FAQ: Cambridge Dance Company Auditions

Auditions often stir up feelings of anxiety and self-doubt instead of the serenity and confidence that dance typically brings to us.  Dancers have mere minutes to demonstrate their years of training and prep work.  The value of their other skill sets is reduced to a bullet on a resume, if that.  And then there is the universe, with its perverse sense of humor, inevitably directing a judge’s focus to a dancer the very moment she forgets the choreography. I find it a wholly unjust process.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a suitable alternative to holding auditions.  To make the best of a potentially tense environment, I try to keep auditions as relaxed as possible.  For example, I do not assign dancers a number to wear, as it only heightens the intimidation factor. Instead, they pick a bib from a batch of characters.  Snoopy, rock star, and Alice in Wonderland are a few of the options from which auditionees can choose.  This exercise accomplishes two goals: it allows me to easily keep track of and identify dancers, and adds some fun and levity to the situation.

Below is an inside look at Cambridge Dance Company’s approach to auditions, as well what I am searching for in potential members.  My hope is that this information demystifies the process and eases at least some of the angst.

How do I audition for Cambridge Dance Company?

Cambridge Dance Company currently has rolling auditions, which means we’ll work with interested dancers to set up a time to attend a rehearsal.  Just send us a note (cambridgedancecompany@gmail.com) , and we will get the ball rolling.  The format will likely follow our typical rehearsal; we’ll start with a warm up, run through a few technical exercises, and then work on choreography.

What do you look for in prospective members?

At a high level, both a dancer’s technique and fit with the current group are equally important, and either one can be a deal breaker.   Technique is fairly easy to gauge.  Any potential member should be prepared to execute double turns, have solid extensions and leaps, and be able to pick up choreography relatively quickly.

I find it far more difficult to assess how a new dancer will gel with the rest of the company. In the limited time span of an audition, it is rare to form a significant connection with the participants, making it very difficult for me to envision what the dancer may contribute and the role she may play.  To combat this challenge, right or wrong, I have developed a practice of cultivating my opinion of the auditionees before I ever lay eyes on them.  Much can be gleaned from the communication with prospective members before, during, and even after the audition.  Oftentimes my first interaction with (and thus first impression of) prospective members is via an email.   I’m hardly the grammar police, silently correcting  misplaced modifiers or dangling participles as I read their inquiries.  But I am impressed by those that seem respectful and approachable.

When I meet the dancers in person, I am looking for those who are their most genuine, authentic selves.  Whether someone is an introvert or extrovert, wallflower or team clown is irrelevant to me.  The common characteristics I seek are kindness, thoughtfulness and flexibility.

What is the best way to prepare for auditions?

Do your homework

While auditions may feel like a one-way street, dancers do in fact have a choice in the companies with whom they wish to share their talents and time. Whether someone is interested in Cambridge Dance Company or another group, a little research on the organization is an easy way to determine if it is a good fit.   Knowing the genre of dance, rehearsal commitment, and if the position is paid or unpaid, are all important criteria to consider.  If the group does not match your prerequisites, consider auditioning for practice.

Practice auditioning

If possible, I always advise fellow dancers and students to practice auditioning. There is no substitute for the feeling of having strangers stare at you, take notes and, yes, judge you.  It can be nerve wracking to even the most confident and skilled dancers.  However, I suggest asking the director for permission to go through the process for practice.  Companies may only have a limited number of slots available and offering a position to someone who has no intention of joining is frustrating.

Take class

The single best way to prepare for any audition is to take dance classes.  Not only will this help dust off and hone technique, but it exercises the mind and readies it for quickly absorbing (and reversing) choreography.

My number one audition tip

One of the toughest parts of my role is notifying dancers that they did not make it into the company. To them, I say with heartfelt honesty: I hope to see you again.   While I realize rejection can smart, when I see dancer come back and audition again, it is signal to me that she is not just interested in being in any company, but she is interested in this company. And that may just be the leg up on the competition needed.