It’s that time of year again! The Joffrey Ballet School audition tour is traveling around the world looking for the next crop of dancers to join us at our 2020 summer dance intensives in New York, Las Vegas, London, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and elsewhere. And who knows? Some of those dancers we select may even be invited to join our year round trainee program!
For many young dancers who will audition with us this year, it might be your first time participating in an audition of this nature and we know there’s a lot riding on your performance. You might be feeling a little nervous, wondering how you can stand out and be in that group of dancers we will select to join us this summer.
We think the best people to ask about how to stand out in our audition process are young professional dancers who stood in your pointe shoes or dance slippers not so long ago. They too were looking for their chance to join us – and they got it! These recent students of our summer dance intensives and year round training programs are now working professionals for whom auditioning is a way of life.
They came through for us with seven tips for acing your next audition – whether it’s auditioning for a summer dance intensive with us, or another opportunity.
Be More Than a Dancer; Be an Artist
Recent Joffrey success story Harold Trent Butler came to us just a few years ago as a hip hop dancer; he left as a working professional with a passion for contemporary ballet. He just wrapped up a contract with Martha Graham’s second company, Graham 2, where he was able to dance in some of Graham’s best known works, including Appalachian Spring, Embattled Garden and Secular Games.
For Harold, his audition with us was actually a pivotal moment in his dance career. As he told us, “The very first time I ever touched a ballet barre was at my audition for the Joffrey Ballet School. Thankfully, the school’s director, Era Jouravlev, gave me the opportunity of a lifetime!”
Harold’s advice on how to stand out when auditioning?
“One piece of advice I would like to share with dancers interested in pursuing this as a career is a lesson I learned from the former Artistic Director of the Joffrey Ballet School, Michael Blake: ‘In order to be successful in this business you have to be more than a dancer – you have to be an artist.’ ”
“There will be hundreds of talented dancers in the audition room with you and it’s your job to stand out. Agents, directors, and choreographers are looking for artists who are fearless! You have to be versatile, you have to be quick on your feet, and you have to be confident in the attributes that make you unique as a performer.”
Fifteen year old Aidan Wolf is a Joffrey success story at a very young age. Currently she’s dancing with one of America’s top contemporary ballet companies, Complexions, based out of New York City. But she got her start even earlier on the other side of the country: she began dancing at age three in Colorado.
Aidan found her way to Joffrey at age 10 when she auditioned to join us in Los Angeles for a summer dance intensive. She was later selected for a merit scholarship to join our New York City Jazz and Contemporary trainee program. Today she’s a working dance professional in the “City that Never Sleeps”- at an age when most people her age are still in high school.
Aidan’s auditioning advice?
“My best piece of advice for young dancers to stand out in auditions is to bring your most authentic self,” said Aidan. “By that I mean, don’t try to conform to those you are ‘competing’ with. What you bring to an audition is your sense of individuality and that is what will get you hired for the job best fitting for you. Always listen to the choreographer’s corrections and match the style asked for, but don’t ignore your creativity and authenticity because that is what will get you noticed in the long run.
“Directors seek those who know how to both conform and stand out,” said Aidan. “So know who you are and never give up searching!”
Make a Positive First Impression
Auditioning is essentially like a job interview, or an interview to become a student at a prestigious school or university. So, it’s not just dance skills that are being assessed when you go in for your audition. Establishing trust and making a positive first impression are critical. After all, no director or instructor wants to hire a dancer or take on a student who is going to be difficult or unpleasant to be around.
“The audition starts the second you walk into the building,” says Amber Weissman, a 2019 graduate of Joffrey Ballet School who is currently volunteering with the non-profit organization SheWinS in Memel, South Africa.
“Be kind and approachable to the people around you especially in the audition room. More often than not the person behind the table, whoever you are auditioning for, wants to not only trust you as a dancer but also trust you as a person. They want to see that you’re kind, respectful, and an easy person to work with in and outside of the studio.”
And it’s not just the directors, choreographers and instructors that you want to impress positively. You also want to make positive impressions on other dancers in your audition.
“So much of this career is built off of forming connections with your peers,” said Amber. “ Down the line, the person standing next to you in the audition room could very well end up being the person behind the table auditioning you. You just never know.”
Get Out of Your Own Way
“For me, auditions are never really about the choreography,” said Angelina Barbosa, who recently wrapped up a busy Christmas season, dancing 16 to 20 shows per week in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. “Most of the time the choreography is something you’ve done before if you’ve had training.”
Like many other dancers, Angelina’s big audition challenge was nerves. So for her, remembering to have faith in herself and her abilities – and getting out of her own way – is the key to a great audition.
“At the end of the day you’re the only one who’s gonna get in your way,” said Angelina.
“When it comes to auditions, what you really get caught up in is the pressure. Pressure of the people sitting on the other side of the table. Pressure on yourself. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to try to be perfect, and not mess up the choreography, but most of the time it’s just me psyching myself out.”
Approach Auditions as a Learning Opportunity
Angelina shared with us some of her key strategies for staying out of her own head during auditions.
“If you approach each audition like a class, it’s a lot easier and you don’t feel so much pressure.”
At Joffrey Ballet School, we like to say that each audition is like a 90 minute master class with some of the dance world’s greatest instructors. You’ll have the opportunity to work with master instructors like Era Jouravlev, Colleen Barnes and Yusha Sorzano, Artistic Directors of our Ballet intensives; Lisette and David Lucas, Artistic Directors of our Hip Hop intensives; Angelica Stiskin, Josie Walsh, Max Baud, Matthew Prescott, Artistic Directors of our Jazz and Contemporary, Musical Theater and Commercial dance intensives.
So if nerves are a challenge for you, try approaching your audition as simply an opportunity to learn from the best. This allows you to focus on the right things and take something positive home with you no matter what happens during the audition.
Remember to Have Fun!
Auditions are exciting. They can also bring out fear of failure or rejection that can prevent you from dancing your best. So, Angelina Barbosa says, it’s crucial to keep the audition fun and not get too caught up in whether you get a yes or a no.
“Whatever you do,” said Angelina, “just try and have fun. Don’t take the outcome so much to heart because there will be a lot of no’s before there is a yes. So if you can relax and just have a good time, auditioning is much easier.”
Feel the Love in the Room
And finally, remember that no one at that audition wants to see you fail. Everyone is there because they love dance. By extension, they love dancers – and that includes you!
“Everyone in the room wants you to succeed, especially the people that sit on the other side of the table,” said Angelina.
“You can feel the love and support. So if you think in your head it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the part and you gave it your all, you can walk away from the audition being proud of yourself whether you got the job or not.”