Defining “Dance”

Early this year I attended a performance by Parsons Dance Company at the Joyce Theater in SoHo.  David Parsons’ choreography fuses modern dance technique and awareness with theatrical charm .  The concert included older Parsons repertoire as well as two world premieres, thereby exhibiting both the evolution of the company’s work and the traditional Parsons aesthetic.

However, I noticed that the joyful spirit and fluid composition of the Parsons repertoire was somewhat disconnected from the middle piece, “A Stray’s Lullaby,” choreographed by Katarzyna Skarpetowska (former Parsons dancer, freelance choreographer, native of Warsaw, Poland).   This guest-choreographed piece, which seems to illustrate the struggle of laboring families during the time of the Dust Bowl/Great Depression, reminded me of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”  The work is staged on four dancers, two male and two female, and includes either a solo or duet that essentially “tells” each dancer’s “story.”  An article in the New York Press explains,

“‘A Stray’s Lullaby’ is an intimate work, set for four dancers who portray down and out characters on the margin of society. Their journey is a personal one and presented without comment, yet it is clear they are on a quest for salvation. Their stories are the rich and wise examples of our own vulnerable natures. The piece offers no clear solution, it only opens a window on the way we face our private demons and how we strive to improve our human condition.”

This storyline clearly breaks away from Parsons’ own choreographic motifs: circularity, love, joy, etc.  Yet, what struck me the most about “A Stray’s Lullaby” was the first solo of the piece, performed by Christina Ilisije. Ilisije, dressed in dreary beige slacks, a cream tank, and black lace up shoes, “danced” to a song with a twangy singer, strumming banjo, and rather dismal lyrics.  She maintained a strict diagonal plane of movement across the stage and often repeated a phrase of traveling movement, as if struggling to get from one side of the stage to the other.  While the first work of the evening, “Round My World,” incorporated fluid, circular, natural movement from the dancers, this piece required Ilisije to contort her body in order to create intense, twisted, and harsh choreography.  The New York Post describes, “The foursome moves unsteadily at first to traffic noises that change to scratchy-voiced blues. As the lights change from golden to a smoky haze, one woman dives and claws her way through.”  Ilisije contorts her limbs into uncomfortable shapes (both for her and the audience watching), falls gawkily, and limps across the stage by literally dragging her legs.

I was surprised that in my online research of “A Stray’s Lullaby,” I could not find any articles or reviews that really critiqued the movement of the piece, as it is so unusual and disturbing, but also beautiful at the same time.  From my cheap seats in the side balcony, I scanned the audience to notice their reactions.  No one was ruffling through their programs or checking their text messages on their phones.  No one coughed or mumbled to their neighbor either.  The entire theater was completely attentive and engaged with the solo performance, admiring the juxtaposition of beauty and deformity within one dancer.

The hamster wheels in my mind began to race.  Why is it that this onstage soloist depicting unnatural bodily movement is admired while everyday men and women who are born with or develop such movement styles are not?  Why is a limp so intriguing and innovative onstage but so unsettling and awkward on the sidewalk?  Why is it acceptable to watch this movement onstage but it is disrespectful to stare in real life?

These are the very questions that Heidi Latsky asked herself when she began creating The GIMP Project back in 2008.  The work is performed by both physically-abled and disabled dancers and confronts audiences’ preconceptions about about art and performance.

GIMP is a word we’re taught not to use as we’re taught not to stare at people who have physical disabilities.

GIMP also means ‘fighting spirit’, ‘interwoven fabric’ and ‘trembling with ecstasy”- definitions that are at the heart of the work.

GIMP examines the uncompromising ways we are often identified or defined by our physicality.

GIMP challenges the notion of beauty as a standard artifact of “photo-shopped” perfection with a tangible sensuality, a touch of voyeurism and a new frame of reference as both performers AND audiences are acutely aware of being watched. (The GIMP Project press kit)

“GIMP is without doubt a gleaming milestone in the progress of contemporary dance and theater, proving that the term ‘disabled dancer’ is an oxymoron.” – Dance Magazine

Various dance styles preach precision, sameness, technique, and ideals of perfection.  But the question is – do these standards actually limit dance as an art form?

