Updated 2018. Though this year’s audition season is already in motion, I’m constantly getting requests for audition shoots, including head shots. One of the most common questions always asked is: what do I wear to look my absolute best?
A little known fact about me is that my mother started a dancewear store while I was a student. As a result, I am super lucky to have an educated perspective on what is actually flattering on different body types. While thinking over the question of what to wear, I wanted to share the following tips:
- However unfortunate it might be, the truth is, the first and last impression you leave on a director may be most important. Marketing research tells us you have about three seconds to catch their attention before they move onto the next candidate. If you take yourself seriously, so will they. This starts with the first thing they see, often your photograph. It is important to do everything you can to have the best pictures possible.
- Try to avoid booking your session on a busy day, when you have other things on your plate. You need to be focused and present for the time you are working with your photographer, not thinking about a rehearsal that you have to make by 5:30. Not to mention, most dancers don’t realize just how physically difficult getting good shots is.
Energy and intention must come through each pose and movement. You will more than likely be doing each pose 20-50 times. Yes, you read that right. It’s extremely common in my studio to repeat each movement that many times, with top energy. That will eat up a lot of your physical and mental capacity.
- Spend time researching the photographer and ask these important questions:
a) Is your photographer a former dancer? Will he/she be able to guide you through what you need technically to get great shots? It’s very important to work with someone who knows how to coach you and get you to achieve your ideal lines and emotional range.
If you do not have access to an ex-dancer photographer, make sure to bring a friend or teacher that you trust to give you a second pair of eyes.
b) What style do you need? Discuss with your photographer what companies you would like to audition for and what kind of impression you wish to leave.
c) What can the photographer offer? How long a session is, what kind of packages the photographer offers, and what your budget is are all factors to consider. Know what you’re looking for as you shop around. Remember quality is key.
d) Am I comfortable around my photographer? You need to be able to let go, be yourself and perform while working for that perfect shot. Allow yourself a certain level of vulnerability. We can retouch legs, arms etc. but we can’t add smiles or expressions to your face!
- Test out different lines. I think it surprises so many dancers that working in front of a camera is very different than being in the studio or on stage. You need to test, test, test to find your lines. It’s my firm belief that all dancers can have excellent images if you take the time to get to know how your body needs to adapt for the 2D screen.
- Energy and emotion in your images will set you apart from the crowd. They will also help the director understand your style. This is one of the most important parts of audition photos if you are going for companies. Spend some time to make sure that your images are not static, but evoke movement quality, energy and your acting range.
- What you wear is so, so important and depends on the companies you are interested in. Start with the basics for classical companies: a leotard, with or without tights, is the norm. Skirts are fine if they don’t cover too much up or run a distraction. My emphasis is always on shows off your legs to your best advantage. Some students enjoy shooting in stage costumes like a tutu or an empire dress for the ladies and tights plus T’s, colored tights with bare chest or biketards and shorts for men.
For more contemporary shots, bare legs/chests are great, as are shorts and alternate tops. This is definitely an area to discuss with your photographer as well as your teacher or mentor.
Makeup should be natural, slightly elevated. For example, avoid heavy lines around the eyes, but extra mascara is a good idea.
I’m putting together an updated guide to leotards, but here are a few highlights to keep in mind:
- The neckline should always flatter, evening out your hips with your shoulder line. Where the straps sit on your shoulders should be directly over the line of your hips.
- Bodysuits with cut-outs, while fun, may sometimes provide more skin in a shot than you want or than is ultimately flattering.
- Very high cut or very low cut legs are often distracting from the true lines of your leg. Avoid.
- Colors are very important. Not only can colors flatter your skin and eyes; they speak to your personality. Spend some time thinking about what colors really represent your style
Try not to be too hard on yourself as you build your shots.. It often takes 10, 20, 30, even 40 tries to get the perfect angle with the right head, lines, and facial expression. Good shots take work and very few dancers (with the exception of highly seasoned professionals), get it on the first go around.