Point Park students have been hired after performing in New York City. Photo by Katie Gling, Courtesy Point Park

How to Prepare for When Directors Attend Your School's Performance

College faculty want to help you build a bridge to the working world. So it should be no surprise that they sometimes invite in artists who could potentially hire you someday. "At NYU Tisch, opening night is typically open to alumni, many of whom are working choreographers, and we invite artistic directors to the final night of the run—each one gets a press kit with the graduating dancers' bios, and we host a reception afterward," says Seán Curran, chair of that dance program. "We're not agents, but with a little help, many of our students make their own chances."


How to Prepare

Do your research. If you have advance notice that a choreographer or director will be in attendance, spend a little time brushing up on their work. Take a look at their website, watch performances on YouTube, and read press on the company to understand their vision, suggests Garfield Lemonius, chair of the dance department at Point Park University.

Stay the course. Don't change your approach in performance to impress someone in the audience. "Maybe that choreographer's style requires performing with a lot of abandon—it doesn't matter," says Mary Lisa Burns, dean of dance at New World School of the Arts. "Any choreographer is going to expect to see you fulfill the work you're performing as asked, even if it's not like theirs."

Trust the process. If knowing that a scout is out there amplifies performance anxiety, try to lower the stakes in your mind, says Lemonius. Trust that your classes and rehearsals have prepared you.

Robert Battle teaches New World School of the Arts students.

Maria Flores, Courtesy New World School of the Arts

Next Steps

  1. If an artistic director reaches out to you and you don't have a deep knowledge of the company, go see a performance in person and sit down with any alumni in the company if you can, suggests Burns.
  2. A choreographer's first move will typically be to invite you to a company class or an upcoming audition, says Lemonius. Use this opportunity to show how you'd interact with the rest of the dancers and get a feel for the culture.
  3. Before making a decision, consider where you want to be in six months, a year or even five years. "You need to know enough to say 'Yes, I'd love to' or 'No, that's not right for me,' " Burns says.

Students at NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Travis Magee, Courtesy NYU

How They Got Scouted

"Gaspard Louis was invited to a performance and came up to me after to ask about a student—I connected them right away. And after a master class, Akram Khan was drawn to several of our dancers and asked if I would send them to an audition for his new work at The Shed. One of them got a contract while he was still in his final semester." —Seán Curran, NYU

"Rasta Thomas became interested in Kenny Corrigan for the Bad Boys of Ballet when he watched a Point Park performance at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Destiny Rising event in 2013. At the same show last year, Roni Koresh saw student Callie Hocter—she had auditioned for him in the past, but the performance solidified that he wanted her in the company." —Garfield Lemonius, Point Park

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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