An Open Letter to Artistic and Executive Directors: Stop Making Dancers Pay to Audition
I write this letter knowing full well and first-hand the financial challenges of running an arts organization. I also write this letter on behalf of dancers auditioning for your companies. Lastly, I write this letter as a member of society at large and as someone who cares deeply about the culture we are leading and the climate we create in the performing arts.
This is a letter about the decision to charge dancers for their job interviews. I find it intolerable that of all of the positions in arts organizations, dancers are the ones who have to pay to be interviewed.
Wouldn't it seem ridiculous to ask your prospective director of development to come to their job interview with their resume, references and $30? How about your stage manager? How about you?
Looking for parallels in other fields, musicians auditioning for orchestras, shows or gigs do not need to pay to audition. Athletes trying out for professional teams are not asked to pay $30 before they suit up and go through drills.
When we ask dancers to do it, we say to ourselves, "We are a struggling company trying to make ends meet. We are incurring an expense and so we have to try to make that up."
This doesn't hold enough water (especially when the audition takes place in your home studio and you are not traveling or paying studio rental) because you pay this business expense when finding new employees or contractors for all other positions. The company incurs the cost to post all other jobs, go through resumes, perform phone interviews, carryout in-person interviews, check references and so on.
If you charge a fee and consider it a master class, then it's not an audition. It's not a job interview. It's a workshop, which has very different intentions. They are important for sure, but not the same thing.
I ask you to consider that unless all new hires in all areas of your organization are asked to offset the cost it takes to interview them, then please treat dancers with the same respect and let them interview for you like an adult, with dignity.
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
It's a much-repeated part of Francesca Hayward's origin story that she discovered ballet at age 3, when her grandparents bought a video of The Nutcracker to keep her occupied and she immediately started dancing around the room. What's less well-known is that there was another video lined up next to The Nutcracker that Hayward liked to dance along to: Cats. "I really just did the White Cat bit and fast-forwarded the rest," she remembers. "I'd make my friends who came around be the other cats."
Twenty-four years later, she's not only become a Royal Ballet principal, but has been cast as Victoria the White Cat in Tom Hooper's new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out in theaters on December 20. "I remember the director telling me I'd got the part: 'Just to let you know you're the lead in a Hollywood film,' he said." Hayward laughs. "This is crazy!"
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.