One hundred twenty-four dancers stand along the sides of three of the walls in the studio.  Chairs are placed front and center on the fourth wall that house the eyes intensely watching as six of the dancers perform the choreography they learned only moments before.  Dancers are sweating and breathing heavily.  The company director and his colleagues scribble their thoughts on a notepad, whispering ideas to each other behind the shield of a hand.  A cut will be made soon.

Welcome to a NYC dance audition.

Auditions can be quite nerve-racking.  There you are, standing in line with hundreds of other dancers, waiting to hand over your resume and headshot in exchange for a piece of paper that has a number on it and a few safety pins.  You quickly pin the number to your carefully picked leotard or shirt (making sure it was a bright color to help you stand out), and you begin warming yourself up.  Around the room you see plies and tendus, downward dogs and leg swings.  Everyone seems to be in their own little world, but that doesn’t stop them from checking out the rest of the dancers – Who do they know? Have they taken class with them before? I remember her being really talented. Oh, he has fantastic jumps.

Suddenly, everyone is brought to the center of the floor to learn the first combination.  Sometimes you have only one or two chances to pick up the choreography.  Other times you may have a bit more time to ingrain the movement into your body.  And sometimes the dance consists of your own creativity, coming solely from improvisational movement and cues.

Since there are so many dancers to see, you perform the phrase only but a few times before the company director makes a cut and moves on to setting the next piece of choreography.  While you wait for your turn to perform the phrase, you see some of the dancers marking the movement on the sides, while others watch the group on the floor.  I myself can’t help but follow the company director’s gaze – Which dancers are catching his eye? What is it about them that is making him so intrigued? Can I pick up some of their movement qualities before the next time I perform?

Then, inevitably, a cut is made. Some dancers leave a bit disappointed, while others stay to prepare themselves for the next phase of the audition.  Round and round they go until the hundreds of dancers are sifted down to one or two who get the job.

I know I’m making the audition process seem a bit intense and crazy.  Why would anyone put themselves through that? They really aren’t that bad at all.  While it is a bit intimidating, I have yet to have a bad experience here in New York.  Each of the auditions I’ve been to thus far, and that really hasn’t been too many, have been as fun and relaxed as possible.  Those running the auditions know what it’s like to be a dancer putting yourself out there, so they have been encouraging and laid-back (as much as they could be).  They know what it’s like to be cut right away; they know what it’s like to make it to the end and be cut; they know what it’s like to get the job.  I know that every audition won’t be like this, but I’m thankful that it has been my experience for my first few NYC auditions, as it allows me to dip my toes in the water to get used to the process.

I believe another quality that helps make the audition process a bit more comfortable is keeping the mindset that it’s free dancing for the day.  This city is a cornucopia of studios with fantastic classes that you can take, but many of them are quite expensive.  However, you don’t have to pay to audition.  Therefore, if you think about it as a free chance to dance and do what you love for a few hours, it becomes less stressful and less intimidating.  Let it be fun!  After all, this is what you chose to do with your life; this is what you love.

It’s funny that as I write this, I find that I’m mainly speaking to myself.  Reminding myself of these ideas and thoughts that help bring the pre-audition nerves and jitters down a notch. We as dancers put the pressure on ourselves to do an outstanding job because we know that this process helps us achieve our goals. We just have to remember that in the dance world we chose to live in, being turned down is quite common.  You’ll have many “no”s before a beautiful “yes” , and that’s ok, isn’t it?  Just as in anything in life – relationships, jobs, houses, locations – we must sort through what doesn’t work for us before we find something that does.  We must sift through auditions to find which company’s movement goes hand-in-hand with our own. We must mature as an artist, growing in our movement and in the way we audition.  We must remember that “right place, right time” has a hand in the ordeal.  But most importantly, we must remember why we chose this path.

So if you’re auditioning soon – Merde to you! Have fun and enjoy the process.

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