10 Artistic Directors Share What They're Looking For in a Dancer

Photo by Jim Lafferty

Have you ever attended an audition and wished that you knew what the director was looking for? We've rounded up some of our favorite quotes from our Director's Notes column over the past few years to give you a deeper glimpse into the minds of 10 artistic directors.

Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet

"I want to develop and nurture artists," says Wheater, seeking "people who are not afraid to be expressive, and understand all the layers that go into making a work above and beyond the steps."

Ingrid Lorentzen, Norwegian National Ballet


"I like athletic classical dancers, with very strong footwork and articulation," Lorentzen says. "But it's also about the feeling I get from them, who I think can adapt to the Norwegian way."

Gen Horiuchi, Saint Louis Ballet

"The minute you walk into the studio you are being evaluated," says Horiuchi. "I look for individuals who are technically and artistically well-rounded. I also look at how they engage with my dancers. Presence and personality are important."

Kevin O'Hare, The Royal Ballet

The Royal Ballet doesn't hold auditions, but if it's your dream company, your best bet is to find a way into its affiliated training program. "My first stop is The Royal Ballet School," says O'Hare, who assesses RBS students throughout their training. "I love somebody who really moves. A natural dance quality and musicality are so important. If you've got that, you can always work on the technique."

Adam Sklute, Ballet West

"I like an artist who creates magic onstage. Also someone who listens, because it's that attention to stylistic detail that matters so much."

Robert Hill, Orlando Ballet

Hill's primary focuses are solid technique and artistic versatility. "They have to be classically strong, but they have to be able to boogie," he says.

Devon Carney, Kansas City Ballet

"Musicality is paramount to me, as is attentiveness to the material and being able to exactly reproduce it quickly," says Carney. He also places great importance on a dancer's demeanor, professional appearance, resumé and photo.

Steven Wistrich, City Ballet of San Diego

"I look for dancers who are intelligent—right away they're picking up the steps," says Wistrich. "I look for personality—if they are dancing from the inside out rather than the outside in. I really like dancers who have a voice, who have something to express—with a light in their eyes. They shine."

Kevin Irving, Oregon Ballet Theatre

"I want dancers who can dance—that's something that can't be taught," says Irving. "I'm as much a sucker for a beautifully shaped foot or a great line, but I'm always drawn to people, even when they're young, who can embody that poetry."

Terrence Orr, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

"The look of the dancer is very important," says Orr, "and that can be defined in all kinds of ways. I want dancers who are not only great technicians but also gifted actors. An equally important part of the audition process is having conversations with the dancer to get to know their heart and how they will fit in."

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

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Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

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Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

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