This is dedicated to anyone who’s ever auditioned in his or her lives. To all the dancers out there right now, who are getting ready for, attending or just got back from an audition. To all the Choreographers who were once dancers, and may or may not, have forgotten what it’s like on the other side of the table. I give you…
JILLIAN’S TOP 10 AUDITION RANTS
1. No rates. No dates.
This seems like it would be a no- brainer. You don’t have the rates for the job nor do you have the work dates. If you are a choreographer in this situation, calmly put down the agency phones numbers and call up the producer or person in charge of the job. You need more information. You do not need to hold an audition yet. Not only do you not need to hold an audition, but you should question how you would respond personally, as a choreographer, if you were given no rates or dates. When you neglect to put important information in a break down, not only are you compromising who will show up but also you are doing everyone a disservice, including yourself. For example, if you don’t know dates, you cannot ensure the dancers you would like to hire. If you do not know the rates you are gambling that the rates are worthwhile and fair, when in reality it could end up being ‘copy and credit.’ Do yourself and dancers a favor; get all the information you can upfront so everyone can make an educated decision.
2.‘Just have fun.’
People who say this to you before an audition are either completely removed from what we do for a living, or have not auditioned in a very long time. As much as we would all love to be so positive and optimistic that everything is FUN, lets get real. Auditions are not fun. In fact I can think of many other fun things to do than go to an audition. I don’t think getting up early and pounding on makeup and stabbing myself in the eyes with fake eyelashes is fun. I also don’t think being stressed out and printing out a resume with the last bit of computer ink and then sitting in traffic is fun. I don’t think trolling for parking or feeding meters in between groups of 5 is fun. Call me crazy but I can think of much more fun things to do than stand in a hot stank room with hundreds of other people waiting to get accepted or rejected. The only thing ‘fun’ about auditioning is the rare possibility of a job coming out of it. And of course seeing a couple familiar faces and bonding over the ridiculousness of it all. Honesty is the best policy. Auditioning is a way life for a dancer. It sucks, it’s horrible, and it’s unbearable. Accept it, make friends, and try and do your best given the circumstances. Don’t lie to yourself. That’s just adding insult to injury.
3.‘Treat it like a class.’
I wish I could treat auditions like classes. People say this all the time, like it’s a way to just shrug off the nerves, stress and pressure. For me it doesn’t. Much like ‘just have fun’ this one just isn’t working for me. What class do you take where there is a possible paycheck at the end? What class do you pile on a gallon of makeup and wear your slutty best? What class do you not get to learn anything BUT what will get you kept through the next cut? What class has so many people in it you can’t raise an elbow without seriously injuring someone? You know what saying works for me? You can’t lose something you don’t have. Yup. You can’t be nervous or stressed about something that isn’t yours. And until you book it, it’s not. Even with this outlook, I’m still nervous.
4.‘I’m not available for the job I just came to audition for fun.’
I’ve heard this a couple times. I can’t help but just stare in wonder at this person. The same expression of wonder I would imagine I would have on my face if I saw a pig fly, alien ships descend on the United States, or Sarah Palin winning the Nobel peace prize. Why put yourself through this? The only reason I can come up with is, you’re lying. Lying to yourself AND everyone around you. Besides, not avail for the job? Why waste the choreographer’s time? That’s like seeing a really amazing item on a menu only to be told it’s not in season. It’s false advertising.
5.‘I’ll keep you on file.’
I don’t know how much I really need to comment on this one. Who actually keeps files? Unless you are casting a HUGE job, employing many dancers, no one is going to refer to their files for this job or the next. They are either going to use who they trust and know, or hold a new audition to ensure availability. But it’s nice they want to keep that little bit of hope alive…
6.‘Audition for upcoming jobs and projects.’
Call me cynical but this line is a very specific code for: ‘I’m making my own reality show pilot and I need to have people look interested in my work and jobs, so I’m going to have a mock audition, but of course I am working so technically at any point in time I could hire you for something, so I’m not really lying and holding a fake audition.’ I don’t know anyone who has ever booked anything from a mysterious ‘upcoming jobs and projects’ audition. Unless someone has had a different experience, I am going to have to call Bullshit. I stay clear of these cryptic auditions. But if you just want to ‘have fun’ or ‘use it like a class’ by all means go for it.
