Don't Get Cut

Directors share their biggest audition pet peeves

Ashley Wheater

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

Rachel Hoffman

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."

Recovering poorly

“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.

Paul Lightfoot

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."

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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.

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