On Friday, March 16th the students of BDC’s Professional Semester woke up and arrived at the studio bright and early for their first mock audition of the program. The series of four mock auditions (theater, company work, hip hop/commercial, and decade-themed) allow the students to experience a typical dance casting and also receive constructive feedback from a panel of experts including BDC faculty, talent agents, and casting directors. Like a normal audition, the Professional Semester students are evaluated not only on their dance technique and style, but also on their headshots and resumes, physical appearance, attention to detail, and self-confidence.
Each audition begins with “slating,” a process in which each dancer steps forward to introduce his or her name and a memorable fact. “Slating is the first opportunity for us to get to know you,” says Lakey Wolff, an agent from CESD Talent Agency. “This is your chance to show your personality, energy, and enthusiasm.”
Natalie: “I can hula hoop with fire.”
Holly: “I have dual citizenship in the United States and Canada.”
Marleen: “My favorite toe is the big toe!”
The slating process also allows casting directors and choreographers to look at you. Dance is a visual art, and how you present yourself physically is extremely important. “I like clean lines and neat hair,” says Lakey, “Stand out with color or a unique leotard cut. Oh! And no costume mishaps, please!”
Next up? Warm up! “But don’t forget,” notes Eric Bourne of Parsons Dance Company, “even though we’re warming up, you’re still auditioning!” Be sure to stay present and engaged throughout the organized warm-up because the panel is likely still watching you. In the words of Bonnie Erickson, Educational Programs Director at the BDC, “Are you happy to be here and ready to work? Show us that you love dancing.”
Following warm-up, certain auditions will start with typing (early elimination based on looks, height, hair color, etc.) or a ballet cut. The combination is often across the floor and fairly straightforward so that the choreographer can get a sense of your technical background. Even when you’re learning the combination, always perform your arms full out. Ask politely to switch lines; Even if you can pick up the combination from the back corner of the room, the panel probably isn’t able to see you.
Next, students learn a short combination in the style of the show. Bonnie Erickson and Jim Cooney, who lead the Professional Semester program, highly encourage dancers to research the show and/or choreographer ahead of time to gain familiarity with the movement and style. When learning the combination, be sure to focus in on the details of the movement. Often, the choreographer will teach the movement without performing it full out. In that case, the choreographer will usually have an assistant to demonstrate the movement alongside him or her. Watch the assistant! The choreographer, in an audition setting, will rarely give corrections (but if they do, you’d better apply it ASAP, even if the correction was made to another dancer). The panel wants to know how much you are able to bring to the table without them having to pull it out of you – an approachable personality, strong dance technique, an eye for details, ability to pick up choreography, a respectful attitude, and professional demeanor.
Before you know it, you will be split up into small groups to perform the combination (but this is not the “start” of the audition, as you are being watched from the moment you enter the room!). “Pay attention to your spacing,” says Mishay Petronelli (BDC teacher and Assistant to the Director). “If the audition coordinator tells you, ‘#1 downstage, #2 upstage, etc.,” you need to follow directions when you take the floor and hold that spacing throughout the combination.” You’ll often get the opportunity to perform the choreography twice. Dana Foglia (BDC teacher and choreographer for the Professional Semester commercial mock audition) remarked, “Sometimes you’ll be the best in your group and sometimes you’ll be in a group of beasts and have to fight for your life.”
Nowadays, freestyle is a huge part of the audition process, be it “Chicago” the musical or a Madonna international tour. Sometimes you’ll just be asked to freestyle for the first cut – before you even learn a combination! “For your freestyle, I appreciate when you move the way you are rather than simply conforming to the style,” says Dana Foglia. Explore different levels, dynamics, and styles in your freestyle. The best way to gain confidence and versatility in your freestyle, says Foglia, is to take diverse and challenging classes from a variety of teachers.
Today is the final dance of the Spring Professional Semester 2012 – “Merde!” to all of the dancers for their final mock audition today!