The EvilImp™Play Fair

Published on Tuesday, 15 April, 2014 | Comments

The jobs market and the audition process are difficult enough without the unnecessary demands of video material requests, open auditions and application forms.

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Professional dancers taking part in the audition process over the last few years will be very aware of the increasing demands from companies and choreographers to provide video material of their abilities in advance of being selected for attendance.

Some notices go so far as to request solo material or material that clearly shows the dancer during a live performance absent any other dancers so the choreographer/company can get a good look at you.

It sounds like a reasonable enough request in this age of the internet video. How hard can it be for a professional dancer to get good material of them performing uploaded to YouTube?

Even though dance companies in general have taken big strides towards improving the quality of their online video material we, here in TheLab™, would still rate the dance profession's collective effort at a lowly 2/10.

Take a trip to the website of any big company and, more often than not, there will not be a great deal of video material for you to watch. Even if there is, good luck finding it.

Dancers, even the ones with history of working with big companies, struggle to get their hands on good video material. In fact, the bigger the company, the harder it is for them to get access to anything at all to use in their own portfolio.

Even if the dancer did get access to footage it's a big leap of faith to imagine they have the technical skills to take some raw, ProRes 422 footage and edit and title that material and compress it into the correct format to go online.

Not every professional dancer has a video editor they can call on for help.

What about recent graduates? If experienced professionals struggle to get good footage than recent graduates can find it almost completely impossible. Yes, they can get into a studio with their cell phone and record a solo. However, is that going to be the same as a fully rehearsal directed and professionally choreographed, 3rd year graduate performance with a full company of dancers? Of course not!

If anything, the "selfie solo" could actually hurt the applicant because they are not performing at their best, absent the adrenaline rush of a dance performance replete with lights, music and a live audience.

We would strongly recommend that video material should always be an optional extra and the absence of that video material should not determine an applicant's suitability to attend the audition.

The Open Audition

In some ways the open audition might seem like a fairer way to do things. Just publicise a date and then let the dancers rock up with their CV and take their chances.

The open audition only works for both dancer and dance company though if you can be sure a reasonable amount of people will show up across multiple audition dates across a particular country or region.

If the audition is flooded with hundreds of dancers (not as rare as you might think) then just how much of a chance do you think the dancers will have to shine? Conversely, how much of a chance will the choreographer/director have to spot the dancers they really want to work with?

An open audition is really more of a lottery and getting a job in a dance company should be about personality and skill and that's not really going to come through with hundreds of dancers squeezed into a dance studio.

We have also seen open audition notices that stipulate dancers may not be auditioned at all if too many people show up. That is simply unacceptable when dancers may have to pay a lot of money to travel there in the first place.

Looking through hundreds of CVs and application emails might be a drag, but that's what you signed up for when you started a dance company.

We recommend nixing the open audition.

The Application Form

We have written before on Article19 about the growing trend of dance companies using application forms in their audition process.

It's worth re-iterating here that dancers are nomadic folk. They move around a lot and not everybody has access to a laptop with the ability to edit a Word document or a PDF properly and send it back to you.

Application forms do little more than introduce an added layer of complexity for the dancer. There is nothing that can be written in an application form that cannot be written in an email or one page CV.

We would also suggest that you set up a dedicated account (using Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Outlook) to receive audition applications. That way your normal email address will not be overwhelmed and crash. You can also setup a simple auto-responder so the applicants know that their email has been received.

A special place in hell is reserved for those companies that require dancers to apply for auditions using postal mail.

Again, if you don't want to receive lots of applications to audition from professional dancers then you might want to get out of the dance company game.

Play fair......

  • Kema

    Maybe choreographers need to be more specific about what they want, in the 90s i went to an audition with a friend, we were both 5'11 tall. The choreographer and her co-director were 5'2 maximum. After the class all the tall dancers were asked to leave and smaller dancers stayed. Maybe the choreographer wanted small dancers! So why not put that in the audition post? Look at Lion King Auditions:
    Mufasa (Lion) Mufasa is stoic, kingly, regal, strong, centred, warm, giving, a teacher, understanding, compassionate. Height: 6'0"-6'3", 183-191cm Vocal Range: Bass Baritone
    Timon has a Napolean complex, tough little guy, over-compensating, wants to be in charge, with a nasal Brooklyn accent. Height: 5'5"-5'8", 165-173cm Vocal Range: Baritone/Tenor
    I understand obviously these are specific roles but at least you'll know you won't have to shell out for a train to London and get kicked out of the audition after 30 minutes because you were too tall or short!!
    I know of people who have spent longer travelling across London to an audition than they spent in the dance studio!!

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