By Choreographer, Dance Educator and career Coach Justine Menter:
Being a professional dancer is an incredibly fulfilling career: Those lights hitting us on stage, the energy of an audience, expressing ourselves with our bodies. But that’s easier said than done. Many dancers spend most of their time auditioning, and less of their time actually performing. How do we get paid to do what we love? Cue the audition-class cycle. Many (or most) of those auditions will result in a cut or a callback without a booking. This is the life of an artist. How can we propel ourselves forward between the auditions and turn the “no’s” into not-now’s, not-yet’s or not-meant’s?
1. Don’t take it personally
I know I know, this is WAY easier said than done. It’s really simple to jump into self-talk like:- I wasn’t good enough. – They didn’t like me. – I’ll never book a job. But we have to remember that it’s a full production (whether it’s a stage show, a commercial, film, cruise, etc) and the dancers are generally just one aspect of it.
This means there is SO much more that goes into play beyond your talent and drive. The budget, their aesthetic, pre-made costumes, availability and so forth. Most of the time we just don’t know the reason we don’t book. Whether you’re cut at an in-person audition or you’re ghosted from an online submission, it’s not about YOU! You could be too tall, too short, not be friends with the choreographer or even look like somebody’s ex. All things out of your control. So if you can’t control it, let it go. This one wasn’t meant for you and on to the next!
2. Remember the benefits beyond the booking
Believe it or not, showing up to an audition provides even more than just the potential to book a job. Obviously we need to pay rent! BUT the act of getting ready, psyching ourselves out on the way to the audition, being within the process of it, and allowing ourselves to accept the outcome have incredible benefits to our artistry and our journey. It provides resilience, practice, and comfort to continue to show up, even in the face of possible rejection.
3. Practice makes progress
When you choose a life as a freelance artist, you will be a professional audition-er. There is a formula and there is importance to habitually being a part of that process. You learn the habits that help you perform better both physically and mentally.
‘For example: I feel better when I’m not rushing. So getting there early, but not signing in, could help me get my bearings and feel comfortable. This was helpful to my performance in the long run because I wasn’t so in my head. Or, perhaps you need to know everyone in the room. So you learn with experience that researching the choreographers and production company the day before helps better prepare you.
Furthermore, you learn what makeup stays on your face, how your hair needs to be styled so it doesn’t change with the humidity of the studio, and which shoes are the most comfortable for being on your feet all day. Life lessons that you will carry through your time in the circuit and will serve you in your success.
4. You get to connect
The connections. I repeat – the connections! You meet people at auditions. You start seeing a lot of the same people there. You bond, you start to guess who is going to get cut or kept, you help out and give someone your compact mirror to borrow. That person then could become your friend. That person could possibly hire you later along in your journey. That person could use you for their carnival piece and then you meet someone else from that cast who hires you for something else!
The point is, you never know. The opportunities are ripe and it’s important to keep an open mind. Not to mention friends and support in the community is invaluable.
Read “How To Make Friends in A New City” here
5. You’ll be fine
You may not be right for this particular job, but the director keeps you in mind for another project you would be perfect for down the line. The choreographer keeps you in mind for a different role (maybe a lead one!?). The casting director sends your stuff to a friend who is casting something else. Maybe this happens in 2 weeks, 2 months or maybe even a year down the line. You are always “on”, there’s always projects being made here in LA, and you won’t book any of them if you don’t show up.
6. It’s a free class!
Adopting this mindset was super helpful for me as a young dancer in LA. Not “I have to” show up or my agents will get mad, but “I get to” dance today.. for FREE. I get to move my body, learn choreography, understand another’s musicality, express myself, burn calories, expand my dance vocabulary, challenge my body and my mind, observe the inner-workings of the creative process. Again, for FREE. You get my drift?
I hope this provides a bit of solace in an ever-evolving audition landscape. Remember: your persistence, hard work and passion will get you far, your timing is your own, and your journey is unique. Happy auditioning, y’all!