Begin Again: The Audition Grind
After eight months of reestablishing my technique, rebuilding my stamina and rediscovering my unique strengths as a mover, I decided I was ready to start auditioning. (Read: I’m not sure anyone ever feels truly ready to audition, but I’m all about manifesting these days.) I’ve joined the other 10,000 (-ish?) dancers currently submitting self-tapes into the void, hoping beyond reason that someone will see my work and take a chance on me.
Despite being 27, I’m really just starting out, which means I am both unrepresented (meaning I don’t have an agent yet, though I hope to have one eventually) and non-Equity. (Whew, boy!) It’s a challenging stage of the process that I think most dancers can relate to. At one point or another, the majority of us will spend some time grinding on our own, honing our audition skills and seeking to fill out our resumés so that when our dream jobs come calling, we are ready.
This month I’m sharing a bit about my process for finding auditions, submitting self-tapes, and taking advantage of networking opportunities without support. Full transparency: It’s exhausting, and it’s taken a little extra effort to be enthusiastic about it. Thankfully, I’m still finding joy in this crazy journey.
The Room Where It Happens
Kicking off a dance career is always difficult, even when the industry is booming. Kicking off a dance career without representation in an industry hobbled by a multiyear pandemic? Insane. For starters, without an agent, there are a number of auditions I won’t even know about and rooms that I simply won’t be let into. According to a March 2020 Dance Magazine article, “agents communicate with casting directors and are in the know about opportunities, auditions and upcoming projects. They submit your headshot, resumé and other materials to casting and can often schedule invited calls or general meetings beyond the required open calls,” explains writer Candice Thompson.
Thankfully, there are ways to learn about many auditions on your own. Over the past couple of months, I have spent a lot of time digging through websites like dance.NYC, playbill.com, backstage.com and actorsaccess.com. For company auditions that may not be listed on these platforms, I’ve been paying close attention to social media accounts and individual websites, hoping to find a break. This month I submitted for a dance call for Phantom of the Opera on Broadway that I found on the Playbill site, an Equity chorus audition for the Jagged Little Pill tour that I found on backstage.com, a production called The Night Falls, by BalletCollective, that I found through Dance/NYC, and a Zoom audition for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago that I found on social media.
Ask the Experts
Once I find audition listings, I’m faced with my next hurdle. Without a team of experts giving me feedback, it’s hard to know which listings are reputable or worth my time. I don’t always know who is actually hiring (sometimes unions require shows to hold auditions, even if they’ve already hired all the talent they need), which opportunities I would be a good fit for, and which artistic staff might have a good reputation.
I’ve tried to solve this problem by tapping into my own network of dance friends and asking for their opinions. If those resources come up short, I can do some sleuthing online to glean information on the choreographer’s background, see what other dancers have said about working for them, and check out clips of their previous work on social media. If all else fails, I submit for whatever sounds interesting and hope for the best.
One perk of not being represented means I have very little pressure to submit for opportunities I don’t actually want. For example, I know that most out-of-state gigs are likely not a good fit for me and my stage of life right now. I’m setting my audition radius close to home, and unless it’s a show that I am really excited about, I simply don’t submit.
Too Much Talent
I recently attended a mock audition held by Clear Talent Agency at Steps on Broadway. During the Q&A portion of the workshop, one of the agents, Loretta Morrison, said that some casting directors are receiving something like 3,000 submissions per audition these days. That’s a lot of information for them to consume and artists to differentiate between. Which means that I need to accept that a portion of my self-tapes will never actually be seen by anyone (or if they are seen, it’s likely by someone whose brain has been turned to mush!), and there really isn’t anything I can do about it.
Now, if you’re thinking “That’s depressing,” you’re not wrong. But I’m not losing hope. It reminds me of a lesson my mom taught me when I was in college. After returning from yet another bad first date, I was feeling disappointed and called her to vent. Her reply was simple: “The more you date, the more you date.” It’s a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find someone you have a genuine connection with. Similarly, the more auditions you submit for, the more chances you have to be seen by casting directors, and the more likely you are to book something eventually. If you don’t try at all, you most certainly won’t succeed.
Burn, Baby, Burnout
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the virtue of the numbers-game mentality has its limit. Filming a reasonable number of self-tapes can be fun—it’s a unique class experience and a chance to do what I love. Filming an inordinate number of self-tapes can lead to burnout (and to bankruptcy if you’re renting studio space to film).
Therefore, I have been kind to myself. If there is an audition I’m excited about, and I have the energy for it, I will throw my hat in the ring. If I’m tired and overwhelmed, I will skip it and hold out for the next one that comes at a better time for me. At this age, I understand that life is all about balance. I don’t just want to accomplish this goal—I want to enjoy the journey on the way.