Musical theatre audition tips part 4: rocking the dance call

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Welcome back to part 4, the final section of MTU’s audition tips series: rocking the dance call. This post discusses the elements of the dance portion of your musical theatre audition, what to expect and how to stand out against the crowd.

How a dance call works: usually if you are attending a dance call, it is because you are at a large open call audition or you are being considered for an ensemble role in a show, so you'll be asked to attend a dance call with 50-100 other people. The show's choreographer will teach the entire group a short combination, after which he/she will call you up in small groups of 4-6 while he/she evaluates, along with the rest of the creative team.

Stand where you can see the choreographer well. You won't be given endless time to learn the combination, so every moment is precious and you don't want to waste valuable moments trying to crane your neck to see the steps. Don't be afraid to squeeze your way up to the front; it's every auditioner for himself in these situations.

Dress appropriately. Quite simply, wear dance attire - real dance attire, not your scruffy workout clothes. Investing in 1-2 nice dance outfits will not cost that much and will make you look and feel confident and professional. Women are generally expected to wear tights, shorts or a skirt, and a form fitting top, and men can get away with just about anything that is fitness-oriented and form fitting. Beyond those very broad guidelines, you can pick anything you want: choose clothing that you feel comfortable in, that's not overly revealing, and that shows a bit of who you are. Try Capezio or Body Wrappers dancewear, as they are high quality brands and used industry-wide. Consider the show you're auditioning for as you pick clothing: is it contemporary or classical? Is it a dark show, or a fun show where bright colors might be more suiting? Will an item you're wearing clash with the show theme? Some people may advise you to wear something that's closer to costume attire than dance/fitness attire in order to stand out, but tread with caution: I think it's smarter to wear what they ask for, or wear something you're very comfortable in, than to stand out and take the risk of misinterpreting their costuming vision or not being able to move as well. Let your dance skills speak for themselves, and you'll stand out enough already. For more information on dance attire and shoes, see our eBook, the Musical Theatre Performer's Guide to Audition Success.

Hair and makeup tips: keep it simple. Wear your hair off your face, and wear whatever eye and lip makeup you would normally wear to an acting or singing audition. Don't overdo it with costumey makeup. See our post on stage makeup tips for more details. 

Have the right footwear. In addition to dance clothes, make sure you've invested in jazz shoes, tap shoes, ballet shoes, and character shoes that fit you well and are broken in before you attend the call. Bring all 4 pairs to your audition, as you never know what they may unexpectedly ask you to perform, and being over-prepared never killed anyone. 

Consider what the creative team is looking for. In a dance call, the choreographer and other directors are looking for three things: first, they want to work with individuals who can learn a combination quickly as to not waste time in rehearsals. Second, they want to hire people who have a strong foundation of dance knowledge and experience, so that they can create interesting and varied choreography that will hold an audience's attention. Finally, they are choosing people that can move with the desired energy of the show, for example, a classic show will require people who move very gracefully and flowy, or a contemporary show like RENT will require dancers to move with sharp, strong expression. Despite how well you are trained in dance, you may not have the right energy they want for the show.

Don't forget expression! If you are primarily a singer/actor and not well versed in using dance as a means of communication, it's easy to forget that your movements are telling a story. Use your acting skills and engage your face and body to show that you are connected with the show's messages and will communicate them well to an audience. Directors will always choose an expressive dancer over perfect technique.

Practice in the wings while other small groups perform. After the combination is taught, take advantage of extra practice time by marking the steps on your own, off to the side, while other small groups are being evaluated. Practice makes perfect!

This blog completes MTU's series on audition tips - check out part 1 on general tips, part 2 on music, and part 3 on monologues, for additional information.

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