Audition Advice
Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

Have you ever attended an audition and wished that you knew what the director was looking for? We've rounded up some of our favorite quotes from our Director's Notes column over the past few years to give you a deeper glimpse into the minds of 10 artistic directors.

Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet

"I want to develop and nurture artists," says Wheater, seeking "people who are not afraid to be expressive, and understand all the layers that go into making a work above and beyond the steps."

Ingrid Lorentzen, Norwegian National Ballet

"I like athletic classical dancers, with very strong footwork and articulation," Lorentzen says. "But it's also about the feeling I get from them, who I think can adapt to the Norwegian way."

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Audition Advice
Julia Erickson in William Forsythe's "In the middle, somewhat elevated." Photo by Rich Sofranko, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Julia Erickson grew up training at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Once she'd spent some time in the professional division, she started feeling like a member of the company. She performed with PNB extensively, even touring with them to London, Scotland, Alaska and Hong Kong. So when contracts were offered her final year, she was disheartened not to receive one, especially because she had given up other opportunities to stay there. "It was hard not to take it personally," says Erickson, now a longtime principal dancer at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Rejection does tend to feel deeply personal, especially as you start auditioning for companies. But don't let disappointments take the wind out of your sails. In truth, the audition process is the first of many challenges, such as casting and contract renewals, that you will face as a professional dancer. But by looking at the big picture, making a strategic plan and trusting the process, you can learn to take rejections less personally and keep moving forward.

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Summer Intensive Survival
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As summer intensive audition season starts up, I've been reminiscing about my own experience as a young dancer—way back in 1993—and how challenging it was to navigate. In fact, I think it's safe to say that my first summer program audition was a complete disaster.

I was almost 16—a little late by some standards—and was still pretty clueless as to how I compared to others outside my hometown. That weighed heavily on my mind as my parents and I made the hour-long drive to Milwaukee. The audition was for a school in Pennsylvania, and as I scanned the big-city studio, my mind slipped into exaggerated teenage self-consciousness. Dancers lined the barres stretching, showing off their flexibility as if doing some sort of war ritual. Many were chatting in groups, wearing trendy warm-up jumpers and donning perfectly shellacked buns. I tried to act like I knew what I was doing, but inside I was a wreck.

The teacher clapped his hands together to begin class. He was fast-paced, no-nonsense and not one for smiles. During pliés, he stopped in front of me with his clipboard as I emerged from a cambré back. He looked me up and down, frowned and kept going. I, of course, freaked out—what did that mean? I still had an entire hour and a half left of class to prove I was still capable, but instead I completely lost my concentration. I just couldn't shake that frown. I forgot combinations and even started with the wrong foot in front a few times in center. By jumps, the adjudicators had stopped watching me altogether. Needless to say, I spent the majority of the ride home trying not to cry.

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Audition Advice
Devon Carney with Kansas City Ballet dancers Laura Hunt and Travis Guerin. Courtesy KCB.

With so many talented dancers competing for so few company jobs, it sometimes feels like a struggle just to be seen. Rather than pinning a number to their chest, most dancers would prefer to audition privately by taking company class. “In a cattle call you could be thrown out after the first exercise," says Ballet Arizona dancer Amber Lewis, who was accepted into the company after being invited to visit for two days. “But when I took company class I had the opportunity to stay the whole time." There are other benefits, too: Not only do you receive more individualized attention when you audition privately, but you also have a chance to see how the company works up close.

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Audition Advice
Dominic Walsh demonstrates in a DWDT rehearsal. Photo by Gabriella Nissen.

This story originally appeared in the February/March 2013 issue of Pointe.

Many years ago, a director of a company I was auditioning for approached me as I was taking off my pointe shoes and struck up a conversation. I felt nervous and shy, so I let him ask all the questions and nodded my head dutifully. I asked nothing about the company, nor did I try to express why I wanted to dance there. After an awkward pause, he politely shook my hand and walked away. At that moment, I realized I'd let the job slip through my fingers.

At the time, I assumed directors were looking for obvious things like flawless technique and a certain body type. But other factors come into play that can make or break you at an audition—especially if a director is on the fence about whom to choose.

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