this point in time. It’s his dream, but that’s a different conversation.

So we’re not looking for any dancers at the moment; it’s really about us engaging with dancers and various dancers engaging with the company. It is part of our networking process to start establishing relationships for the future, and of course we don’t know what might happen tomorrow, but part of that process is making sure we have networks and processes in place.

We meet a lot of our dancers overseas when we’re on tour, and we’re touring quite often now, so it’s important that dancers know that even though we’re having a structured audition on 29 and 30 March, dancers can come and do classes with us at any time to audition. They can send an email to info@sydneydancecompany.com​ expressing their interest, and then we can work out a time in their schedule and our schedule that works for both parties.”

When you’re on tour overseas, do international dancers show their interest and approach someone in the company ?

“Absolutely! And I think that comes from Sydney Dance Company’s increasing presence overseas, because we’re touring internationally and quite regularly, and with that, we’re connecting with different companies and dancers across the globe.

Last year’s touring included Austria, Barcelona, Finland, and it really creates opportunities to meet dancers. The first meeting doesn’t necessarily lead to a job. So we may have met a dancer three or four years ago. It’s all about timing with most companies, and it’s also hard to predict when dancers are going to leave Sydney Dance Company or become injured. What is really exciting for us is to create those connections and build on them.”

Who will be on the selection panel?

“So it will be myself and Rafael, the artistic director; and possibly Charmene Yap, our rehearsal associate; with some classes and some repertoire and there might be some company dancers or ex-company dancers who may teach repertoire as well. Obviously that allows us to sit back and watch, but it’s also important to have that direct interaction as well as establishing a connection.”

Can dancers send a DVD if they’re overseas?

“Auditioning via video footage isn’t that fruitful because it’s about a personal engagement and connection. It’s an artistic relationship, which is important for Rafael as well, which is why we try not to limit an audition to just two dates every few years, for example.”

How important is cultural fit?

“It’s as much about the dancer auditioning the company as the company auditioning the dancer. It’s a relationship that depends on a good connection and an artistic relationship, which means there needs to be a common understanding, and that is important. So if someone comes in with completely different expectations, then we would need to talk about that before we go any further.

That’s why it is so important to have that one-on-one in the rehearsal studio; you just don’t get that opportunity through a video. It’s very difficult to describe those cultural aspects through an email.”

Do you personally enjoy the audition process?

“Absolutely! It’s so exciting to have that. It’s a real sharing, to see these dancers who have a genuine interest in the company; to see how talented they are, to see them sharing their abilities and their artistic expression is really rewarding.

‘Audition’ can sound daunting, so we always try to make it feel a very welcoming experience for dancers, and we try to break down some of those barriers. Auditions already come with preconceived notions, and that can build tension and nerves, which are going to exist anyway. So we aim to foster an environment that relaxes the dancers because we know the more you can relax and interact with the dancers on a personal level, I believe you’ll always get greater results and a greater connection.”

What is the audition process?

“Usually it’s a 9am-5pm type thing divided into several groups with different start times. All of that will be communicated once the applications close, which will be next Friday, 14 February.​ ​It’s​ ​over a two-day process, usually consisting of a contemporary and a ballet class or both, then often there’s a selection process, and those who get through will be invited to work on some of Rafael’s repertoire, and that’s also important to know because dancers coming into the audition will want to have an understanding of the creative outputs of the company and the type of movement that Rafael uses in his work.

Sydney Dance Company. Photo by Pedro Greig.
Sydney Dance Company. Photo by Pedro Greig.

So after that selection process, dancers will be invited back for day two, and they’ll have a technique class to get their body ready to revisit some of the repertoire, and there will be a creative task component to that as well. The creative task component is quite important, and many dancers around the world are expected to have quite strong tasking skills and improvisation skills. It’s not just about being a technically brilliant dancer.”

Do the dancers have to be in Sydney to audition? How flexible are you with people who are overseas and maybe tied up currently with another company at the moment?

“For this particular audition, they will have to be in Sydney, and all travel expenses are at the applicant’s expense. With that in mind, with international applicants, we try to accommodate them. So, for example, today we have a dancer from San Francisco, and we have provided him with footage to learn, so he’s had some time to learn the repertoire and tap into that experience while he’s here, because the dates don’t match up for him.

So we’re as flexible as we can be so we can provide those opportunities when we can. And it’s a case of trying to align our dates when we’re on tour or aligning with their dates. So, for example, we’re not touring to the US this year, so a dancer would have to look at our calendar to know when and where to find us.

Applications are already coming in, and dancers can apply via the website, where there is a link to submit their application, which will include their CV and some video footage. All that information is communicated on the website. At the end of the day, it’s a great way to have all these dancers coming from around Australia and beyond to have a great experience together.”

Sydney Dance Company will be holding auditions on 29 March, with callbacks on 30 March. Please note that this is an invite-only audition. To apply, and for further information, go to www.sydneydancecompany.com/about-us/careers.

By Elizabeth Ashley of Dance Informa.

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