While we continue to move ever closer to a post-pandemic world, many norms in the dance industry have shifted, and one of the biggest ones may be in the way dance auditions and castings are held. For now, the days of large cattle calls may be behind us (good riddance really!) as the past year's shift online and reliance on platforms like Zoom proved that casting directors really can source great talent from the comfort of their own home or office.
What does this mean for dancers? If you’ve not already dipped your toes back into auditioning, it’s time to prepare yourself for a new era of online and hybrid casting calls - from elaborate self-tape briefs, to learning choreography from videos, to ultimately attending much smaller dance castings. Check out these tips and tricks for how to nail these new ways of auditioning and book that job:
1. Invest in your self-tape and online casting set-up
You don’t need anything fancier than a smartphone to film a high quality video these days, but investing in a few more materials can really elevate your submissions and castings. For self-tapes, be sure to have a phone or camera to film, a ring light (more on that below), a tripod for your filming device, and a plain backdrop. Justine Menter, a choreographer and career coach for dancers, also suggests “investing in a smaller, portable ring light and tripod to film on the go.” You don’t have to spend tons of money on professional backdrops either - a well hung sheet or a solid-colored wall works just as well - just make sure your background is clean and uncluttered. For live online castings, look for a laptop stand that can hold your computer while you Zoom so you can go hands free - and not worry about your improvised stand of books falling over in the middle of your audition.
You might even get to do more auditions than ever now that you can book your next big gig from your bedroom.
2. Figure out your best lighting
A tip I saw on TikTok changed the game for my self-tapes: don’t use the phone holder on your ring light in the center of the light. Instead, place your filming device on a tripod in front of the light, raise the light higher than the device, and angle it down slightly. When the light catches your face in a close up for your slate, you’ll have a much more natural-looking glow.
3. Take it as seriously as an in-person audition
Julie Medeiros, Director of the Dance Department at Go 2 Talent Agency (GTA), says you should always, “show up to tape as you would show up to an audition. Just because you are at home taping is not an excuse to not dress or look the part.” It is definitely easier to get away with putting less effort into your self-tapes than an in-person dance casting or audition, but this is all we have these days! All the usual rules still apply, including doing your hair, makeup, and wardrobe to show off your personality and be unique in a pile of video files, which leads us to our next tip...
4. Utilize the freedom within self-tapes to stand out
The agents at GTA always emphasize the importance of standing out online to their clients. “Show off as much of your personality as you are able to,” Mederios says, “Without being in the physical room you need to establish a connection via video, so always make sure to slate: name, height, agency and any other details they ask you to include. I always suggest stating a fun and/or interesting fact about yourself so they can get to know who they are looking at.” Dancers don’t always get the chance to speak in an audition, so use your slate to your advantage and let them know why they should want your personality on the set!
Rachael Markarian, a professional dancer and actress who often averages at least five self-tapes a week, suggests dancers shift their mindset about self-tapes to see them as opportunities to be ‘mini-directors’. “Perhaps things you may not have been able to showcase at an in-person audition can now be something that features you and makes you stand out on a self tape,” she says.
5. Follow all directions to a T
Whether it’s a self-tape or a live casting, be sure to read the breakdown and details about what the casting directors want to see and follow instructions carefully. Believe it or not, whether you label your file the way they specified could influence how they feel you can follow directions on the job. “Generally, [casting directors] specify how they want self-tapes shot (horizontally vs. vertically), how to label your files, and they may include picture examples for angles, etc,” Menter explains, “The reason why it’s important to follow these guidelines is because casting offices are receiving so many submissions and need to move from them quickly, and we need to make it as easy for them to move forward in the process of booking us.”
"Auditions are an opportunity to do what you love, so find joy in that process and the results will come" - Rachael Markarian
6. Always log in early to online castings
Ever opened up Zoom and realized you have to update it, only then to realize you don’t have enough space on your computer for the download? Cue the anxiety attack 5 minutes before your casting. To avoid the stress, check for updates well before your casting time and then log in early - just like in-person dance auditions, being on time is being late! Be sure to show up early to Zoom rooms to test your mic and video beforehand.
7. Have a backup plan
Technology (and Wi-Fi) issues happen - we’ve all been there - but preparation is key. If your casting is on Zoom and you’re setting up your laptop, prep your phone on a tripod nearby just in case you have connectivity issues. As you’ve probably heard before, a dancer should always have a Plan B!
Post-pandemic, it may feel harder to get into “audition mode” from your living room, but the more you prepare your space and treat a self-tape or Zoom casting the same as you would in person, the better your chances are at success. As Markarian says, “Auditions are an opportunity to do what you love, so find joy in that process and the results will come.” And just think - you might even get to do more auditions than ever now that you can book your next big gig from your bedroom!