You're standing in the middle of a studio as a choreographer, casting director and producer all decide your fate. You feel confident that you rocked the audition combination, but something in their faces doesn't look promising. The problem might be as simple as your outfit—maybe it's not as flattering as you thought; maybe it's typecasting you in the wrong way; or maybe it's just a look that the directors dislike. In a profession that's about aesthetics as well as artistry, your outfit can play a major role in how adjudicators see you and your potential. Here, five insiders share the fashion mistakes they see most frequently—and the attire that gets dancers noticed in a positive light.
NO BAGGY CLOTHES
It's important to understand the company where you're auditioning. For Complexions, it's all about the line. We say “no baggy clothes" for our auditions and people will still show up in an oversized sweatshirt and booty shorts. Our dancers are known to perform in little to no clothing, and the directors want to see as much of the body as possible.
My advice: Know your body and know what looks good on it. Experiment beforehand; get suggestions from your friends. And keep your audition wear separate: Have a couple of outfits that you set apart for auditions (like you might with a suit or dress for job interviews), so they're ready when you need them and they won't look shabby or faded.
—Michael Moore, general manager of Complexions Contemporary Ballet
SIDE WITH SIMPLICITY
For Graham, the biggest faux pas is narrowing or pigeonholing the roles you could dance. For example, if you come with pigtails that make you look young and cute, you limit our ability to see you in different roles. Don't suggest a character in the way you dress. Err on the side of simplicity: neutral tones, close-fitting attire—maybe a leotard with tights. And remember: We're a classical company, so no bare legs.
—Janet Eilber, artistic director of Martha Graham Dance Company
BAN THE BANGLES
The biggest faux pas that I constantly see are women wearing drop-crotch pants, baggy flannel shirts tied around waists and too many accessories. Instead, dancers should wear form-fitting clothing that shows their lines and that they are in shape. Even at a hip-hop audition, directors want to see your legs. Choose skinny jeans, or even boyfriend-fit jeans. If I'm auditioning a dancer for representation who has a shirt around her waist, I'll assume that she is insecure and hiding a body part. And be careful with bangles: A woman once auditioned for us wearing so many bracelets you could hear her dancing the entire time. Just choose one accessory.
Whether you're auditioning for an agency or a recording artist, always come camera-ready. But know the job you're hoping to book. If you're auditioning for a musician, look at how his or her dancers have dressed in the past. If the artist is under 18, don't go in super-sexy. That's a big mistake.
—Steve Chetelat, agent with Bloc LA
KEEP IT CLEAN
When I'm casting a musical like Chicago, in which the dancers wear lingerie or black dance attire, dancers often think they should audition in highly sexualized outfits. “Not putting a hat on a hat" is an expression we use. The choreography is sexy and the songs are sexy, so if you overdo that aspect in your dress and performance, you can lose class, mystique and charm. A rule of thumb: Wear classic attire that you wouldn't be embarrassed to wear in front of your grandmother.
Neutral colors work best for makeup; in the fluorescent lighting of the audition room, bright red lipstick can be too theatrical. And unless your hair is part of the choreography—like in Rock of Ages—keep it out of your face. A dancer who constantly has to push back her hair reads as insecure.
—Benton Whitley, casting director with Duncan Stewart and Company
STAND OUT IN WHITE
Black tights hide a lot. For women, I prefer pink tights or shorts at an audition, something that really shows your muscle. It's a sea of shorts nowadays; sometimes it seems like all the men are auditioning in shorts. They should also wear well-fitting shirts, not loose T-shirts that hang. Tie it, or tuck it in.
In a room full of bodies, you want to be remembered. Colors are rampant at our auditions, so black is actually one of the rarest colors. White will also help you stand out. It shows that you're brave, aware of your body. Your dancing will always win out, as long as you show it.
—Stanton Welch, artistic director of Houston Ballet