You're standing in the middle of a studio as a choreographer, casting director and producer all decide your fate. You feel confident that you rocked the audition combination, but something in their faces doesn't look promising. The problem might be as simple as your outfit—maybe it's not as flattering as you thought; maybe it's typecasting you in the wrong way; or maybe it's just a look that the directors dislike. In a profession that's about aesthetics as well as artistry, your outfit can play a major role in how adjudicators see you and your potential. Here, five insiders share the fashion mistakes they see most frequently—and the attire that gets dancers noticed in a positive light.
NO BAGGY CLOTHES
It's important to understand the company where you're auditioning. For Complexions, it's all about the line. We say “no baggy clothes" for our auditions and people will still show up in an oversized sweatshirt and booty shorts. Our dancers are known to perform in little to no clothing, and the directors want to see as much of the body as possible.
My advice: Know your body and know what looks good on it. Experiment beforehand; get suggestions from your friends. And keep your audition wear separate: Have a couple of outfits that you set apart for auditions (like you might with a suit or dress for job interviews), so they're ready when you need them and they won't look shabby or faded.
—Michael Moore, general manager of Complexions Contemporary Ballet
SIDE WITH SIMPLICITY
For Graham, the biggest faux pas is narrowing or pigeonholing the roles you could dance. For example, if you come with pigtails that make you look young and cute, you limit our ability to see you in different roles. Don't suggest a character in the way you dress. Err on the side of simplicity: neutral tones, close-fitting attire—maybe a leotard with tights. And remember: We're a classical company, so no bare legs.
—Janet Eilber, artistic director of Martha Graham Dance Company
BAN THE BANGLES
The biggest faux pas that I constantly see are women wearing drop-crotch pants, baggy flannel shirts tied around waists and too many accessories. Instead, dancers should wear form-fitting clothing that shows their lines and that they are in shape. Even at a hip-hop audition, directors want to see your legs. Choose skinny jeans, or even boyfriend-fit jeans. If I'm auditioning a dancer for representation who has a shirt around her waist, I'll assume that she is insecure and hiding a body part. And be careful with bangles: A woman once auditioned for us wearing so many bracelets you could hear her dancing the entire time. Just choose one accessory.
Whether you're auditioning for an agency or a recording artist, always come camera-ready. But know the job you're hoping to book. If you're auditioning for a musician, look at how his or her dancers have dressed in the past. If the artist is under 18, don't go in super-sexy. That's a big mistake.
—Steve Chetelat, agent with Bloc LA
KEEP IT CLEAN
When I'm casting a musical like Chicago, in which the dancers wear lingerie or black dance attire, dancers often think they should audition in highly sexualized outfits. “Not putting a hat on a hat" is an expression we use. The choreography is sexy and the songs are sexy, so if you overdo that aspect in your dress and performance, you can lose class, mystique and charm. A rule of thumb: Wear classic attire that you wouldn't be embarrassed to wear in front of your grandmother.
Neutral colors work best for makeup; in the fluorescent lighting of the audition room, bright red lipstick can be too theatrical. And unless your hair is part of the choreography—like in Rock of Ages—keep it out of your face. A dancer who constantly has to push back her hair reads as insecure.
—Benton Whitley, casting director with Duncan Stewart and Company
STAND OUT IN WHITE
Black tights hide a lot. For women, I prefer pink tights or shorts at an audition, something that really shows your muscle. It's a sea of shorts nowadays; sometimes it seems like all the men are auditioning in shorts. They should also wear well-fitting shirts, not loose T-shirts that hang. Tie it, or tuck it in.
In a room full of bodies, you want to be remembered. Colors are rampant at our auditions, so black is actually one of the rarest colors. White will also help you stand out. It shows that you're brave, aware of your body. Your dancing will always win out, as long as you show it.
—Stanton Welch, artistic director of Houston Ballet
Restaurants have always been a great source of survival gigs for dancers. But today's top chefs aren't just looking for waiters to carry dishes to the table. They're hiring choreographers to give the staff dance-like skills and compose a sort of choreography for the dining room.
