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What it’s like to audition in NYC

An audition story in NYC

This is the story of what I focused on during my last couple of months living in New York City. A story of how I came about the job I have today. A story of struggle and accomplishment.  

Before I begin this audition story, you may ask, what is audition season? Well, for ballet dancers, audition season is when artistic directors of different ballet companies hold auditions which are typically held between the months of January through March. 

Normally, dancers have to fly all over the United States to audition in person or they have to put together a video audition and send it to a bunch of different companies. Thankfully, because I was living in NYC, I could attend all of the large cattle call auditions. Since New York City is such a large and influential city, companies from all over the United States fly in to hold large auditions. It was a great opportunity for me to be able to attend all of these auditions since they were literally in my backyard. 

In preparation for audition season, I filmed an audition video which consisted of classwork, a classical variation and a contemporary variation. I also did a professional photoshoot to have specific headshots and other images to bring to all the in-person auditions. 

Ellington, the dancer en pointe holding a checkered board wearing a black tutu and leather leotard.
Photo by Rachel Neville

Now, I went to almost every audition I could, which sometimes meant going to two in one day. They were normally held on the weekends, which meant that if I had an audition on Saturday and Sunday, I wouldn’t get a day off from dance because I was still training Monday through Friday. 

Because of this, January through March were extremely busy yet, for me, it was very exciting since the possibilities were pretty much endless. Depending on where I got a job offer, I could literally be moving anywhere. I even sent some European companies my audition materials. 

Now, it would probably take me hours to explain the stories of all my auditions and honestly they weren’t all that fun. If you don’t know anything about ballet, it may be hard to imagine but try and picture this: a large room with high ceilings, mirrors on multiple walls, and a piano in the corner. There was always a table at the front of the room where directors sit skimming through piles of papers with images of each dancer’s headshot, dance photo, and resume. Then the dancers are put into groups with about 40-75+ dancers who are all wearing tights and a leotard with numbers pinned onto their leotards. Everyone is striving for a position in their company, and typically, companies only have one to two spots available. 

Sounds fun right? Well, sometimes it was fun because whoever taught the class either gave a good class or gave good corrections, but sometimes it was very intimidating. Most of the teachers try and lighten the dancer’s spirits by telling them to “just dance” or “have fun,” but everyone knows the stakes and only very few dancers will be asked for a call back or even given a position. 

Before the class begins, dancers arrive at the studio where the audition is being held sometimes hours in advance. We like to arrive early so we can get a good number and also warm up properly. Typically, you’ll find dancers stretching or doing exercises in the halls with headphones in mentally preparing for the task ahead of them.

After the audition, depending on the company, some dancers will be immediately asked to stay behind and talk to the directors, others will be cut during the audition normally after barre, and sometimes dancer’s won’t hear back from them for weeks. You leave hoping to receive an email of a job offer, but normally you receive a letter explaining that you weren’t right for their company or they did not offer you a job. Sadly, sometimes you never even hear back. And all the money you paid for the audition is gone. 

Now, that is painting a pretty bleak picture of what normally happens. However, sometimes the directors do see something in you and you do get a call back or a job offer. 

This story describes one of those times.

I hope you enjoyed listening and reading this story.

Until next time,