dancers at a Rockettes audition

Let's be honest - looking for a dance job is a difficult task! And whether you love it or hate it, the reality is that auditioning is an inescapable part of a dancers life. But never fear - here is a step-by-step guide, full of advice to help make sure you remain calm and prepared the next time you walk into an audition.

The more prepared you are, the less frantic the entire experience becomes, and - odds are - the better your dancing is!

Before

Seeking out auditions

Finding dance auditions can be overwhelming - believe me, I get it. But take a deep breath - this is your career. YOU are in charge, and it's up to you to make it happen. Start by sitting down and spending time researching what kinds of opportunities are coming to your area. Even if you're represented by a dance agency who will be sending you to many of your auditions, it's always in your best interest to be proactive, stay motivated, and remain connected. Though it may seem daunting, you can easily accomplish this with a few easy steps.

First, you need to figure out what types of auditions work for you. Consider your background - what kind of dance training have you received? What sort of styles of choreography interests you? Are you after a particular role? There's so much out there, but you don't want to over complicate your life by trying to do it all! Here's a good place to start: make a list of the things you love most about dance. Then consider how to incorporate those into your audition practice. If you’re all about floorwork, you may want to seek out modern dance companies. Love to put on those pointe shoes, but not a tutu? A company focused on contemporary ballet will be good for you. Headed for the bright lights of Broadway? Focus on jazz or musical theater casting calls (and get those toes a tappin'!). Or maybe you see yourself as a backup dancer - focus on finding jobs that will give you opportunities to freestyle.

The internet is a wonderful resource, but it can definitely sometimes be daunting. Lighten your load by finding a one-stop-shop that will point you to tons of different kinds of opportunities. Good news - DancePlug offers a multitude of weekly audition posts from around the world!

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Now that you have an idea of what auditions you’d like - perhaps you put a few on your calendar! - let’s move to the next phase.

Do your homework

Take a little bit of time in advance to do some research. If you're auditioning for a role in a musical, jump onto YouTube and watch some performance videos of someone who is known for doing that part. If you're going for a specific show, or dance company, take some time to go on their website. Learn about the kind of choreography they do, or what they look for in their dancers. If you want to be extra prepared, you can even look up pictures of who is going to be in the casting team, so when you walk into that room you know exactly who you're performing for. Other resources that help with research are IMDB and Wikipedia. But one of the best resources is your community! Ask around and see if anyone else has participated in this audition before. The truth is, you can never do too much research. The more prepared you are, the less tense the entire experience becomes, and - odds are - the better your dancing will be!

Plan ahead

Auditioning is stressful enough - the last thing you want to be doing is running around like a headless chicken on the morning of an audition! Do yourself a favor and get prepared. Make sure you have your resume and headshot printed out and ready to go - trust me, there's nothing worse than running into unexpected printer issues when you're trying to get out the door to make it to a casting call on time. Have you thought about what you're going to wear - are you going to wear your audition outfit, or do you want to change there? Do you need specific shoes - tap, pointe, heels? How are you going to style your hair? How much makeup will you need? (Stuck on this one? Give our article "The Importance of Make-Up for Dance Auditions" by former dancer and celebrity makeup artist Tym Buacharern a read.)

What To Pack

Your audition bag is going to be one of your greatest tools! (Besides your incredible technique, of course). If you don't know where to start, have a look at our Top 10 Dance Bag Essentials For Any Audition.

Take care of your body

As dancers, our bodies are our instruments. We want to make sure they are tuned to the perfect pitch - especially when we’re preparing for an audition! You know your body better than anyone, so make sure that you do whatever you need to take care of it. Here are some ideas:

  • Take an Epsom salt bath. This will relax your muscles and help with any injuries you may be dealing with. For more tips on injury prevention, read GYROTONIC trainer Allie Christensen's article "7 Injury Preventing Practices for Dance Audition Season"
  • Use muscle creams to help eliminate any soreness you're experiencing from all of your dance training. Some popular brands include: Icy Hot, Biofreeze, Deep Blue Rub, Tiger Balm, and arnica cream.
  • Roll, roll, roll, if you don't have a roller, invest in one! Your body (and your IT-band) needs it
  • Massage, even if it means you need to trade with a friend
  • Last - but certainly not least! - get some sleep, and make sure to eat a good breakfast. You want your body to be fully fueled in order for you to dance at your best.
Set yourself apart from the crowd…

During

Present the best you

Arrive early. Remember, your audition starts the moment you walk in the building - and you don't want your first impression to be when you're sweaty and frazzled, bursting into the room! Make sure that you are always conducting yourself in an extremely professional manner - you never know who you're going to run into. Put yourself in a calm frame of mind that will help you to be your most gracious, kind, organized, and confident self. Set yourself apart from the crowd by being the kind of dancer you would want to hire!

Don’t overthink

Yes, auditioning is a tense process. But don’t forget - this is what you've been training for. You have all of the skills you need - trust yourself! Top 10 of SYTYCD Season 15 Genessy Castillo sums it up: “You should be comfortable performing. And if you're not - that's okay, work on it! As a dancer, your job is to entertain, so don't be afraid to fully embody who you are, and just perform and give everything you have."

After

If appropriate, follow up

Though you never want to be overbearing or annoy casting directors, there are several scenarios where it may be appropriate for a polite follow-up. Perhaps you have a personal connection to the choreographer, or it was a smaller audition and you spent a lot of time with someone one-on-one. Send an email thanking them for the experience, or better yet, send a handwritten note. For me personally, I had postcards printed fairly inexpensively at Staples - one side had my headshot, and the other side had room for a personal note and my contact information. Even if you weren't right for this particular role, a follow-up shows that you appreciated the opportunity and really care about the work. Who knows? Maybe next time the casting director is looking to fill a role, your face will come to mind.

Whether you got the job or not, be gracious

No matter what the result, take it as a lesson

Whether you got the job or not, be gracious. One audition does not define you, or your worth. Dancing is your passion, and you've been working incredibly hard at your craft. Reflect on what you can learn from the experience - is there something you could have done differently? How will you change your approach next time? Keep your chin up - there is always another opportunity coming your way.

These steps are just a guideline to help you find your way in the industry - remember, every dancer’s path is different! Focus on enjoying the ride, and never forget that no matter how difficult it seems sometimes, you are doing what you love. How amazing is that?!

We saved the best for last! Check out our coverage of the top 10 dancers from Season 15 of So You Think You Can Dance, and learn from their advice about surviving auditions.

About the author

Anne Luben has performed works by notable choreographers such as Donald McKayle, Bill T. Jones, Jiri Kylian, Idan Cohen, Alex Ketley, and Summer Lee Rhatigan, among others.