Heidi Latsky Dance envisions a society where:

  • all bodies are recognized as viable, fascinating and expressive instruments;
  • difference is upheld, not feared;
  • increased understanding and communication take the place of isolation, alienation and lack of contact;
  • people learn to “live in” their own skin and do not detach from their bodies because of external and internally assimilated judgments and conventional standards;
  • one is encouraged to “own” one’s body, value it and use it to be expressive and truthful in ways that are empowering, enriching and unique;
  • a strong work ethic is valued and implemented;
  • and a high standard of excellence is not only desired but is achieved through sustained work and focus.

Snack Attacks

As a dancer, your body is your instrument.  Fuel your body with the right foods to get the most out of your dancing.

When you have a long day of dance ahead of you:

  • Bowl of oatmeal with flaxseed and skim milk.
  • Greek yogurt with berries.
  • Poached egg with whole grain toast and an orange.

When you’re running to dance class/rehearsal:

  • 1/4 cup of mixed nuts and dried fruit.
  • Lara bar or Kind bar.

When you’re done with dance class/rehearsal:

  • Small banana with 1 tablespoon peanut butter.
  • Apple with string cheese/baby bell cheese.

When you’re under the weather:

  • 1 cup tea with lemon and honey.
  • Foods high in Vitamin C: oranges, broccoli, and sweet peppers.
  • Chicken and vegetable soup.
When you want to build muscle:
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese with canned fruit (in water).
  • Canned salmon with whole grain crackers.
  • Protein shake with protein powder, raw oats, and flaxseed.

When you’re sore:

  • 1 cup low-fat chocolate milk.
  • Smoothie with blueberries, banana, and low-fat vanilla yogurt.
  • Foods high in potassium: raisins, melons, apricots, avocados, squash, beets, and dairy.

When you have butterflies/are feeling nervous:

  • 1/2 cup blueberries.
  • Small piece of dark chocolate.
  • Cup of herbal, decaffeinated tea.

Hard times on Broadway for the Hard of Hearing

Laura Grasso anxiously arrived at the Chernuchin Theater, one of the three venues of the 54th Street American Theater of Actors.  It was 7:30 p.m., which allowed her plenty of time to search for her seat and flip through the fresh-pressed Playbill before the curtain was to rise.

The theater was dim and intimate, with only 140 seats staring straight at the stage.  Her knees knocked against the seat in front of her and she tried to stealthily maneuver her elbows without disrupting her neighbors’ on the narrow armrests.  But at $20 a ticket, the compact confines of the Chernuchin were all part of the experience.

As theatergoers carefully shuffled to their seats, the audience’s anticipatory chatter buzzed throughout the black box.  She was excited for the show, the Tragedians of the City and Northwest Passage Theater Collective’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet.”  The off-Broadway production was to stay true to the play’s authentic performance, with Early Modern English dialogue and an all-male cast.

But for Grasso, one of the 278 million people worldwide who have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears, the experience was a disappointment.

“It was a good thing I knew the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ because 90 percent of the time I felt like I missed a lot of the dialogue,” Grasso said.

At a young age, Grasso was diagnosed with bilateral, moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss. SNHL occurs when there is damage to one’s cochlea (inner ear) or to the nerves connecting the cochlea and the brain.  SNHL can rarely be medically or surgically treated, and while many patients use hearing aids to increase the volume of everyday sound, SNHL has a tendency to obfuscate speech.

“No, we don’t provide assisted listening devices,” replied the phone representative from the American Theater for Actors.  He snickered, “The Theater is small.  The audience is only about two feet from the stage, it’s very loud.”  But 90 percent of Americans with hearing difficulties – 7 percent of the entire US population – suffer from SNHL, where the issue is not so much volume as it is clarity.

“It was so exhausting that I eventually just had to sit back and watch, taking it in visually,” Grasso said.  “There is a difference between active and passive listening. Passive listening is what people are able to do, like breathing, it just happens naturally, effortlessly.  But hard of hearing individuals are required to listen actively, diligently identifying and processing sound and speech in order to fully comprehend a scene.”

An experienced freelance writer and content strategist, Laura Grasso began working as the Foundation and Corporation Gifts Manager at the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) in New York City in February of 2011.  The CHC is a comprehensive clinic that provides hearing-related healthcare services such as hearing tests, hearing aids and assistive devices, and speech and language therapy. The CHC also sponsors outreach and public education projects to increase social awareness.

“I love theater and I would go much more frequently if it were more accessible to me,” Grasso said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act outlines that “Places of public accommodation must provide assistive listening systems, interpreters and other auxiliary aids unless it would constitute an ‘undue burden’ or ‘fundamental alteration’ of their services.”  Though some theaters like the Chernuchian do not offer assisted listening systems, most Broadway theaters do provide the technology.

