Are auditions rigged? Sometimes I see mediocre dancers make it into a company, and I just don't get it. The audition process is unnerving for me without feedback or any understanding of the rules.
—Madison, Santa Monica, CA
I've heard of dancers who landed a job because they had a sponsor who paid their salary or a wealthy parent who was a donor. But those are exceptions. Typically, training at a company's school or summer intensive may give you a leg up. Or perhaps the director is more interested in hiring dancers based on characteristics aside from technique, like being open to challenges or working in a collaborative setting. Also remember that directors tend to pick dancers who fit the company's style, body type and need for a particular height.
Where does this leave you? Apart from attending multiple dance programs and auditions, consider participating in competitions and conventions. Use the experience to build relationships with teachers, choreographers and judges—they may lead to future job opportunities.
You also mentioned that the audition process is unnerving for you. Learning how to manage your anxiety can help you perform at your peak in these situations. I recommend these techniques to calm your nerves during and before your next audition: Take five slow, deep breaths to metabolize stress hormones and improve coordination. Reframe the audition in a positive light, such as "I'm excited and ready to go," or think of it as a free class with a choreographer you love. And set reachable goals ("I'll do six auditions a month") versus outcome goals ("I've got to get this job"), which raise the stakes unnecessarily.
Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.