Leslie Scott, artistic director of dance theater company BODYART, is one of those choreographers. After working in more typical food industry jobs for 10 years, she's been tapped by top restaurants in both New York City and Los Angeles to lead workshops that finesse servers' non-verbal communication and navigation of tight spaces.
Back in 2002, dancer and choreographer Jonah Bokaer founded an art space in Brooklyn called Chez Bushwick. As Manhattan and Brooklyn were quickly becoming unaffordable, and many studio spaces were closing, Bokaer seized upon "creative placemaking"—the idea that the arts can play an integral role in community-building—before it became a buzzword. "We have been sustaining and maintaining one of the most affordable dance studios in New York State since the very beginning of my career," he says.
Fifteen years later, the challenges for choreographers in expensive urban centers continue unabated, and Bokaer has found his original mission magnified. While Chez Bushwick remains a haven for the next generation, there is also a growing number of young dancemakers who have been inspired to create their own residencies, communities and, ultimately, opportunities.
The New York City premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's sugary sweet story ballet, Whipped Cream, made for one of the most exciting spring galas at American Ballet Theatre yet. While we're usually in awe of the gowns the dancers sport on the red carpet beforehand, this time around, it was all about Whipped Cream's colorful and over-the-top costumes by Mark Ryden—and, okay, a few major dress moments, too. Ahead, check out what went on behind-the-scenes.
Isabella LaFreniere dances like a beam of light. A member of New York City Ballet's corps since 2014, LaFreniere, 5' 8", is a technical powerhouse who exudes a sweet radiance: It's no surprise to learn that while she hasn't danced many principal roles yet, she is being primed for them in the studio. One is Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. As ballet master Jonathan Stafford puts it, "That's a ballerina role big time."
Yahoo got it all wrong when they watched ballerina Maki Onuki toss out the ceremonial first pitch on May 1 before the game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets. The news organization crowed, "Ballerina's First Pitch May Prove Baseball and Tutus Don't Mix."
But the Washington Ballet principal's grand jetés dashing toward home plate were magnificent. They came as a surprise because she wound up as though she were actually going to pitch the ball from the pitcher's mound. And then, surprise—she broke into those crazy leaps. It didn't matter to me, and I'll bet to a lot of people, that her pitch, when she finally threw it, was high.
It doesn't look like your great-grandfather's jitterbug. Yes, the year is 1945, and yes, the setting is a jazz club. But these swing dancers are in the new musical Bandstand, directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler. The number, "Nobody," is a paean to determination—"You know who tells me, 'Stop'? Nobody."
The choreography begins as metaphor and then becomes literal as the band members, revved up by the song, perform it for the dancers at the club. It's complicated and entirely fresh, avoiding familiar jitterbug tropes without ever abandoning the period feel.
Little wonder: Blankenbuehler, whose first director/choreographer outing was Bring It On: The Musical, says his influences included Judy Garland's "Get Happy" and Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." ("I'm imitating Michael Jackson imitating Fred Astaire.")
Photo by Rachel Papo
While still in the corps of New York City Ballet, Jason Fowler was drawn to the role of répétiteur. "Ballet mistress Rosemary Dunleavy was my rock in the company," he says. Fowler loved the process: learning steps quickly and absorbing the choreographer's intentions. He knew early on he wanted to nurture dancers through the rehearsal period one day. So it comes as little surprise that 20 years later, Fowler is a primary stager of Christopher Wheeldon's ballets around the globe.
Fowler first met Wheeldon as a student at the School of American Ballet in 1993, where he danced in the workshop performance of Wheeldon's Danses Bohemiennes. He was promoted to NYCB soloist in 2006, and performed with Wheeldon's company, Morphoses, on the side. Wheeldon first asked him to teach and rehearse one of his ballets, There Where She Loved, on a Morphoses tour to Vail International Dance Festival in 2008.