Embracing your strengths will lead to more success. Photo by Jim Lafferty

6 Ways To Embrace Your Type—And Get Cast More Often

When it comes to auditioning, you have to think like a casting director. What is your type? How can you embrace it so that you can get cast in the roles that fit you best?

Getting hired is about more than just talent. Directors are looking at everything: from your height, to your energy, to understudy requirements—if you are a replacement in a Broadway show, for example, you have to be able to slot into it seamlessly. The creative team will size you up immediately when you walk into the studio, so make sure you're projecting the right message from the start.


1. Showcase Your Strengths

Focus on rep and roles that suit you best. Here, a Martha Graham Dance Company audition. Photo by Rachel Papo

Maybe you're not quite sure yet what your type is. Casting director Michael Donovan recently gave this advice at a musical theater workshop put on by Los Angeles vocal coach Carol Weiss: "What do you have that no one else in the room has?"

If people always laugh at your stories, target comedy roles. If you are gifted with an exquisite physique, show it, and be sure to include body shots with your photos. If you have a lovely vulnerable quality, show it off in the story behind your solo or song.

2. Don't Try to be Something You're Not

An audition for A Chorus Line. Photo by Rachel Papo

Setting your sights on roles you're not right for will only lead to disappointment. If a director needs an older, seasoned, Fosse dancer for Chicago, and you come across as young, perky and wholesome, you probably won't be cast. On the other hand, Hello Dolly! hires dancers with excellent ballet training, and who have a period look. Actresses from the old movies did not have tattoos or body piercings; if you can't cover yours up, target more contemporary work.

3. Select Your Outfit Strategically

The right outfit can help a director imagine you in the work. Photo by Jim Lafferty

The choices that you make in clothing, hairstyle and grooming affect how people perceive you. If you're auditioning for a classic show, study movies from that era to get familiar with the particular style of hair and make-up. Or look at company members' Instagram accounts to see how they dress in rehearsal. Casting director Mark Simon recommends getting the most expensive haircut you can afford before an important audition. Wear something that is not only clean and flattering, but puts you in the mindset of the character or show.

4. Choose the Right Song

If you're auditioning for musical theater, your song choice can be pivotal. Photo by Kyle Froman

If you're auditioning for musical theater, your song should fit you perfectly. It should match your age, range, natural vocal ability and personality. If you resemble a particular character, learn their songs. With YouTube, you can do all kinds of research from home.

5. Go With The Flow

It's not just about you, but how you fit in with the group. Here, an audition for Shen Wei Dance Arts. Photo by Colin Fowler.

It's not just you at an audition. You're a piece of the puzzle. Richard Hester, supervising director of Jersey Boys, says they study how the performers fit together as a group. Stay open to direction, and listen carefully. Write down everything they tell you—this will come in handy if you're called back, or if you audition for the production again in the future.

6. Listen To Others' Advice

If friends tell you that you'd be perfect for a particular job, audition. Photo by Matthew Murphy for Pointe.

Others may perceive you differently than you see yourself. If everyone tells you that you are perfect for a particular company or show, audition. If you are asked to try out for a different role than you wanted, cooperate. They may see something in you that you never saw yourself.

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Brandt in Giselle. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Skylar Brandt's Taste in Music Is as Delightful as Her Dancing

American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's dancing is clean, precise and streamlined. It's surprising, then, to learn that her taste in music is "all over the place," she says. (Even more surprising is that Brandt, who has an Instagram following of over 80k, is "in the dark ages" when it comes to her music, and was buying individual songs on iTunes up until a year ago, when her family intervened with an Apple Music plan.)

Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

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:

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Courtesy The Joyce

Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

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