But hearing loss is different from vision loss.  There is no numerical prescription – both the impediment and the treatment are individual.

“I know that assisted listening devices have helped a lot of people enjoy the theater experience, but they don’t work for everyone,” Grasso said.  Grasso saw “Billy Elliot: the musical” last year with her mother, who is also hard of hearing.  Grasso noted, “We used the assisted listening devices, but while the sound was louder, the dialogue was still muffled and slightly delayed.”

In 2003, the American Sign Language ASL version of “Big River” came to Broadway’s Roundabout Theatre Company.  Deaf West Theatre in North Hollywood created the adaptation in 2001, featuring both mainstream and deaf actors who signed the entire show while speaking, singing, and dancing.

While the ASL rendition of “Big River” was a success, teaching an entire Broadway cast to sign may not be the most efficient way to make a show accessible, especially for a show where performers must dance and sing simultaneously.  However, ASL is still employed to make Broadway more accessible.  The New York City-based non-profit organization Hands On produces up to thirty ASL-interpreted Broadway and off-Broadway performances each year.

As of Spring 2010, movie theaters in the United States became obligated to offer closed-captioning.  Most theaters opt for the Rear Window Captioning System, an inexpensive individual technology that projects subtitles of both the dialogue and action of a scene from the back of the theater onto a small mirror held by an audience member.  Captioning mandates, however, do not apply to live theater.

Captioned Broadway performances do exist, if you’re willing to seek them out.  The Theater Development Fund’s Access for Young Audiences program invites hard of hearing students to select, free Broadway matinee performances that are outfitted with both ASL interpreters and open-captioning on large screens on either side of the stage.

While Laura Grasso has not attended an ASL-interpreted or open-captioned Broadway show, she has experienced the technology in other live arts venues.  The CHC hosts a comedy night as a fundraiser for its outreach projects, public education and clinical services for the hard of hearing population in New York City.  This event is the only completely aurally accessible comedy performance in the city, boasting both ASL sign language interpretation and open-captioning.

“The comics are hilarious,” Grasso said.  “They make the accessibility part of the show by having the sign-language interpreters translate really silly or vulgar jokes.  And I didn’t find the ASL or captioning distracting because of their integration with the performance.”

Grasso is excited to attend “Tribes,” an off-Broadway play that explores the life of a deaf man and his struggle to be understood.  After receiving pressure from the hard of hearing community, the theater added open-captioned showings through the Theatre Development Fund.

Yet such synergy of accessibility and story line is unrealistic for most Broadway shows, and both ASL interpretation and open-captioning can be distracting to mainstream audiences.

The concept of closed-captioning has crept its way into a few progressive theaters that line the lighted Broadway.  Sound Associates, Inc. has provided assisted listening devices to Broadway audiences for over thirty years and recently developed I-Caption personal closed-captioning for deaf and hard of hearing patrons.

Sound Associates, Inc.’s I-Caption is “a state of the art wireless visual aid that provides verbatim closed captions in real time for live theatrical performances or public events.  This fully automated system displays dialogue, lyrics, and sound effects on a handheld display, assisting the hearing impaired patron to better understand the plot of a theatrical production or public event.

“The beauty of live performance is that no show is the same,” said Mark Annunziato, Vice President of Operations at Sound Associates, Inc.  “I-Caption is automated, timed to the show. The technology utilizes show controls like lighting, sound, music and set change cues to stay in real time with the show.”

The technology exists – but real implementation of the technology is another story.  Currently only four of the forty Broadway shows are fully equipped with I-Caption.  Not surprisingly, these four theaters house the most popular and profitable musicals: “The Book of Mormon” at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, “Jersey Boys” at the August Wilson Theatre, “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre, and “Mamma Mia!” at the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre.

“It’s not cheap,” Annunziato said of the technology, which runs between five and six hundred dollars per device.  “Production has to pay for the implementation of I-Caption.  Some shows like ‘Jersey Boys’ expect a long run and can upfront the costs, but that’s not usually the case.”

Captioning for movies is different, a lot easier and a lot cheaper.  Movies are in time code — they run digitally or on film at a set time.  Captions can just be added as a layer on top of the media because everything happens in specific time and space.