7.Grocery shopping on an empty stomach
This has happened to all of us, so it’s easy to understand why it happens in auditions. Remember a time when you are very hungry, you are so hungry but you have no food in your house. Reasonably, you make your way to the grocery store. Upon entering you find many things that look good to you, in fact even things normally you would scoff at you find edible and appealing. In particular, lets say you are not particularly fond of canned green beans. On this particular day, you are so hungry and starved that not only do they look appetizing to you; you buy 5 cans of them along with the other many things you find very savory. You return home with your new groceries and feast. Now with a full stomach and a new perspective you look around at the rest of the items you bought and see the green beans. Not only do they not seem appealing to you, they seem downright unappetizing and you question your sanity. You realize you bought the green beans on an empty stomach. The green beans sit in your shelves until they expire or there is a canned food drive. I give you this scenario because I truly think this happens when choreographers or producers don’t know what they’re looking for. At first they are calling all types, and keeping all types. Only until they are given some direction (a full stomach) can they adequately decipher who would be best for this specific job.
8.Thanks for coming so I can waste your time
You woke up early, extra early, even though you worked late last night. You took the side streets instead of the 101 to avoid the traffic, you skipped Starbucks because you were afraid you would run late, you picked out your outfit ahead of time to save time, and you keep your headhshots and resumes in your car to avoid a critical 5 -10 minutes of printing mishaps. You even allow extra time to find a parking spot and be able to sign in before number 175. Except, there is no sign in sheet. In fact there is no one that seems to be in charge and no choreographer in site. You check the time, ask a friend, chitchat, and check your email. Before you know it 15 -20 minutes have passed. You stretch walk around put more quarters in your meter check the time. You finally come to the realization YOU JUST GOT FUCKED. While this audition is very important to you, it doesn’t seem that it’s that important to the person running it, and neither is your time or anyone else’s. This is probably the easiest way to piss everyone off. Being too important for your own audition. Gross.
The dance community is one of many relationships and connections. One that pulls together to help each other in times of need and has a 6 degrees of separation that can span the globe. In our community friendships reign and that is often apparent in auditions. This is the part where I rip apart people for only hiring they’re friends. Except, I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t think there is anything wrong with hooking up your friends, in fact, I would do the same exact thing, and so would you. Who doesn’t want to hire friends? Especially the very friends that may have helped you, and can get the job done. My issue is when the courtesy of keeping people is not a courtesy at all. If you have no intention of hiring someone, don’t keep him or her. You may spare their ego in a room full of peers but in the long run, you waste their time and their hopes. Just treat the audition process like a band-aid and rip it off fast as you can- if you must. For dancers, I think most of us agree we want honesty. If you can’t use us, don’t keep us. Unless told specifically we will never know why exactly we are getting cut, and it really doesn’t matter, unless it’s something that can be adjusted. Most of the time it has to do with things we have no control over, so why sit and obsess about it. Personally when I don’t get called I think the job either didn’t happen or if they cut me they made a big mistake. J Adapt this idea and it is better than beating yourself up after the fact or replaying the audition over and over again in the scene of your mind trying to find the factor that was your demise.
10.Bait and switch
It was picture submission. It’s not a cattle call. They are only seeing 10 people from each agency. It’s a small call. It’s an invited call. It’s a private call. It’s going to be in and out. They’re not sending that many people. It’s only your type they are seeing. This rules. When it’s true. Often it is not, as much as we want to believe it is and as much as the agents tried to get us to believe it was. You walk into what you think is going to be a small call only to notice that someone MUST have advertised this on craigslist yesterday. This also goes along with saying the audition is one thing and then it actually being something else. The old bait and switch kick ball change style. This one is just rude. Be honest. Let people decide based on the facts, not what sounds good. No one is angry at the truth, they are only angry when someone gives them mistruths. I’ve learned to always ask questions, through questions you get more information to make a more educated decision, one you can get behind and be confident in.
In loving conclusion, my dearest choreographers please remember you were once (hopefully) dancers. Ditch the egos. Yes you may be holding the audition today, but it is not your opportunity to exercise your pent up issues or anger. You once went through the same trials and tribulations, as you are about to bestow on the dancers you are auditioning. Remember what it was like truly. Don’t abuse, don’t take advantage, and don’t turn it into a circus or reality show. Remember that today you may be a choreographer but in our line of work anyone can be anything on any given day. Be kind, be sweet, and be responsible.
Dancers, take the bullshit and just laugh. Booking auditions is not a reflection of how great of a dancer you are. Some of the best don’t book, some of the worst do. You are not better than anyone and no one is better than you. Marianne Williamson state’s from ‘A Course In Miracles’ that ‘We are all special, and none of us are special.’ Don’t let auditioning and its outcomes define you. Everything I have said aside: try to be patient during auditions for as long as possible, most choreographers are doing the best they can to get through everyone, give everyone a chance, and be time efficient.
Lastly, there is a phrase you may have heard: ‘sink or swim’ and that is truly what I liken auditioning to. Often it is just that. You either sink or you swim. I’ve come to realize over the last 10 years though, that you don’t need to sink or swim, you just need to keep your head above water. If you can just keep your head above water and tread, you will survive. Good luck, break a leg and see you at the next one. ;)