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.
Picking dancers out of a crowd is kind of your job, so cut audition applicants some slack. JV2 'Tomorrow' from Article19