Mandating I-Caption for live theater would require a lot of money, both to pay for the technology itself and to hire specialized staff.  Most movies undergo at least a year of editing before they are released in theaters.  I-Caption has a much quicker turn-around – implementation can only begin after a Broadway show has gone through technical rehearsals with lighting, sound, music and set change cues organized.  And once the show opens, cues often change – lead actors switch, a music number is added, among other possible changes – and I-Caption must adapt as well.

In 2005 Sound Associates, Inc. was presented with the Secretary’s Highest Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Yet seven years after the inception of I-Caption, 90 percent of Broadway theaters remain aurally under-accessible.

“We keep making advancements to lower the costs,” Annunziato said. “We’re fine-tuning the technology so that we can speed up the process of implementation from a few months to a few weeks. It’s not a moneymaking venture; it’s about opening doors to audiences through technology.  We feel that every performance should be accessible for everyone, at every show, in every seat.”

“I do hope to see a Broadway performance with I-Caption technology because I would really understand what was going on,” Laura Grasso said. “Yet like subtitles of a film, I worry that the captioning would be visually distracting from the action of the scene.”

I-Caption has received its share of criticism from theater patrons.  I-Caption devices are near field (close), and a person’s eyes have to adjust from looking at the screen to looking at the stage.  Critics claim that ASL interpreters or open-captioning near the stage are less distracting and do not disclose if audience members have disabilities.

Recently, Sound Associates, Inc. has been working to equip Sony’s new subtitle eyeglasses with I-Caption services for live theater.  Though still a physical device, these new subtitle specs are sure to spark a new wave in live theater accessibility.

2012 Choreographer’s Canvas

Last weekend’s Choreographer’s Canvas, produced by The Group Theatre Too, LLC (GTT) showcased choreographers and dancers of all ages and styles to a sold-out crowd at the Manhattan Movement Arts Center.  The evening also included a touching tribute to the late Tony Stevens.

The GTT, founded in 2003 by Michael Blevins and BDC’s own Justin Boccitto, aspires to “encourage diversity and the exploration of the human experience through theater, dance, and music.”

Broadway Dance Center was well represented at the show, not only in the audience but also on stage and behind the scenes.  Notable performances included works by BDC faculty such as Sue Samuels, Ginger Cox, Jared Jenkins, Crystal Chapman, and Lainie Munro.

The Jack Cole Project

The director’s note opens:

Julie Newmar was once asked “Why is it that most people don’t know of Jack Cole?”  Ms. Newmar paused, considered it for a moment, and replied, “Well, all the important people do.”

While this quote probably excited most other audience members about the upcoming performance of “Heat Wave: The Jack Cole Project,” I felt disillusioned.  I had never heard of Jack Cole, the supposed founder of jazz dance who influenced Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett, Alvin Ailey, and Jerome Robbins and taught the likes of Ann Miller, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe.  I’ve taken my share of jazz classes, musical theater classes, modern classes, and dance history courses in college.  I love the history of dance just as much as I love to dance.  I was almost angry with myself – why wasn’t I familiar with Jack Cole?!

Now, I don’t mean to make excuses, but it’s not my fault!  I flipped through my collection of dance history books – the history dance in Western culture, a Bob Fosse biography, a Marilyn Monroe biography, and a Jerome Robbins biography…no mention of Jack Cole.  Confused and frustrated, I turned to my dear friend, Google.

Search: jack cole biography book.

Results: 1 – “Unsung Genius: the passion of dancer and choreographer Jack Cole” by Glenn Loney

…Price? $82.00.  Not happening.

I will keep you posted on my “search for Jack Cole,” but for now, let’s talk about “Heat Wave.”

The project was conceived and created by Chet Walker, who also developed the Tony-winning musical, “Fosse” back in 1999.  In addition to this new dance musical, Walker began teaching “Jack Cole jazz” classes and hosting film nights/discussions at Steps on Broadway to raise awareness of the unknown choreographer.  I attended the first film night back in the fall of 2011 and, sitting in the tiny studio with dance royalty like Chet Walker, Ray Hesselink, and Dana Moore, I realized this ‘Jack Cole’ guy was kind of a big deal.

So I eagerly bought my ticket to “Heatwave” and made the trek out to Flushing for the performance at Queens Theatre last night.  I perused my Playbill, reading all the bios of the Broadway veterans in the show.  Only the center section of the theater was filled, with maybe 120 people in the audience total.  But as the “Prologue” began, the magnetic energy of the cast illuminated the dark theater.  My eyes watered as I tried not to blink and miss a second of the magic that was happening on the stage.

The two hour and twenty minute production of non-stop song and dance weaves restagings of Cole’s choreography into almost a biographical montage tied together with quotes and anecdotes told by Cole’s peers such as Gwen Verdon and Gene Kelly.

In words, Cole’s choreography sounds a bit confusing: a blend of swing, tap (restaged by BDC’s own Ray Hesselink), can-can, and Eastern influences – but it all works.

Choreographically, Cole’s influence on the future of jazz dance is unmistakable: the strong masculine leaps and battements of Jerome Robbins’ “West Side Story,” the sensual prowess of Bob Fosse’s “Snake in the Grass,” the geometric yet fluid shapes of Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations,” etc.

“Cole’s style — what’s recognized as jazz today — is actually a compendium of several influences: the strong poses of bharata natyam (Indian classical dance), the feline sensuality of Afro-Cuban dance, the lilt of the lindy and the elegance of classical ballet. His numbers are eye-catching because of how much they ask of the performers — who scale staircases; quickly transition between dancing very low to the floor and twirling above it; execute lifts; and cover a great deal of space, often within a single song.” – Rebecca Milzoff (NY Times)

“There are people who have that look about them,” Chet Walker told Milzoff. “You know they’re important. And there is this thing about Jack Cole dancers: They have ‘it.’”  “Heat Wave” has ‘it,’ and surely has the potential to head to the “Great White Way” after its May run at the Queens Theatre.  Though the definite future of the “Jack Cole Project” is unknown, one thing remains certain: that that legacy of Jack Cole will live – or rather, dance – on.

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Tips and Tricks for Headshots and Resumes

As a dancer, your headshot and resume are your “business card” in the industry.  Here are a few helpful tips to make them stand out:

Headshots:

  1. Hire a professional photographer.  While your best friend might take some free photos of you with a digital camera, the trained eye and helpful advice of a professional photographer is usually worth the expense.
  2. Look like YOU!  The casting director will (hopefully!) keep your headshot as he or she makes callback and casting decisions.  If the casting director doesn’t recognize you/remember you from your headshot, he/she is likely to toss your headshot to the side.
  3. Be natural.  Come to the shoot looking clean and put together, but keep your makeup and styling fresh and natural.  Practice your “poses” the night before.  Keep your poses organic and true to your personality.  Oh, and be sure to act your age!
  4. Know the job.  Research the audition you’re attending and make sure your headshot choice is in line with the job – a bright and smiley commercial headshot versus a more mature headshot for straight theater.  Always have at least two contrasting options on hand.
  5. Update your headshot every few years or whenever you make a significant physical change such as a drastic haircut or a change in hair color.
  6. Keep it clean. You want the casting director to look at you, so avoid wearing shirts with intricate or distracting patterns and posing in front of a busy scene.  Also steer clear of wearing lots of jewelry.  You want to look like a clean slate that can mold into whatever character the casting director wants you to play.
  7. Have options.   Bring at least three different tops to the shoot.  Experiment with different facial expressions and angles.  Try shooting both indoors and outside.
  8. Have ‘em handy.  Print your headshots on photo paper with a thin white border and your name in the bottom corner (in a clean, professional font).  It used to be the “norm” to have classic black and white headshots, but nowadays color is “in.”  Cut your headshots to 8×10 inches to match your resume.  Always have 5-10 copies of your headshots in your bag!  You never know when a last minute audition will come up or when a teacher will ask to keep your headshot on file.

BDC recommends:

Dirty Sugar Photography 

Brian Thomas Photography 

 

Resumes:

