How I Did It: Secrets Of a Successful Audition
When you're competing against a crowded audition room full of talented dancers, it can feel next to impossible to be the one chosen for the gig. What does it actually take to succeed? Three dancers who recently landed contracts share their keys to success.
Dancer: Roderick Phifer
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Photo by Gabriel Bienczyzki, Courtesy BalletX.
What was your mindset going into this audition?
To be a conqueror. I'm usually such a nervous person, but I told myself that nothing was going to get in the way of my focus that day.
How did you prepare?
I got to the audition 45 minutes early and did a few yoga stretches. I listened to Rihanna—her story of being a small-town girl and building herself up from the bottom really inspires me. I ate a bagel, a banana and berries and made sure I had plenty of water and Gatorade to stay hydrated.
What do you think it was that made this audition successful?
I made a decision to look at the choreographers and the directors as they were watching me to let them know that I was present in the room. During certain parts of the audition, I felt more uncomfortable executing the steps, but I just had to push through. I think once you master being uncomfortable, you become more successful in auditions.
Dancer: Jenna Marie
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Company: Ballet Hispánico
Photo by Paula Lobo, Courtesy Ballet Hispánico.
Did you learn anything from the audition?
It is absolutely essential to show who you are in each step presented to you. Directors are not looking for perfection. They want to see how you perform and how you fit in with the company. Doing your research allows you to get a sense of what the director may be looking for. Coming prepared into the audition allowed me to have the confidence to enjoy the process.
What advice you would give to young auditioners?
Truly, one hundred percent believe in yourself. Having confidence even when you mess up allows the director to see how you work and how you recover.
Dancer: Yazmeen Laidler
Hometown: Miami, FL
Company: Ailey II
Ms. Laidler in Marcus Jarrell Willis "Stream of Consciousness."Photo by Kyle Froman, Courtesy Ailey II.
What was your mindset going into this audition?
I was thinking, "I have to prove to this panel that I am the best candidate for the job." My nerves had gotten the best of me in previous auditions, preventing me from truly showing my personality. Not everyone gets invited to the Ailey II audition, so I had to trust that I would do just fine if I presented myself as the best artist I could be.
Do you have a pre-audition routine?
I always call my mom. After talking to her I feel more calm and at ease.
What is something you learned from this audition?
The judges behind the table want to see someone who can enjoy the simple movements—like gestural phrases—in addition to powerhouse choreography. Even if the phrase isn't what you're used to, or you mess up, you can still catch someone's eye because of your joy and confidence.
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"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.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.