• auditions •
If at First You Don’t
Lessons learned as a recent college grad
on the audition circuit BY ALI CASTRO
When I graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts last May, I felt
totally prepared to audition. I had listened
to the faculty’s advice, gleaned insight from
alum and visiting choreographers and learned
everything from how to build my resumé to
dressing the part. I felt ready, armed with all
the tools to book the concert and commercial
work I desired. Or so I thought. I quickly
learned that nothing could replicate the experience of auditioning for professional work.
One of the greatest—but most nerve-racking—
things about auditioning is that I still see my
classmates. Just as badly as I want that job,
so do they. Sometimes, I make it to the next
round. Other times, I watch my friends make
the cut. Self-doubt can creep in quickly, and
I wonder, Why not me? But I’ve learned that
taking it personally gets me nowhere. As much
as I’d like to think I know what choreographers or casting directors are looking for, I
don’t. There are so many variables outside of
my control, whether it’s height, body type or
even where I was standing in the room.
In these moments, I try to de;ne success
for myself. Success is personal, not universal.
Now, I measure it on how often I work and
how much I love the process.
Burnout Is Real
Staying motivated can be hard when sometimes I feel more like a professional auditionee
than a professional dancer. At ;rst, I was
ashamed that I felt burnt out on auditioning—
wasn’t this my life’s purpose, what I paid to go
to school for? After graduation, when I went
to several large auditions and nothing stuck, I
became frustrated and completely exhausted.
I took some time off from auditioning to clear
my head, and after talking with friends, I real-
ized this feeling isn’t that uncommon.
I started to give myself permission to take
a break when I get overwhelmed—there will
always be more auditions. I try new ;tness
classes (anything from running to trampoline
cardio), explore a neighborhood or dive into a
good book. If I don’t give myself a breather, I
ment—the opposite of what I want to present
at an audition. Now I aim to attend two a
week so I don’t feel stretched too thin.
Recently, I also pledged that I wouldn’t
audition for work that didn’t compensate me
well enough—;nancially or otherwise. There
are gigs that might not pay much but will offer
me high-quality rehearsal and performance
clips, exposure to an artist I’m interested in
working with or a ;exible rehearsal schedule.
But if I’m feeling stagnant, I’ll mix it up
and whip out my character heels for a musical
theater audition. Or I’ll ;nd a hip-hop audition to refresh myself with a great challenge
and a good laugh.
Learning to Fail Better
Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned is
that if I’m not ready to fail—a lot—then the
process will be brutal. A couple of months
after I graduated, I had several callbacks for a
promising opportunity. When I got cut, I shut
down. I thought, If I didn’t book this one,
there’s no way I’ll book the next one. For a
time after that, I avoided auditions altogether.
I feared failure. Slowly, I was able to let go of
that fear, which allowed me to do better work
and learn from my missteps. When I learned
to fail better, my fear lost its power.
Each cut presents an opportunity to
reevaluate my path, and each audition is a
chance to collaborate with different artists.
During recent auditions for immersive dance
shows, I discovered a desire to create similar
work. So I became rehearsal director for a new
immersive project with Billy Bell called The
God Complex. I’m grateful for what auditioning has taught me about myself as an artist.
When I book my next job, I know I’ll be a
better performer because of it. ■
If I’m not ready to
fail, then the process
will be brutal.