2 Professional Dancers on Surviving Audition Season

Audition season can be one of the most stressful times in a dancer’s career; the expenses add up, the travel is exhausting, and the outcomes are often defeating.  I caught up with a couple of dancers to hear about their current and past experiences auditioning.

Below, dancers Jade Butler (current Apprentice with Grand Rapids Ballet) and Demi Trezona (freelance artist based out of Portland, OR and former dancer with Czech National Ballet and Grand Rapids Ballet) share some quick statistics and personal insights from their 2019 audition seasons.

Jade’s Auditions at a Glance (2019)

Total number of auditions: 95

Auditions in person: 15

Auditions via emailed materials: 80

Total Number of Flights: 27

Cumulative Travel Days: 20

Estimated Cost (audition fees, travel, lodging): $4,000

Unresponsive Companies (after sending materials/physical auditions): 24

Demi’s Auditions at a Glance (2019)

Total Number of Auditions: 47

Auditions in person: 10

Auditions via emailed materials: 37

Estimated Cost (travel): $1,500 + airline miles

Unresponsive Companies (after sending materials/physical auditions): 15 (2 of which require a fee just to submit materials.)

What is the hardest or most challenging part of auditioning?

Jade: The hardest part is definitely how much time, effort, and resources you put into the process for potentially little to nothing in return. It’s especially disappointing when you fly to an audition, pay for a hotel, pay for food, pay the audition fee to get told that there are no contracts available (even though said company invited you to take a company class audition).  On top of that, the idea that dancers spend time and money on any audition to potentially never even hear back is mind-boggling to me.

Demi:  Putting your heart and soul into an audition and knowing you are a good dancer who is deserving of a job… and not getting one. It is also frustrating to see many younger dancers with little to no experience getting jobs over those with more experience. I think directors believe that younger dancers are more open-minded and moldable, but when I was around 18-20, I thought I had everything figured out;  I was hard bent on dancing how I wanted to dance.  Now, as an almost 26-year-old dancer, I feel more adaptable and open than ever.  I think directors may not realize that letting go of one’s ego comes with age and experience.

Any tips for jumping from the plane to an audition class (or having minimal time to adjust/prepare between traveling and auditioning)?

Jade: I’ve found that getting into the city the night before an audition and taking an open class beforehand, if possible, really helps me out. I’m a bit of a control freak, so having as much of a normal morning as possible really enables me to perform my best.. especially when I only have an hour and a half to show an artistic director why they should hire me. Additionally, taking a class 3 or so hours before the audition allows me to get warm enough to perform my best and go into the audition having realistic expectations about how the class will go. (For example: going to Antoinette Peloso’s class at City Center when I am auditioning in New York gets me on my leg without completely exhausting me.)

Demi:  It’s helpful to bring face wipes or something similar to refresh yourself after both traveling and auditioning.  If I stay at an Airbnb or a friend’s house instead of a hotel, I always ask if I can come back and shower after the audition (if I have time) so I don’t have to sit in my sweat on the plane - more often than not, the answer is yes!

How do you help yourself stay calm before an audition?

Jade:  Really having as close to a normal morning before the audition helps me out a lot. I also like to listen to a good podcast while I am warming up such as Pod Save America or Risk.

Demi: Being really present in my body and not looking around to see who’s looking at me. I also know auditions are stressful, so I try to be extra kind to the other auditionees by making small talk to lighten the mood.

What is the most frustrating part of the audition process?

Jade:  The most frustrating part is the sheer amount of time and resources you have to invest to potentially never hear back from a company. Out of the 80 companies I auditioned for this year, I traveled to about 15 of them. Out of those 15, I never heard back from 7.

Demi:  When a director announces, at the END of the audition, that they either only have one female contract, no female contracts, or sometimes no contracts AT ALL, and that they were just looking to fill positions in the second company or the school. I’m all for exposure, starting a dialogue, and making connections, but money is tight during audition season, and tactics like this can be a huge waste of time, money, and emotional stress.

Are there any aspects of traveling to auditions that you like?

Jade:  One really great thing about all of this traveling is that at almost every audition I traveled to, I either met up with an old friend, or I had friends traveling with me. Every year that I have done open auditions, I have run into friends who I have known for over a decade.  It’s a special treat to get to catch up and, of course, have a friend in the audition with you.

Demi:  I love traveling and getting to see friends!  It’s also fun to get a little taste of different cities.

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