Six Ways to Get Better at Getting Rejected
Allison Beler has auditioned for the Radio City Rockettes more than a dozen times. In 2014, she made it all the way through the final round. "I was waiting on a phone call for a job," she says. The call didn't come.
Rejection is inevitable in dance. But it still hurts. Beler, 31, says she's toughened as she's gotten older, but she still calls her mom and cries as soon as she steps onto the street after being cut.
Your ability to recover from rejection may strengthen with experience, but according to Joel Minden, a clinical psychologist and former ballroom dancer who works with dancers in Chico, California, it's also a skill that can be cultivated.
Avoid "The Three P's"
Pay attention to how you explain a rejection to yourself, Minden says. Watch out for what psychologists call "the three P's": Does it feel personal, permanent or pervasive? "Personal would be, 'I just don't have what it takes to dance at a high level,' " he says, "rather than externalizing the reason and saying, 'The people who rejected me are looking for something else.' " Thinking the situation is permanent means telling yourself you'll never be good enough. And pervasive means thinking it's not an isolated setback but an issue that extends to other areas of dance.
Pay attention to your reasoning, especially if after you land a role you're likely to say you got lucky, rather than acknowledging you're a good dancer who worked hard. The idea that every failure is personal and every success is thanks to external factors isn't just unproductive, it's highly unlikely to be true.
Look at the Evidence
An LA Dance Project audition. Photo by Kyle Froman
If you're telling yourself you didn't make the cut because you're a lousy dancer, look at the data, Minden suggests. What evidence is there that you're a bad dancer? What about evidence that you're a good dancer? Consider the feedback you get from teachers or directors, and whether you're working to constantly improve.
If you're devastated after being rejected—or if your fear of rejection threatens to derail an audition before it begins—remind yourself there's a world outside of this experience. Amanda Lenox, a counselor who works with dancers in New York, suggests asking yourself questions like: What's for dinner? What are you going to wear tomorrow? "Take your mind outside of what's happening in the present," Lenox says. The idea isn't to hide from your feelings—it's to get a little distance until you're ready to address them.
Find Positivity and Productivity
A cattle call for the national tour of A Chorus Line. Photo by Rachel Papo
After a tough audition, Beler sometimes takes herself out to lunch as a treat. Other times, she heads straight to class. "I want to remind myself I belong in this world," she says. "After a two-hour ballet class, I feel like a million bucks. I know I worked on my technique and bettering myself today."
Doing something to make you feel happy or accomplished—or both—can help shake off the funk of rejection. That could mean using your frustration to fuel your dancing, but if you're not ready to take class right away, don't force it. "If you beat yourself up, it's going to prolong the process of healing," Lenox says. "Choose an activity that will make you feel good."
Fake It Till You Feel it
Auditioning for Brian Brooks. Photo by Jim Lafferty
In dark moments, you may feel like you don't want to dance anymore. Even if that's true, you don't want to make a heat-of-the-moment decision. Remember that emotions are temporary, and that you don't have to let them dictate your behavior. Instead, think about your values, Minden says. If you still love dancing and you know that this latest rejection is just a setback along the way to something you want, you can choose to keep dancing, even if you are upset: "I don't feel like doing it right now, but I'm going to keep at it." Let your thoughts and emotions be authentic—if you're bummed out, let yourself feel bummed out. But you can behave however you want, and that may change how you feel.
Love the Process
The Rockettes. Photo by Rachel Papo
Remind yourself that dance is a journey. Work on a process-oriented outlook: "I'll just keep at it and try to make little improvements every day." Minden says, "Get feedback. Figure out what's going to help you take that next step."
Beler says she won't stop auditioning until she has to. "It's that fire within me that says I'm going to keep striving for this dream until it's physically impossible or until I get a piece of feedback that tells me, 'It's time. You need to be done with this,' " she says. "Dancing like a Rockette and seeing myself looking like a Rockette keep me going back."
It is a great tragedy for dance history that iconic ballet partnerships like Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev or Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov weren't able to document their backstage shenanigans on social media. (Okay, maybe not a great tragedy, but you have to admit that you're curious.)
