Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen, now in his 10th year with the company, shares his audition tips.

When I envision a ballet company of the future, I see a troupe that can perform many genres of dance at a high level. Today’s dancers shouldn’t be limited as specialists in one style. When looking for artists to join Boston Ballet, I seek out dancers with the potential to cover the diverse repertoire that has become our company’s signature—they need to be able to do everything fromBayadère to Balanchine to Jorma Elo and Jirí Kylián.

While expectations for dancers auditioning today have changed, some things remain the same. Butterflies. Nerves. Excitement. It’s understandable to be anxious, but with the right preparation you can perform at your best.

Know the Company

The best place to start your audition process is actually outside of the studio. Educate yourself on each company you’re interested in: its size, the repertoire it performs, the direction it’s headed. Investigate. Think thoroughly about what those attributes mean to you. Understanding what a company is looking for in a dancer will help you select the right places to audition—and help you present yourself in the best manner possible. If you make it to the end of our audition, my first question will be, “Why Boston Ballet?” Make sure you know the answer.

Research and Focus

Concentrate your audition process. Rather than trying out for 10 or more companies, pick three that you really care about. This will help you focus on your goals: Your daily training should prepare you for the type of work your preferred companies perform. This will also show directors that you know what you’re looking for. Choosing a company is one of the most important decisions in your professional life—take it seriously. You’re not just getting a job, you’re committing to a type of training, a rehearsal process and a repertoire.

Look Like You Want It

Show that you care about the opportunity. Come dressed appropriately. Wear clothing that fits and don’t overdo it with accessories—you don’t want anything to distract from your dancing. Don’t wait for the final group and try to be last. You’re going to be seen no matter where you are, so why not make yourself visible?

Paperwork

An audition package is the easy part. In your cover letter, state your interest in the company and explain a bit about yourself. The resumé is a tool to help me understand who you are as a dancer; to give me perspective. I need to know your name, contact information, date of birth, nationality, where you trained and your professional experience. Show attention to detail by ensuring there are no errors, typos or misspellings. Lastly, submit a dance photo and an honest headshot. I need to recognize you in the picture so that when I look at it later, my impressions of you come flooding back.

Breathe

I know auditions are stressful, so I try to make the ambiance as relaxed as possible. The best way to fight nerves is through proper preparation. Once you’re in the studio, breathe. Your body won’t move unless you do. Musicality, unmannered presentation—these intangibles come from an inner calm. Show that you know each exercise, but also have fun with them. You will have butterflies; just make sure they fly in formation.

Be Yourself

I’m looking for dancers who are interesting. Personality and personal style are not things you put on; they come out when you open up enough to show who you are. If you don’t share yourself, you become a wall. To see a dancer doing honest work is so beautiful. That is the dancer I end up watching. Phrase movement in your own way. It’s not about having everything externally perfect; it’s about unveiling your unique, honest qualities within.

Timing

Each company has specific needs. If you get cut, it does not mean you’re a bad dancer. It just means that you are not fitting a certain parameter right now. Many major artists were rejected from certain schools or companies but went on to have incredible careers.

I make a first cut after three center exercises, which usually provides enough opportunity to reveal who I’m looking for. But there have been rare occasions when I didn’t spot a dancer’s potential, and didn’t hire them—and ended up offering a contract the next time I saw them.

I’ve always found that you can drive ahead when you’re behind. Let any challenges fuel you and your success. Remember, all roads can lead to a fulfilling career—there’s not just one way to get there.

Show Comments ()
Garrett Anderson. Photo Courtesy Ballet Idaho.

Big news in Boise: Ballet Idaho has announced that Garrett Anderson will succeed Peter Anastos as the company's next artistic director, starting in July. Anderson, who had an extensive dance career as a soloist with San Francisco Ballet and Royal Ballet of Flanders, and later danced with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, has a special connection with Ballet Idaho's home city. He performed with the Trey McIntyre Project in 2011 and later as a guest artist with Boise-based LED, a music, film and dance collaborative. Anderson has also served as the chair of the Dance Department at New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe.


Members of Ballet Idaho in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Photo by Mike Reid, Courtesy ballet Idaho.

Anastos, who has enjoyed a prolific choreographic career, is retiring as Ballet Idaho's artistic director after 10 years at the helm. He leaves behind a company of 18 dancers and 6 apprentices, an academy, and a repertoire ranging from full-length classics to Balanchine to new and contemporary works. In a statement Anderson says: "I am eager to work with these artists and administrators to connect with the larger conversation Boise is having about its future. [...] Together we can continue to extend Ballet Idaho's work throughout the region and expand its artistic voice. Looking forward, my goal is to continue a legacy that is inclusive of all audiences, while pushing the boundaries of dance and helping to define its relevance in our community."

popular

Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

Keep reading... Show less
Kyle Froman

"I'm all about comfort and easy clothing because I'm always on the go," Jasmine Perry says. But that doesn't keep the Los Angeles Ballet company dancer from looking stylish. Favoring dresses and athleisure wear, Perry also prefers classic lines and neutral colors like white, black, navy and gray, which are easy to mix and match. The finishing touch: a pair of sneakers from her extensive collection. "I had ankle surgery four or five years ago, so I need a good walking shoe," she explains. "I have a ton of Nikes and running sneakers from Brooks for when I've had a long day at work and need something that feels like clouds on my feet."

But in the studio, you won't find any of the yoga pants or loose-fitting T-shirts she loves so much. "I don't actually have that much attire for layering," Perry says of her strictly leotards-and-tights class style. "It doesn't get that cold here," she explains. "I have a few legwarmers and things for when I'm rehabbing an injury, but they're not part of my daily attire."

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Aviva Gelfer-Mundl competing at the 2018 Prix de Lausanne. Photo by Gregory Bartadon, Courtesy Prix de Lausanne.

At the beginning of the month, 74 young dancers from around the world gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland to compete in the 46th Prix de Lausanne. At the end of a packed week, eight candidates were named prizewinners, including 16-year-old California-native Aviva Gelfer-Mundl. One of seven Americans to enter the competition, Gelfer-Mundl—who trains both at V&T; Classical Ballet Academy in Laguna Hills, CA and privately with Alla Khaniashvilli and Nazgul Ryskulova Shinn—was the only one to leave as a prizewinner. Pointe caught up with this nascent star to hear about her former career as a rhythmic gymnast, her time at the Prix and her plans to study at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Russia next year.

Before ballet, you were a rhythmic gymnast. Why did you make the switch to ballet?

I started rhythmic gymnastics when I was around six or seven and I competed for several years. I was actually state champion and winner of the Junior Olympics in level 5. However at age 10 I got a really bad hamstring injury, and that caused me to reconsider if I really wanted to continue the sport. I wanted something easier on the body, so I started ballet and immediately fell in love with it.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Angelina Vorontsova in the company's revival of "Cinderella." Photo by Stas Levshin, Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

Ella Persson remembers the rehearsals for her debut as Giselle. "I was in my first year with the company, and I started preparing with Mikhail Messerer during late evenings," the Mikhailovsky Ballet's Swedish-born coryphée says. "I was definitely not ready, but he gave me a chance to push myself and made me so much stronger, mentally and physically."

Under Messerer, the Mikhailovsky Ballet has carved a niche on the Russian and international stage by investing in coaching and dancers' growth. Unlike the older Mariinsky, St. Petersburg's second ballet company was only founded after World War I. But with a classically focused repertoire and productions that rotate onstage every month, it offers plenty of opportunities for talent to thrive.


Ballet master in chief Mikhail Messerer. Photo Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's "Serenade." Photo via SFB on Instagram.

Following a week filled with Valentine's Day-inspired romantic ballets including Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella and Giselle, this week brings a varied mix of repertory from San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre (currently on tour in Chicago), as well as Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake and Eugene Ballet's collaboration with local band Pink Martini.


San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Ballet's program entitled Bright Fast Cool Blue is up at the War Memorial Opera House through February 24 and features works by George Balanchine and Benjamin Millepied, as well as the SFB premiere of Justin Peck's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes. The photos that the company has been posting of Balanchine's Serenade are absolutely gorgeous. From February 17-25 the company is also presenting Distinctly SF Ballet. This trio of works by artistic director Helgi Tomasson, Val Caniparoli and Myles Thatcher were all created for SFB. You can check out the program's trailer below.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Peter Martins. Photo by Adam Shankbone, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times reports that a two-month long internal investigation into sexual harassment and physical abuse allegations against Peter Martins, New York City Ballet's former ballet master in chief, has found that the accusations could not be corroborated. In December, an anonymous letter sent to NYCB and its affiliated School of American Ballet accused Martins of sexual harassment, although the claims were non-specific. Afterwards, several former dancers and one current company member came forward to the press accusing him of physical assault and verbal abuse. Martins, who directed the company for 35 years and has denied the accusations, retired on New Year's Day after taking a leave of absence. An interim team led by ballet master Jonathan Stafford has been overseeing the company in the meantime.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!