Directors share their biggest audition pet peeves
Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy Joffrey.
Artistic director, Joffrey Ballet
Letting your eyes wander
“If you are constantly keeping your eyes on the director or the teacher for their approval, it means you’re not fully invested in your own work. Same with the mirror. There just isn’t a way to look in the mirror and stand in arabesque and achieve the right line.”
Forgetting your upper body
“There’s such a lack of use of the upper body in ballet today, and it stands out to me when someone doesn’t have épaulement and beautiful port de bras.”
Wearing too many layers
“We need to see what your body is like. Don’t wear your puffer boots. Tight-fitting legwarmers are okay, but eventually you have to take all of that off. Dancers try to be trendy and look like the professionals, but you’ve actually come for an audition. Get rid of the baggy clothing, and show us how you articulate your body.”
Sending an unclear video
“Sometimes people send audition videos and they’re wearing black tights, which keeps us from seeing the muscle development in the legs. If you don’t have the luxury of making the slickest videotape, that’s okay with me. It’s just about showing yourself in the most honest light.”
Photo by Ted Ely, courtesy Telsey + Company
Broadway Casting director, Telsey + Company
Being too needy
“If you’re coming to a musical theater open call, it isn’t appropriate at that stage to follow up. Later on in the process, if you’ve been in a few times, then it’s more appropriate to get feedback. When you’re in the room, don’t ask, ‘When are you going to make decisions?’ or ‘When will I hear?’ Do it privately with the casting director or have your agent find out if you really need to know.”
Asking long questions
“It’s great to ask questions if you’re missing a step or you need something reviewed. But be careful about the way that you communicate your questions. Don’t take up too much of the choreographer’s time.”
Dressing for the wrong audition
“Know what project you’re going in for and dress appropriately. You’re gonna wear something different to An American in Paris audition than what you’d wear to a Rock of Ages audition. But, ultimately, if you’re worried about your outfit, you’re worried about the wrong thing.”
“If you mess up the combination, don’t let it show on your face. The creative team has already been watching you as you learn it. If you fall out of your turn, the people who know dance know when it’s just an ‘oops,’ that it’s not something that’s gonna happen every day. Don’t let it get you down. Because if you get cast, we want people in the room who can roll with the punches and move on.”
Paul Lightfoot favors originality over copycats. Photo by Elena Lekhova, courtesy NDT.
Artistic director, Nederlands Dans Theater
Recycling a solo
“Please don’t learn a solo from our repertory. Do not go on YouTube, find a video, learn it and show it. That’s the most dangerous thing you can do. You’d have to be pretty special to impress me in a solo that I made. I love to see audition solos that people have made themselves. Even if you’re not a professional choreographer, when you create something for yourself, you naturally play to your strengths. It’s a way of expressing yourself.”
Not being aware of others
“Space management is a big pet peeve. Don’t just crash into everybody because you want to make sure you do the exercise properly. That is someone I’m not interested in working with. To watch somebody who can navigate all the people in the room, get the combination in and be on the music, that’s creativity.”
Bugging the director
“I find it tiresome when people push too hard after an audition. We’re all very busy people, and I’m not so interested in answering emails. If it didn’t work out, you should have a feeling why. Think about what you could have done better. Talk honestly with yourself. You can make it a positive experience even if you end up with a negative result.”
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.