Securing an Audition

They always say that
time changes things,
but you actually
have to change
them yourself.

The Cattle Call

When a company needs dancers they schedule an audition. Many major dance companies hold their auditions once a year in New York City. These auditions have earned the dubious title of "cattle calls" because of their resemblance to the meat-processing industry. Hundreds of dancers are herded into a room as cows are herded onto the auction block. Only unlike the cows, the dancers are sometimes required to pay a small fee for being there. Because of the sheer volume of auditioners, cattle calls are often unsuccessful for all involved. Dancers have trouble being noticed in the crowd, and directors donít have the time to properly evaluate each dancerís talent.

One disadvantage of a cattle call audition is that some directors ask for a dancerís résumé only after the audition is over. The director then collects only the résumés of those dancers with whom he or she is interested. To minimize this disadvantage, send your résumé to the director about a week before the scheduled audition. Mention in your cover letter that you will see the director at the audition; then bring additional copies of your résumé and photos to the audition.

Research for this book revealed that some directors, like Eliot Feld, have their own "employerís questionnaire" and donít require a résumé at all. Only after judging a dancer as a possible employee will he examine the results of that dancerís questionnaire. Luckily for the self-marketing dancer, directors who use these methods are the exception rather a the rule. Sending your résumé in advance canít hurt, even if your research identified such a director.

Some larger ballet companies such as ABT, New York City Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet (to name a few), like to see a letter of introduction and recommendation from an established school, teacher, other ballet company, or former alumnus, particularly in the case of a new, young dancer who has not been formerly associated with a professional ballet company. Such a letter is also valuable when auditioning for smaller companies.

Audition by Invitation

Most companies prefer to audition dancers in the general scheduled auditions but will see dancers by invitation in company class. To secure an invitation, send a résumé, cover letter, and photos directly to the artistic director. Write "Audition Materials Enclosed" on the outside of the envelope to insure the résumé package arrives on the proper desk. If interested, the director will invite the dancer to do class.

Always try to get an invitation before going to the scheduled audition. Making an appointment for a private audition improves your chances of winning a job considerably. Private auditions are simply less chaotic.

Call the directorís assistant, about four or five business days after sending the résumé, to make sure they got the package, and to confirm an appointment. If the directorís assistant says that they need time to decide, ask when you may call back. Many circumstances prevent a director from responding to a résumé. He or she might be out of town or otherwise unavailable. Therefore, if you get a "donít call us-weíll call you" response—donít despair. Sometimes a director really does want to wait before granting an audition.

If they say there are no positions available, ask when they will know if a contract is opening up. The key is to be persistent—but donít be a pest! Be very sensitive to the personís tone of voice for signals of annoyance while talking on the phone. As a rule, donít call more then once a week—once every two weeks is better.

If you are traveling to a city and want to audition for the local company, always arrange for the audition beforehand. Your chances of being seen by the proper people are increased if they know you are coming. Furthermore, it is polite to call before you show up at the door.

It is a general policy among dance companies not to pay for any expenses incurred by an auditioner while seeking a job. Knowing this, many directors are reluctant to grant an audition to a dancer if there are no available positions in the companyís roster. Yet the same director might jump and make room in the company if he or she saw the dancer in action. Itís a Catch 22 of Terpsichore. Try relieving the directorís conscience enough to grant you an audition appointment by mentioning in your cover letter that you are traveling to the city anyway (to see friends or family) and wish to take this time to audition. In such a case, keep the exact dates of your "family visit" unclear, as in, "I will be traveling to Los Angeles in March to visit my sister and wonder if it is convenient for Mr. Jenson to see me in class at that time." If Mr. Jenson is available on the 30th then visit your "sister" late in the month.

On the other hand, a company might pay for your audition expenses if they are interested enough in you, are desperate to fill a position, or need a partner for a ballerina. Just because they might pay doesnít mean they will offer, so it does not hurt to ask.

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