Auditions Tips: What Not To Wear
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
Before too long, dancers and choreographers will get to create on the luxurious 170-acre property in rural Connecticut that is currently home to legendary visual artist Jasper Johns.
If you think that sounds far more glamorous than your average choreographic retreat, you're right. Though there are some seriously generous opportunities out there, this one seems particularly lavish.
Every dancer has learned—probably the hard way—that healthy feet are the foundation of a productive and happy day in the studio. As dancers, our most important asset has to carry the weight (literally) of everything we do. So it's not surprising that most professional dancers have foot care down to an art.
Three dancers shared their foot-care products they can't live without.
Dancers trying their hand at designing is nothing new. But they do tend to stick with studio or performance-wear (think Miami City Ballet's Ella Titus and her line of knit warm-ups or former NYCB dancer Janie Taylor and her ballet costumes). But several dancers at American Ballet Theatre—corps members Jamie Kopit, Erica Lall, Katie Boren, Katie Williams, Lauren Post, Zhong-Jing Fang and soloist Cassandra Trenary—are about to launch a fashion line that's built around designs that can be worn outside of the studio. Titled Company Cooperative, the luxe line of women's wear is handmade in New York City's garment district and designed by the dancers themselves.
Royal Ballet dancers Yasmine Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell recently got together for a different kind of performance: no decadent costumes, sets, stage makeup or lighting. Instead, the principal and first soloist danced choreography by principal character artist Kristen McNally in a stark studio.
The movement is crystal clear, and at the beginning, Naghdi and Stix-Brunell duck and weave around each other with near vacant stares. Do they even know they have a partner? And how should they interact? The situation raises a much larger question: How often do we see a female duet in ballet?
As a student, Milwaukee native John Neumeier appeared in an opera at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. As Hamburg Ballet's artistic director and one of the world's leading choreographers, Neumeier now returns to the Midwest to direct and choreograph a new version of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, a co-production of the Lyric Opera, LA Opera and Hamburg State Opera. Set to open in Chicago September 23 with the Joffrey Ballet, the ambitious work will see additional engagements in Los Angeles and Hamburg over the next two years.
How did you come to be involved with this collaboration?
It was initiated by the director of the Lyric Opera, Anthony Freud, but I had already been in contact with Ashley Wheater about a separate project with the Joffrey Ballet. The two things came together—and this was really interesting to me because Chicago was important at the start of my career. I was born in Milwaukee, but most of my training was in or near Chicago.
You've previously created version of Orpheus for Hamburg Ballet. What about this particular production caught your interest?
When I got this offer from Anthony, I just went back to the piece and tried to sense what it meant to me now. Gluck's Orphée was part of a push to reform opera and to make a complete work of art involving music, text and dance. What interests me—particularly in this French version we are doing—is that dance plays such an essential role. When Agnes de Mille choreographed Oklahoma!, it was considered a revolution in musical theater, because dance moved the plot along. In Orphée, we can see that the same idea had been realized several centuries ago: that dance would not be just a divertissement, but a theatrical element, literally "moving" the plot along and expressing in another form the emotion of each situation.
Another idea in Orphée which fascinates me is its directness in projecting profound human emotions—emotions not used as an excuse for vocal virtuosity, but expressed in simple and direct musical terms. In Orphée, we have a mythical subject which is related in an extremely relevant, familiar, human way.
What happens when drones become part of the dance? For Margaret Jenkins Dance Company's latest work, Skies Calling Skies Falling, video artists David and Hi-Jin Hudge used a drone hovering 200 to 400 feet above the ground to film the dancers performing in an industrial granary. The resulting footage will be projected onto the floor and walls of the Taube Atrium Theater, creating a dystopian backdrop to the live performance.
Alex Carrington of MJDC, Photo by RJ Muna
It's been 34 years since Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling touched down on American soil, when The Royal Ballet first performed the great English master's tour de force ballet stateside. On September 22–24, Houston Ballet becomes the first North American company to perform MacMillan's epic chronicle of the murder-suicide of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Crown Prince Rudolf, and his 17-year-old mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera. Chronicling the last chapter of the Hapsburg Empire, the ballet is known for its true-to-life realism, and for the role of Rudolf, which transformed the way male ballet dancers drive a story. It's considered a dream role for a male dancer. And with seven pas de deux with five different women, a deadly difficult one at that.
Driving Houston Ballet's Mayerling train is principal Connor Walsh, who nearly missed this opportunity to dance the part when Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston Ballet's theatrical home, Wortham Center. Now moved to the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and back in rehearsal, Walsh took a break from his busy schedule to talk about the role of a lifetime.
Have you ever felt like your relationship to dance is something of an addiction? Not to worry, that's completely normal—it's simply the way our brains are wired.
This week, The Washington Post published an intriguing feature that looks at the science of what actually goes on upstairs when we're watching a live performance. The insight comes from the emerging field of neuroaesthetics, which uses tools like brain imaging to study the relationship between art and the brain.
Here are some of the most fascinating takeaways: