Career Advice

Don't Make These 5 Mistakes Before Your Next Audition

Atlanta Ballet audition photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe

In the days and hours before an audition, your to-do list might include researching the company, conditioning your muscles, updating your resumé or taking a long walk to clear your head. But what you don't do before pinning on your number can be just as critical to your success.

1. Don’t stray from your feel-good food routine.

Stick to what already works for you. Don't start a new diet less than a month or two before an audition, says registered dietitian nutritionist Sarah Krieger, who has counseled dancers and athletes at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in Florida. "Anyone can develop an allergy or aversion at any time, even the day of a big audition opportunity," she says. "Drastically changing your diet, going on a juice cleanse or adding a new supplement is a bad idea." Steer clear of foods you've never tried for two to three days before the audition, and avoid anything that you know upsets your stomach on the day of. If you want to be sure you—and your belly—will be comfortable during the audition, rehearse your meal plan about a week ahead of time and adjust as needed.

2. Stop thinking in terms of all or nothing.

How you think affects tension in your body, says Dr. Kate Hays of The Performing Edge, a sports and performance psychology practice in Toronto. "So allowing messages like 'This is my only shot,' or 'Only perfect will do,' to race through your mind can actually impact your physical performance," she says. Reframe these thoughts by reminding yourself of why you dance and what really matters to you—this is what should get you in the door of the audition, not a high-stakes ultimatum.

3. Auditions aren't the time to unveil a brand-new look.

The trick is simply to be comfortable, says Tiit Helimets. Now a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, he has auditioned for companies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean throughout his career. "Wear your favorite clothes—not a new outfit that could rip, ride up or otherwise be distracting," he says. Don't choose now to test or break in new pointe shoes or character heels, or debut a drastic new haircut or dye job. Fresh bangs or layers might obscure your face or distract you, and it can definitely be a confidence killer if you don't like your new 'do.

4. Don't obsess about messing up.

Picturing a flub or reflecting on a past mistake can predict trouble in your upcoming audition. "It doesn't give you any constructive information, only mental instruction on what to do wrong," says Hays. Helimets agrees: "You have to stop those thoughts in the moment and see yourself doing everything to the best of your ability—not someone else's."

If you feel stuck in an endless loop of negative thoughts or anxiety in the days before an audition, Hays recommends scheduling time to reflect on your concerns so you can shut them down for the moment and move on. The morning of, remind yourself that you took time to file those thoughts away and that they aren't serving you. Then, change your mind-set by listening to music you like or meeting a friend for breakfast. But if you're really wound up that day, drinking more coffee than normal won't do you any favors, says Krieger. "Too much caffeine can make you feel more anxiety than nerves alone."

5. Don't stand out for the wrong reason.

Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe

If you're taking a company class as part of your audition, someone from the staff will most likely meet you upon your arrival and show you the facilities, the studio and where you should get changed. But you may need to respectfully ask about where to stand for the beginning of class. "It's kind of rude to park yourself in a spot at the barre before class starts," says Helimets. "Remember that you are entering the daily life of the dancers who work there."

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