Endless Auditions

Auditions–I've done them at every stage. I prayed my way through auditions for Sugar Plum, summer intensives and BFA programs. You'd think I would have this down to a science! But after all my experience, I've found that I'm still always in for a surprise. Company auditions are a new venture. It's a completely different setting. Repertoire is unpredictable and the competition is feisty.

 

Last weekend, I went to the Mark Morris Dance Group audition, just for kicks. I've always had a soft spot for his work, so I saw it as an opportunity to take class from a master (he was unfortunately not there). About 60 pre-registered women filed into a room at the studios in Brooklyn hoping to snag one of two open spots (there were several audition sections through the day and my number was in the 300s).

 

Here are my tips for your students who may be prepping for professional company auditions:

 

  1. Be active: Don't be shy! Ask questions and stand where you'll be seen. Of course, this is within reason. Being too eager or disrespectful is never attractive.
  2. Do your homework: Check out clips of the company if you don't know their movement style. Find out what they have been or will be performing. There's a good chance that they will teach phrases they are currently familiar with.
  3. Warm-up, for real: SI and college auditions almost always begin with class. Don't ever assume the same for companies. We went straight into choreography and learned three different phrases from the company's rep.
  4. Dress appropriately: One girl walked in with ballet shoes on and a MMDG dancer called her out on it. If she had done step number two, she would have known that the company usually dances barefoot. I also saw many outfits that were too baggy for this classical modern audition. When you look the part, you become the part.
  5. Keep auditioning: Don't get discouraged. The company is also auditioning you. It may come to the point of someone fitting into an old costume. Keep on trucking–the more you practice, the calmer you will feel.
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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