6 Rules for Following Up After an Audition

Had a great audition but didn't get the gig? Here's how to tastefully stay in touch. Photo by Jim Lafferty.

If you made it through several cuts but didn't land a contract, you're probably wondering what went wrong. It's perfectly acceptable to ask for feedback—if you go about it the right way. Here's how company and casting directors want to hear from you so you'll be remembered for your dancing (not for nagging).


DON'T Follow Up Prematurely

If you get cut in the first round, it's not necessary to follow up. Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

If you didn't make the first cut, don't follow up. Andrea Zee, a casting director for Broadway musicals and tours, says she can't be helpful unless you've made it through several cuts. "It's just too hard with the number of people we're seeing to comment on your performance in the initial round," she says.

How you get in touch depends on what's most appropriate at that particular company, so do your homework. Some places, like Colorado Ballet, set up an online contact form, while others prefer you email the director or an administrator. At Martha Graham Dance Company, artistic director Janet Eilber says you may hear from her first. "We try to alert the final-round dancers to our recommendations—whether they need more training, if they should audition for Graham 2, and whether or not we see them ultimately joining the company—at the end of the audition, before they leave," says Eilber.

DO Get Specific

Be specific in your follow-up email. Photo Courtesy Stock Snap

If you're following up by email, Colorado Ballet artistic director Gil Boggs suggests writing something like "I made it through the entire process, and my number was 12" before inquiring about feedback. Zee says it's a joy to get a question that shows you've really thought about the role and expect to hear that there's an area where you need to improve. "Ask about some aspect of your Fosse technique or how you can bring more humor to your movement. Not 'What went wrong during the second combination?' " she says. When you do receive a response, investigate it further on your own. "If I say 'It was your port de bras,' don't email back to ask 'Well, was it my elbow?' " says Boggs.

DON'T Make Excuses

Following up isn't a chance to explain why you didn't perform your best. Eilber says she doesn't need to hear that you were sick or injured or that you'll be in better shape soon—it only tells her that you came to the audition when you weren't ready.

DO Share What's Next for You

Directors may be interested in what you've been up to since your audition. Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

"Update me on what you're dancing this year," says Boggs, "so I can think about the skills you're likely working on and if that matches up with what the company has coming up." You can also share the name of a coach or mentor. "That gives me the opportunity to touch base with someone who knows more about you than I can find out in an audition," he says.

DO Know When to Take "No" for an Answer

"I make it a point to get back to each person if feedback is appropriate," says Zee, "but sending an email every week crosses the line from proactive to worrisome." You don't want to be remembered for the wrong reasons, and casting directors keep careful files, warns Zee. But if you've kept in touch the right way, "I just might be able to call you back six months or a year later with a show you'd be perfect for."

Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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