Auditioning: We’ve All Got to Do It

Audition experiences are as unique as they are many.

Preparation, though key, is relatively self explanatory. There are many articles out there explaining about what to take in your bag, to arrive early and be informed about the company, place, time and attire. For me, this is not the real issue.

No, the real magic begins when you walk through the door to the studio, connecting with yourself, and projecting who you are outward. There’s a skill to that, it takes time, and perhaps may never be mastered. According to this article, “at best, auditions are a flawed process”, and it’s true. Auditioning 400+ dancers a day, 40 at a time, for half hour is not an optimal situation… still, we must make the best of it, because it’s all we’ve got. Auditions give us valuable information about ourselves, and this is not dependent upon our success in the audition itself.

I learned a long time ago that it’s useless comparing yourself to others. In a class context, you can learn a lot by observing a peer, but when it comes to an audition room, I find it can psyche you out. From entering you are setting yourself on a trajectory or your own making, there’s no use in letting someone spin you off course.

The Warm Up

From my experience, there seems to be four different approaches to warming up for an audition: the strong, the bendy, the energetic and (my personal favourite) the progressive.

The Strong – those who use strengthening exercises to connect to their centre, or to increase their sensation of muscular activation. You’ll see these dancers performing sit-ups and leg raises.

The Bendy – the girls (and the occasional boy) launch into stretches yogi’s would be proud of. Virtual gymnasts at heart, these people seem to love the feel of their muscles being lengthened out – almost the opposite to the “strong” type.

The Energetic – few and far between, these dancers love to get their heart rate going, their energy level high and you’ll often see them running around the room or throwing themselves to the floor.

The Progressive – I’m unsure whether my preference for this style stems from my personality or my training. At one time or other, I think I’ve found myself trying all of the above tactics, but the “progressive” seems to be the one that grounds me the most. I would define it as the gradual build through the body, more focused on articulation and connection than through flexibility and strength, beginning at the feet and finishing at the top of the spine (head).

I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to warm up. My advice would be to work to your strengths and balance out your weaknesses. For me, my tendency is to be light on my feet when I’m nervous, neglecting my plié and often loosing my balance. Maybe that’s why the progressive approach works for me; it begins by warming up and massaging the feet, developing the connection with the floor through muscle release and sense stimulation. It keeps me grounded and on balance.

The Exercises

Expect Anything. My best advice. You may be learning phrases, you may be improvising (as a group, or by yourself). Sometimes you may be asked to even act, or speak.

Embrace the tasks. Focus on the central motivations of the company’s movement – the teacher will usually tell you, or give you an indication of this, i.e. Hofesh Shechter’s company focuses on the idea of a contained body; Quicksilver on a lively and energetic one.

Expect the unexpected and trust yourself. I was once asked to improvise movement and simultaneously speak the important aspects of my CV, focusing on my personality rather than my credentials. It was one of the most confronting and exciting tasks I’ve been asked to do – and certainly unpredictable.

The Aftermath

It’s always an emotional roller-coaster, one way or the other. For me anyway. All that bottled up tension, nerves…it must be some sort of emotional combustion when it comes into contact with lactic acid. If you can, take it easy, stretch, do whatever it is you need to do to refocus. For me, today, it seems to be 1) wander the city (see photo – my little discovered oasis!), 2) blog, and 3) eat cupcakes… (and it seems I’ll always be the type to choose salted caramel over vanilla any day). – What does that say about my personality?

What sort of auditions have you attended? Do you have a particular warm up style? Any tips you know to make this process easier?

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