Lucky for us, that isn't the case with today's star dancers—like American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside, aka The Cindies. These two aren't just onstage partners. They're serious #BestieGoals. Our evidence, as documented on Instagram, is as follows:
-Hey. U up?
-Ya. I'm at the ballet.
-Oh ok. Talk later.
-Nah, it's cool, it's a slow part right now.
Nope, it's not cool. Put your phone away. In the hushed darkness of an auditorium, light explodes from that screen like shrapnel, blasting those around you out of their viewing experience.
2017 felt like we were living the Upside Down of the popular Netflix series "Stranger Things." From Donald Trump becoming president, to the sexual harassment scandals that ricocheted into the ballet world, everything we thought we knew was turned on its head.
Yet while the deconstruction of institutional paradigms is frightening, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for redesign.
Ballet, much like our political parties, seems to be stuck in an antiquated format that's long overdue for a makeover. With the world changing at lightning speed, if ballet wants to survive it will have to undergo a radical reimagining. But what would that look like?
Dear dancers of the New York City Ballet,
I realize that you are scared because the future of the New York City Ballet is uncertain; you don't know who will man the ship, and your career that you've worked your entire life for feels under attack.
On social media some of you alluded to the idea that Peter Martins' downfall is a result of the times; a maelstrom of allegations sweeping the country, bringing down powerful men, for misdeeds proven and unproven. I understand that for many of you this feels unfair: Peter has helped you personally ascend the ranks of the company by believing in you, and mentoring you. For others the described behavior may feel abstract; it isn't something you've witnessed, and many of the accusations occurred long before your time, maybe even before you were born. And above all, how could you possibly betray the man who plucked you from the school and gave you the chance of a lifetime: to dance with one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world? How could you see this person, who gave you this chance, this gift, as the monster he's being painted as?
Throughout his remarkable career, the fiercely determined, intelligent and energetic Arthur Mitchell has become accustomed to being called a trailblazer. "Being a typical Aries, I like being the first," he says, laughing. "That's what I've been doing all my life."
This is true, especially when it comes to the discussion at the forefront of today's national dialogue about dance: diversity in ballet.
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win.
You've come a long way on "So You Think You Can Dance"—from assistant to the choreographer (Season 1) to creative producer (Season 14). What keeps you returning to the show?
"So You Think You Can Dance" was one of my first jobs, so it feels like home. I love the chaos of live television; as soon as one show is over you're on to the next.
Last Saturday night, Dance/NYC, Gibney Dance and the Actors Fund hosted a conversation on sexual harassment in the dance world. The floor was open for anyone in attendance to share whatever they wanted: personal stories, resources, suggestions.
The event brought to light some of the questions the dance world is facing, and though we don't yet have all the answers, it helped lay out the areas we need to address:
What would dance-specific sexual harassment training and policies look like?
Corporate harassment trainings tend to tell employees to avoid touching coworkers and to not wear revealing clothing in the workplace. Obviously, these rules aren't applicable to the dance world. Many in attendance agreed that everyone in the dance world should undergo training, so what should it include?
The ballet world can't get enough of Arthur Pita. With his maverick, surreal imagination, the self-styled "David Lynch of dance" brings a welcome theatricality to everything he touches, from his version of Kafka's The Metamorphosis to 2017's Salome for San Francisco Ballet.
The South African–born Pita competed in disco dancing and later performed with Matthew Bourne's New Adventures. Today, he is Bourne's offstage partner, and the pair live together in London. His latest work, which premiered in November, is a one-act adaptation of Dorothy Scarborough's 1925 Texan novel, The Wind, for The Royal Ballet.
We've been a fan of the space bun look since our Spice Girls days, which is exactly why we were so excited when hair and makeup artist Angela Huff brought the double-bun style back for our January cover shoot with American Ballet Theatre's Erica Lall. To give the '90s style a modern twist, Huff added a few braided details. Here's how to copy the look for your next class:
Photo by Nathan Sayers
At age 24, dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher already has accolades beyond his years. But this week, the Bessie Award–winning performer adds another impressive feat to his resumé: His company's Joyce Theater debut. Though tap is Teicher's focus, he masterfully combines everything from jazz to Lindy Hop to hip hop in his fresh, clever choreography.
We caught up with him for our "Spotlight" series: