Fear and the Audition

Courage is grace under pressure.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Understand that the résumé, photos, and cover letter are only a prelude to the audition. It is in the audition where hard work and dedication pay off big. Yes, it is possible—and important—to create a fantastic first impression with a résumé, but no one will hire a dancer from a résumé alone. This requires a successful audition.

The Fear of Failure

It takes courage to face an audition. Dancers are never more vulnerable and exposed than they are at the moment when they show their body and art in a struggle for employment. In the audition, your hopes and dreams are completely in the hands of others. With a nod from the director, your dreams are either realized, or if the director is unimpressed, go unfulfilled. Dancers, even more than other artists, find it particularly hard to take criticism because itís easy for dancers to perceive their art as themselves. "We donít like your dancing" feels like "We don't like you" because the separation of you and your dancing is rarely obvious.

Yet the auditioning is a never-ending necessity in the dance world. Even a member of a major professional company, and a dancer for many years, faces auditions throughout the season and the possibility of rejection on a daily basis. Nevertheless, each dancer finds the courage and the strength to continue.

To be a dancer, one must audition. Every dancer faces this struggle and each must develop a unique and personal way of managing to continue in spite of it. How you deal with your fears at an audition can mean the difference between being a professional dancer or wishing you were.

The fear of failure is one of the most intense fears anyone can experience. Many people are so afraid of failing they simply avoid situations that might bring out the crippling emotion. They stop trying, or they just try a little bit, so when they fail they can say, "Well, I wasnít really trying."

Other people cope with the fear by denying it altogether. This is dangerous because when an emotion is denied itís only amplified. An auditioning dancer might succeed in denying his or her fear—until the director walks into class. Then all the fear thatís been hidden will suddenly rush forth with a force that can be paralyzing.

The Fear of Rejection

By auditioning, you have invited someone to tell you either "Yes, I like your dancing enough to accept you" or "No, your dancing is not good enough." In addition to the fear of failure, a dancer must face the fear of rejection. For many, these emotions are overwhelming, and can devastate an audition performance. For others, these emotions have a creeping effect that only unnerves the dancer just enough to sabotage the audition class. Yet for some, the fear of failure and rejection has no negative consequence. How do some dancers give a peak performance in spite of their emotions? How can you?

Label the feeling of fear as excitement. From now on, call the anxiety, the churning stomach, and the copper taste of fear by its new name—excitement. It sounds easy because it is. One of the greatest discoveries of the Twentieth Century is the realization that human beings can alter their lives by altering their mental attitudes. Put another way: You can change how you feel. The feeling you experience when you are about to audition is a gift from the primitive times when humans were still commanded by fight- or-flight instincts. But you can not fight or flee from your auditions and expect to be a dancer. Instead, use the energy that accompanies fear to work harder, focus more, and stand taller. Realize that it takes great courage to face an audition, and by simply trying your hardest, or at least learning something from the experience, you have succeeded.

The Fear of Success

Success brings changes. You may have to work late or perhaps move to another city. A new job means added responsibility. Winning a job can also change your routine. The fear of change can manifest as the fear of success. Arrest this culprit by first clearly writing out your goals in dance, secondly, deciding you absolutely need this job to reach your dance goals and, finally, come to terms with each change your new job will bring.

Losers visualize
the penalties of failure.
Winners visualize
the rewards of success.
DR. ROB GILBERT

Focus on the positive changes and come to terms with the negative changes. If getting a job means moving away from your current boyfriend, you have to accept this reality before you can truly give your best effort.

Your Best Equals Success

Successful dancers combat their fear by trying their hardest. Fear becomes their excitement, which puts them into a powerful state and motivates them do their best. By doing their best, these dancers realize they have succeeded, regardless of what others think. Furthermore, they realize that doing their best starts long before the actual audition. You must do your best before, during, and after class. This means doing workouts in addition to dance class and stretching, avoiding the habit of eating junk foods, and taking the time and care to prepare a professional-looking résumé package. It is a great help to know that, at least on paper, you look the absolute best you can. A outstanding résumé will help you to resist the fear of an audition and is therefore essential to your confidence.

A dancer who is rehearsed and ready for a performance experiences less stage fright. For the same reason, a brilliant résumé will give you confidence when it is time to audition. Begin easing the anxiety of audition early by preparing an excellent résumé today. Besides, directors enjoy watching an audition with a clear, persuasive, and professional-looking résumé in front of them.

Donít underestimate this advantage. The dance world is a business. When you ask for a job, you must show that you are a serious professional or intend to become one. Set yourself apart from the thousands of "flakes" who call themselves dancers.


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