How to Get Out of Your Head So You Can Nail Your Dance Audition
Well, I don't know if you've noticed, but productions are rehearsing and running like crazy these days. Just taking a scroll through my Facebook feed, I see post after post of rehearsal or show pics. It's a great thing to see. The arts are alive, and so many artists are booking projects and living their dreams. Just a week or so ago, Disney on Broadway had an open call for singers and dancers in Dallas. There was a huge buzz throughout the city of performers preparing for this audition. I heard about it on the college campuses where I teach and from local artists I've befriended.
One such friend even reached out to me for dance call pointers that she could pass on to a young performer who had gotten a call back. I gladly shared my advice and thought it would be a great time to share that info with you, my working dancers!
So last week I shared a snippet on networking for dancers from my upcoming book, The Dance in Freelance Road Map. Since auditioning is such a huge part of a professional dancer's career, I think more than a snippet is in order. I'm gonna go ahead and give you the whole shebang.
Not only am I giving you a whole slew of valuable audition tips, but I'm going to tell you about my worst audition ever! It's important to me that you know that there is life after a failure. If I can recover from my epic crash and burn and still go on to have a fulfilling dance career, then you can too.
Okay. So here's the story.
Bonus: Audition Tips
Back to this thing about me choking in auditions when I was first starting out. I was the worst. I mean, I’d be out for the count before it even started. I’ve had several pretty bad auditions, but there is one in particular that takes the cake. Here goes…cue the violins.
I was new to LA. I’m not even sure how I found out about this audition, but I arrived with all the proper materials in tow. I even dressed the part, in a cute and edgy outfit. The thing is that I’m naturally introverted, and I can be a bit reserved. It takes me a little longer than others to warm up to new people and situations. Little did I know, my audition was headed south the moment I stepped through the studio doors.
I never shall forget (as my grandmother says), the studio was at the corner of Sunset and Highland in Hollywood. There was a glass door that opened right up to the dance floor; no lobby, no walls, no separation between the dancers and onlookers. As far as I was concerned, the whole city could catch a glimpse of my audition if they were stopped at the red light. I clearly remember sitting in my car before I walked in. I said a quick prayer, took a few deep breaths, then headed up the stairs to the studio.
Needless to say, I was in my head the moment I walked in and saw how exposed I was going to be. There were all of these unfamiliar faces, stretching and already dancing about. I knew absolutely no one, which made me shrink even further into my shell. Fortunately, the audition began not too long after I arrived. Learning and executing choreography is one of my strengths, and I nailed that portion of the evening. Oh, but my victory was short lived.
Like in all auditions, dancers were divided into groups according to when they signed in. I walked onto the dance floor when my group was called, the music started, and I performed as if I had never danced a day in my life. Literally, I looked like I had two left feet, no coordination, no rhythm, no presence, and no business trying to pursue a professional dance career. I was so completely in my head that I could not get into the movement or the moment. I crashed and burned. Epic fail. Up in smoke. (There aren’t enough sayings that could clearly depict how awful that audition was.) And then I walked to my car and cried a river.
Thank heaven I eventually got over myself and learned how to audition. That’s right. I had to learn how to audition effectively. And how do you suppose I did that? By auditioning. I learned how to audition like a professional by going to more and more auditions. Based on my own experiences, along with information given to me from former my agent, I have some tips to offer that will hopefully prevent you from having an audition like the one I just shared.
My first few tips are about general audition etiquette. You always want to arrive early and have all of your materials prepared. Go ahead and staple your resume to the back of your headshot before you arrive as you never know if there will be a stapler at your audition location. You also need to dress the part. If the audition is for a Nare commercial, then you’d probably want to wear something that shows off your legs. Don’t wear a costume, but dress nicely and according to the project for which the audition is casting. It’s also important to know that the production team is likely looking at more than just how well you dance. They may be watching how well you interact with others or how well you take direction. So be sure to switch lines if they make that request and be respectful to the dancers with whom you’re sharing the space. Lastly on etiquette, always thank the choreographer before you leave, if possible. Give a firm hand shake, remind them of your name, and thank them for the opportunity.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s address the meat and potatoes of auditioning well. Etiquette is important, but that’s not what gets the job, you are. That’s the thing to remember as you’re auditioning. It’s about you and the value you’ll add to the project. Your value is your total package: your unique look, your quality of movement, your personality, and your inner spirit. No other dancer has the package you have, and no one can deliver its contents the way you can.
When you’re in your head the way I was in those early auditions, you’re interfering with the delivery of your package. When you’re in your head, you’re the guy who tosses the parcel marked “Fragile” and “Handle with Care” over the fence because the gate is locked (which has happened to me, by the way). You damage the package and taint its delivery. Being in your head causes you to miss out on the magic of the present moment, and missing those moments in an audition will cost you a job.
Do us both a favor, and stay out of your head. Just be where you are in each moment even if it’s uncomfortable. What does that mean, and how do you do that? That means you’re not consumed by your thoughts at any given moment. Instead, you’re fully aware of every aspect of your current experience. If you’re nervous, be nervous, but stay present. Take a few deep breaths, and work through the nerves. If you’re scared, be scared. If you’re excited, be excited. Whatever it is, just be. I still experience nervousness before an audition or performance. In those moments, I breath deeply, say a prayer, say an affirmation, and then give it all I’ve got. I’ve learned to be great in spite of how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking.
You don’t have to do exactly what I do, but I encourage you to find what works for you. You can’t control the outcome of your audition, but you can control your experience of it. Don’t let auditioning or any other aspect of pursuing your career get the best of you. Apply these tips, and take your career pursuit by the reigns.
There you have it. My entire bonus section on auditioning.
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