How we present ourselves in body language, personal appearance, and overall attitude is a quiet yet key player in the audition process. Having a good attitude and exercising basic etiquette with your fellow dancers, choreographers, directors, and yes, photographers, is a sign of respect and is beneficial to your career and how you approach your work.
While we could have a debate about the value of faking it ’til you make it, there is something to be said about putting on a brave face, a pleasant face, or at least a face that doesn’t read “I don’t want to be here,” or “I could care less.” This translates not only in your face but your body as a whole. For example, if you have a tendency to lean into one hip, practice standing with your weight distributed evenly between both feet. If your facial expression tends to rest in a blank stare or furrowed brow, imagine relaxing your facial muscles or just hold on to one detail in your mind that makes you happy about that particular class. This can be as small as the leotard you’re wearing or the music the accompanist plays. Trivial though these suggestions are, standing up with shoulders back, gaze and chin up, and an air of interest already paints the impression that you are engaged, focused, and can carry yourself with confidence.
Sticking with the theme of cliché aphorisms, “dress to impress” is a mantra shrugged off as an obvious part of your audition. When you go into an audition or any environment where you are putting your artistry on display, you have the opportunity to present your best self. Have you hair up and slicked back (no fly aways). Don’t wear tights with runs in them. Snip away frays in the tips of your pointe shoes. While now is not the time to put heavy stage makeup on, avoid entering that space looking like you just rolled out of bed. Again, though the importance of appearance in the dance world is often an occupational hazard, you should want to look alert and like you care.
The smallest details–habits that we may not be aware of in the moment–paint a picture of who you are. In auditions, watch for ticks and twitches from your fingers to your toes. As dancers, we are constantly in motion, and we develop these ticks to release nervous energy. We might fidget with our hair, pick at our nails, tap or kick a foot in frustration, or cross/uncross our arms. These are dead giveaways of nerves, disinterest, or a wandering mind.
It is totally natural to lack an inner calm in high pressure situations, especially when we rely so much on our physicality and overall aesthetic. We want to be impressive and prove ourselves, but it’s still okay to have coping mechanisms. The trick is to take the time to identify what your ticks are and to practice withholding from executing them. Trade in the ticks for less distracting tricks. A big one is remembering to breathe. In. Out. Repeat. Ever had a teacher explain that they need to see breath in the movement? That they can tell the class isn’t breathing? Well, there’s a reason they tell you to breathe. It helps you stay calm and offers a fluidity and ease to your movement.
Even if nerves aren’t the biggest concern for you, there are other reasons attitude is so important. If you act like you couldn’t be bothered to try or care, a negative cloud can form over your experience and relationship with your fellow dancers and potential employers. If you look hesitant and act accordingly, your dancing and person will come across just as hesitant. Similarly, being on the defense and close-minded or unreceptive to correction will not put you on the path to success. Instead, humble yourself and learn to absorb what is thrown your way. There’s always a takeaway.
Now, I could keep telling you “don’t do this, don’t do that,” but at the end of the day, it’s crucial that you still maintain the essence of you. You are the only you there is, and in an audition, embrace what you offer, and the comfort and confidence in doing so will already improve your attitude, not just in the moment but for the future of your career.