Audition season is upon us! And we all know how it feels to step into a room and feel wholly out of your element. Whether it be the technique, the repertoire, or the style of dance, there are so many ways a new environment, like an audition, can throw you for a loop. But while you may not be comfortable with what is asked of you, stepping out of your comfort zone is actually very important in your career. Embracing fear of the unknown and maintaining an open mind will actually boost your confidence and help you become a more versatile dancer.
So how can we go about moving beyond the familiar and putting ourselves in a healthy mindset to approach different styles?
For one thing, put yourself in a variety of situations leading up to an audition. If you have the option to take ballet, or any other style, from multiple teachers, do it. While many companies provide company class with its artistic staff, there are plenty of companies that offer the flexibility to take class where you wish. For instance, here in New York, plenty of professionals take open class at Steps on Broadway, Peridance, and other local studios. Regardless, it is so easy to get in to a routine. You might have built up a strong rapport with that teacher, and in turn, their class becomes a safe haven.
Mentally, we can even trick ourselves into thinking we can only perform our best or work our hardest in only certain ideal situations. What it boils down to is feeling comfortable and confident to put your best foot forward, literally. So by taking class from teachers with different takes on the same concepts, you can gradually train yourself to get out of your head and succeed at the same level regardless of who is teaching.
Even if you aren’t in the midst of auditions, you should always seek out a challenge and learn from different perspectives. As a professional dancer, you never know what might be thrown your way so don’t settle into one way of working or thinking. That being said, if you are going out of the normal routine, be sure to supplement your class and rehearsal schedule with little moments of comfort to keep yourself balanced, to process the uncharted.
Taking a variety of styles, not just a variety of teachers, is equally important. It’s beneficial for your musicality, for picking up choreography, for your movement quality. Using your muscles in different ways can teach you a lot about how you move and what works on your body and what doesn’t. You may very well discover something about yourself as an artist whether that be a style or piece of rep that you really connect with or what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to navigate that.
Identify what makes you uncomfortable about an audition or other new situations in your career. Is it being around a bunch of dancers that you may not know on a personal level? Is it a lack of familiarity with the studio or performance space? Are you used to live music or recorded? Are you naturally overcome by stage fright? These are all common hurdles that this profession forces us to face head on. Come to terms with what prevents you from stepping out of your comfort zone. Don’t be down on yourself. We all get nervous, so use the nervous energy and transfer it to confidence. Though it’s good to be cautious if intuition is giving you warning signs, ultimately, what scares us the most often ends up being an eye-opening experience.
If you aren’t in an audition but are, instead, facing a new choreographer or entering work that has different expectations than what you’ve experienced in the past, learn from it. Even being the subject of a photo shoot or film can be stepping out of your comfort zone. Call me a broken record, but training yourself to do what scares you will expand your horizons and grow thick skin, so give yourself a push forward through the door when you feel the safety net dissolve.