  1. K.I.S.S. (“Keep It Simple, Sweetie”).  Your name should be at the top of your resume in a clean, bold, and slightly larger text.  Use a “sans-serif” font, one that is easy to read and free of embellishments.  Your resume should not exceed one page in length.  And don’t try to squeeze as much as you can on your resume if it means you’ll have size 6 font.  You can still show off your accomplishments by keeping your resume short and sweet.
  2. Note your “stats.”  You can exclude your batting average, but be sure to include the basics: hair color, eye color, height, weight or body type, vocal range, etc. (you do not need to include your age!).
  3. Stay in touch.  Include your contact information like your phone number and e-mail address.  Use a phone number where you can usually be reached (this may end up being your cell phone).  You don’t want to miss a callback because you weren’t home to check your voicemail.  Also make sure you use a simple, professional e-mail address.  Recycle your middle school “qtpie5678@aol.com” for “jane.doe@aol.com.”  Make sure this contact information is up-to-date!
  4. Organize.  Separate your resume into subheadings: Performance Experience (Theater, Film/TV, Industrial, etc.), Training (include styles and teachers), Awards/Scholarships, and Special Skills (ex. Driver’s license, languages you speak, and other talents that might help you land the job).
  5. Order up.  Unlike a business resume, you don’t need to include specific dates on your dance resume.  List your most notable experiences first, along with the venue or director/choreographer’s name.
  6. Be honest.  If you’re just starting out, don’t be embarrassed if you don’t have a lot to list on your resume – everyone starts somewhere.  It’s alright to include competition awards you’ve won or college dance concerts you’ve performed in.  You can recycle these credits for more notable ones once you have a few more jobs under your belt.  Also, don’t lie about your special skills!  If you say that you can yodel, the casting director may ask you to do it on the spot at the audition.
  7. Show off!  If you have a lot of experience under your belt, organize a few versions of your resume to cater to specific auditions calls – commercial, theatrical, concert dance, etc.
  8. Keep it clean, too.  Like your headshot, cut your resume to 8×10 inches.  Staple your resume to your headshot so that both are facing out.  Be sure to do this BEFORE you come to an audition.

Mock It Out: ProSem Students Practice Audition Techniques

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!

Agency Auditions

Hear about two of BDC’s Professional Semester Alumni who recently signed with two of the top talent agencies in New York City.  Congratulations, Nikki and Matt!  We’re so proud of you!


Nikki Croker – MSA Agency

Why did you choose to go to the audition?

I chose to go to the MSA open call because it has been the agency that I’ve been looking to sign with since moving to New York. They have a lot of really skilled, talented performers and choreographers signed with them, including some of  my favourite choreographers – Al Blackstone, Josh Bergasse, Derek Mitchell, and Maria Torres. 

How did you prepare for the audition?

I trained really hard all last year taking classes in a variety of styles including Ballet, Theatre, Tap, Hip Hop, Latin Jazz, Gymnastics, Voice and Acting. I completed the Fall Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center in which we completed 12 classes a week and had helpful seminars regarding headshots and resumes, nutrition, and mock auditions for all different styles. I received a vast amount feedback from this semester that helped me grow tremendously! 

What was the audition environment like?

The audition was at Pearl Studios. There were hundreds of people!  We lined up to get our numbers and you could either audition for ‘commercial’ or ‘theatre’. I decided to audition for both so I was there from about 11am-6.30pm. We learned each combination in about 15 minutes and then performed it in small groups of 5. For the theatre audition we also had to sing a 16 bar cut. 

How did you feel the audition went?

I felt good about the audition –  I had met Lucille at Josh Bergasse’s Music Theatre Summer Program and also at a Professional Semester mock audition, which eased my nerves a little. I had prepared the best way I could before the audition and knew that I gave my best, no matter the outcome.

When did you receive the call?

 I received the call about 10 days later. I was puppy-sitting at the time and I was playing with the dog Captain when my phone started ringing. I don’t think I’ll forget the day – I was so excited!

Matt Tremblay – Bloc/NYC Agency

Why did you choose to go to the audition?

I chose to go to the audition for the experience. Auditions are a perfect learning atmosphere to figure out your strengths and weaknesses in order to move forward.

How did you prepare for the audition?

I did my research on which choreographers the agency represents because I knew some of them would be teaching the audition combinations. I was sure to hit the gym and take class a lot prior to the audition.  I also did a lot of positive-thinking and reflecting to be mentally ready.

What was the audition environment like?

The studios were packed with dancers! We were typed cast right away.  I felt like it was quite competitive in there until we got to the last few cuts; After a long day, the atmosphere became more supportive.

How did you feel the audition went?

I felt extremly hyped and full of energy all day. As the day went by and I was asked to stay, I surprisingly become more relaxed! This completely shoked me, but I realized that it was just a matter of giving everything I have and hoping for the best.

When did you receive the call?

I was informed 5 days later, Friday at 5:30pm.  I remember the entire conversation!  That was the longest 5 days of my life!  I was so happy and I couldn’t believe it at first. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a dream until I signed my contract and I heard “Welcome to Bloc.”