Don't Get Cut
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."
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: