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 Post subject: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 8:55 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
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Location: SF Bay Area
Quote:
They hope they get it

By Tanya Barrientos
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

NEW YORK - This is how ballet dancers stand at the barre: Chin up. Shoulders back. Stomach tight. Feet turned out. <a href=http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/5589537.htm target=_blank>more</a>


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 10:02 am 
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Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 1258
Location: Scotland/France
On the French forum, and as reflected in this article, we know that only a handful are going to be picked, but more importantly, the physical attribute will come first.

We were questionning the case of a student who would be definitely too small, not strong enough, not whatever quality is required by directors nowadays...
Would you warn this student of such shortcomings? And if yes, how would you say that their chances are reduced?
Is it better, like the article mentions 'to let them do the whole barre' or be blunt with it?

What's your opinion on this?


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 2:04 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA. USA
I found the article very well done and interesting, without being negative; it was informational.

I liked and found wonderful the positive things imbedded in the story -- how many had gone to multiple auditions. I don't see this as a negative, as in they tried and tried but couldn't get in but rather that they have not given up and realize that auditioning many times is often what it takes. I felt like cheering and certainly must cheer them on!

It's also a lesson in not taking these kinds of decisions too personally. Even though it is about you, it's not really. As the article states, they may be looking for a particular type or size. Or, as we know, it may boil down to "Do they fit the costume?" and have little to do with actual talent.

PNB has begun something that I think is very smart -- bringing ADs TO PNB for auditions. I know of at least five who have been in Seattle the last couple of months just for this purpose.

Much more efficient than hundreds of dancers flying all over the place to cattle-calls.

Okay, that said, I think however the selection and elimination process is done, the important thing is how it's handled and presented. If the dancers are allowed and shown respect and dignity, then both rejections and acceptances come easier. For example, letting the group know up front that there are 150 people at this audition and we can only take 5, as much as we'd like to take you all. Or, we're looking for a tall woman to replace one of our taller dancers who retired last year. Or that while we had planned to take 10, due to the economy and budget constraints, we can only take 2.

I try to encourage talented students who are ready, to go to as many auditions as possible both for training and for jobs.

On a personal note, when I was taking auditions, I almost always preferred being able to at least finish barre. In some cases, we were expected to bring a short solo to show or as at others, to learn repertory and not take a technique class. The rep. model was the most rare and probably the most challenging but certainly valid.

Being polite and civil are important. While it may seem trite, saying "thank you!" to everyone tells a lot about an organization and its leaders.

We think of auditions as being one-sided but potential employees also learn about their possible employers at these things too! :cool:

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Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 2:12 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 23, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 1057
Location: SF CA
Thank you balletowoman for bringing the French discussion to us. I really wish more than ever I would have studied French more seriously in school.

This is always a hard dilema. One company that I worked for would let dancers audition the whole barre as they were afraid of being sued for any kind of discrimination. As it says in the newspaper article "they start making up their minds when the dancer enters the room". I think it more hurtful to be "typed out" at the begining of an audition but also it does not raise any false hopes. Some dancers prefer this so as not to waste their time.

I was a small dancer 5'1 who knew what my limitations and strengths were. Example, I never auditioned for NYCB. It also depends on the dancer.

I think the dancer as well as the teacher has to be honest and real with their expectations.


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 2:37 pm 
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Location: New England
One issue that wasn't pointed out here: cutting dancers in a ruthless way can terrorize those who are left.


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 10:49 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 20, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 3000
Location: San Francisco
On one hand, I think it would be nice to let people at least do the barre, or the equivalent in whatever other type of dance you're auditioning in. When I lived in NY, I knew people who were living on very little money who appreciated being able to take as much of an audition class as possible, since they might not have enough money at the time to take as many classes as they needed.

However, I agree with Lucy about being typed out at the beginning of the audition. I went through that enough times, being a 6' woman. I found it easier to handle emotionally than being allowed to take the class, getting my hopes up, and then being cut at the end, and told (when I asked) that it was because I was too tall.

After I quit dancing, I saw an ad for dancers to be in a small (2 couples) Appalachian clogging team, to perform at parties and special events. Having done some clogging and enjoyed it, I thought this would be an enjoyable occasional job. I decided to call up the director/choreographer, to find out before I went whether I'd be wasting my time. It turned out she was 5'10" and had no objection to my being 6'. BUT her aesthetic sense dictated that she could only use me if she could find a man who was taller than 6'. So I went to the audition and turned out to be the only person there who'd ever done any clogging (I got applause from the other dancers when my turn to solo came!). I remember the look of surprise from some of them when I was eliminated in the first cut, but it was no surprise to me, as the men were chosen first and the tallest man was only about 5'11". It was disappointing, but it didn't really hurt, as I knew what I was in for.

<small>[ 10 April 2003, 04:11 AM: Message edited by: djb ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 12:21 am 
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Location: San Francisco
Another interesting point Lucy brought up was the fear of incurring discrimination charges. I know of a case where the choreographer was accused of discrimination even though he let the dancer in question take the entire barre.

This was the year I auditioned to dance in the San Francisco Opera. The choreographer that year was Norbert Vesak, who worked with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. We had already done plies and tendus, when a woman arrived who made everyone stop and stare. She appeared to me to be in her late 20's or early 30's, obviously not very trained in ballet, judging by the lack of muscle tone in her (bare) legs. She was wearing brand-new pointe shoes - actually laced up her legs - and a red tutu, like one of those recital tutus you see in dancewear catalogues, with the puckery elastic bodices. She had some rather extreme makeup on, too.

Norbert recovered quickly and asked whether she was there for the audition. She said yes, so he directed her to a place at the barre. This woman obviously knew almost nothing about ballet technique - the only step she seemed to recognize was pas de bourree en tournant, which she actually did on pointe, very shakily. When the barre was over, Norbert called her over and talked to her for a minute, and then she left, to everyone's relief. He told us afterward that he told her he felt she didn't have enough training to be able to continue the audition safely, and he couldn't be responsible for her if she were to injure herself attempting combinations in the center.

The next day, Norbert was informed by the Opera administration that this woman had complained that the audition was obviously rigged, as no one else had been asked to leave at that point. He actually had to go to a hearing, with some witnesses from among the auditioners, to clear himself of the charges.

A couple of my friends who were watching the audition said they wondered whether this woman had been put up to this as a practical joke on Norbert. My more fanciful take on it was that she was the only child of some monstrous, controlling, delusional, invalid mother who'd always wanted to be a ballet dancer, and who'd trained her daughter herself (while keeping her sheltered from the world) and told her she was now ready to go out and conquer the dance world.

<small>[ 10 April 2003, 02:23 AM: Message edited by: djb ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 6:10 am 
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Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 11:01 pm
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Location: Scotland/France
Although you all bring some interesting comments, my question had misguided you :(

The French topic went into a tangent, speaking about auditioning at pro schools, which of course is also a different matter, as they will enter to be trained to be dancers, but again, what would be your policy on indicating to the student that really, all hopes are probably too optimistic at this stage? :(

The last anecdote from djb would be one of those examples, where clearly, a dancer that is at beginner stage would be left more scarred by the look on other auditioning people's face, than by the gentle approach from a teacher, who would prevent a disaster... I'm talking about people who are not ready at the time, or who will likely never be ready to audition...

<small>[ 10 April 2003, 08:14 AM: Message edited by: balletowoman ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 10:08 am 
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Location: SF CA
If your teacher is not honest and does not let you know exactly where you stand in terms of progress and readyness, then you have a problem as I see it.

I have seen this too many times. One teacher sent a student to a large competition. Convinced her parents that it was a "slam dunk" gold medal. She was sent to me for coaching. She had great promise but was about to go and make a big mistake as she was just not ready for this kind of competition. I talked to the parents and the girl and was honest. Long story short, she went and did her best. She did not qualify but I insisted that she go and see the 3rd round of the dancers who did win. She turned to me and said "what was Mr. ***** thinking?
All he saw was money for extra lessons and support for his company.


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 10:42 am 
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Posts: 1780
Location: Dallas, TX USA
I've seen false encouragement from teachers quite a bit... at my old studio my teacher told all of her more "advanced" students they were at the pre-professional level and were going to go do great things when it was quite obvious to me that they probably didn't have a chance. Her turnout was terrible (and this teacher had never even seemed to mention it to her) and her legs were not straight, and her body was just not right for the job. I thought it was pretty mean of my teacher to say these things to her, because she was obviously being set up for major disappointment!

Of course, I didnt even realize that this was going on until i got to college and saw the dance majors there. They were miles and miles better than anyone at my old studio and they're *still* not at the level to get into a company... and most of them even probably wont.

Another friend of mine is a dance major at my school, and she came from a small town in Texas. At her studio, she was the star student, the best there was, according to her teacher. But then she got into the program here, and suddenly her teacher was doing things that she had *never* seen before in her life. She's improved quite a bit since she came into the program, but the professors are still worried that she wont make it to the appropriate level to graduate when her 4 years in the program is up. She said it was quite a rude awakening, but she still refuses to quit, and she'll do anything she can to prove the professors wrong.

I've talked about this to one of my teachers at school, about how evil this is to do to dance students. There is definately a difference between lying to a student and trying to be positive. Theres no gain from dishonesty.

I suppose maybe this is one point in favor of good teachers needing some professional experience... so they *know* exactly what it takes to make it professionally (to tie in another thread).


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 2:01 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2000 11:01 pm
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Location: Seattle, WA. USA
Yes, very interesting stories and good points from all. I remember when I was at the start of directing a ballet school and company, of hearing of the story of a young woman who had taken ballet for 12 years in her local, mid-size town dance school who thought she was accomplished and well-trained but who was crushed after her first audition when she realized she couldn't dance.

I vowed then and there that this would never happen to our students!

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Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 3:05 pm 
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Location: New England
I started off on this one thinking, "what if directors were more accepting of different shapes and heights?" Would that make the process any more humane?

I realized it wouldn't really. It would just drive up the technical standards further. But if peoples' actual overall chances of being hired to a decent job are to improve, then you need to have more jobs available. And that means audience development, donor relations, outreach, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 5:08 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA. USA
And the interesting thing is that in now 30+ years of teaching, I've NEVER had a student, not one, directly ask me, "Mr. Speer, do you think I can make it as a professional dancer?"

I have had parents (in particular) and students ask for advice but really not all that often. And I consider myself a very approachable person and not all that scary!

I do try to encourage as much as I can talent and potential when I see it, so maybe this takes care of it! ;)

As a small example and as a good example of the potential impact and influence our words have, I had one, very talented student in the small (very rural, dairy) community where I regularly teach believe me when I told her she had potential and talent. She went directly from graduating from high school to New York, where she has been and thriving for the past, almost four, years. She later told me that my encouragement is what kept her with it!

So, words from teachers and ADs at auditions DO have an impact.

I'm glad to read that Roy Kaiser and his team were civil, respectful, and informed the dancers up front what they were looking for and how the audition was going to be conducted.

I agree with Citibob that wouldn't it be wonderful if there were more full-time jobs for dancers. Some dance companies are open to a wider range of body types/shapes. I remember the last time I saw the Atlanta Ballet (1988!) and thinking the very thing -- many persons of color (including 5 Asians at the time), more height variations, and some women with more curves than others!

When I came back to Seattle, I recommended to a young (at the time), beautiful ballet student who is a person of color and petite, that she go to Atlanta -- and she did!

Bené Arnold, of Ballet West and the U. of Utah, I'm told did a specific travel study a few years back on what each ballet company in the U.S. is looking for. Certainly would be relevant and interesting if we could post it!!

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Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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 Post subject: Re: The Audition Experience
PostPosted: Sat Aug 07, 2004 11:27 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Now, here's a story about an 11-year old PA girl's experience in NYC:

Quote:
Local girl wins ticket to national workshop
Tiny dancer


By Jaime North, Chambersburg Public Opinion

Auditioning can be a stressful venture, especially in the arts mecca of New York City. <a href=http://www.publicopiniononline.com/news/stories/20040806/localnews/993691.html target=_blank>more</a>


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