What do you cover in a typical interview?
“In the studio, I’m already watching closely for how
well you pay attention, how you handle your nerves,
and are you polite to the rest of the dancers. So, by
the time you’re sitting down with me in my office,
I just want us to get to know each other. I want to
see you look me in the eye, be curious and listen. (I
might have questions about someone
who just can’t stop talking.) But I also
want to know what you like about
your hometown, what drew you
to our company, and who you are
when you’re at ease. Remember that
you’re interesting to me!” —Dorothy
Gunther Pugh, Ballet Memphis
What kinds of responses are red flags that a
dancer wouldn’t be a good fit for your company?
“I think a lot of dancers assume it’s bad if they’re not
extroverted, but I’m happy to hire someone quiet.
Do show me you can articulate what
How can a prospective dancer prepare?
you love, because that’s what you
end up drawing from as an artist. I
see a red flag when it sounds like
someone has a lot of scheduling
conflicts and previous commitments
but still insists she can commit to
us. I understand that working with
other choreographers might be the
only way you can survive, but being
overextended is not a healthy way
to function. You really have to be transparent in the
interview about the obligations you do have, so I can
be up front about whether it’s possible to work with
you.” —Colin Connor, Limón Dance Company
“I don’t want to be asked how many performances
we do or which choreographers we work with. A
great way to prove you’ve done your research is to
say, ‘I see Robyn Mineko Williams is
choreographing this season. I was able
to work with her in one of my summer
programs.’ That draws my attention
to something I may have missed on
your resumé, and now I know that I
can touch base with her about that
experience.” —Patricia Barker, Grand
Interviews by Kristyn Brady
How to ace the
Ask an Artistic
During her senior year of college, Erika
Leeds flew to Philadelphia for an open
call. She was one of more than 100
people who paid $25 to audition, with
Many companies offer the explanation that it is expensive to hold open calls and
the hopes of landing a job. “Once we got
there, we were told that there were cur-
rently no open spots in the company,” says
Leeds. She stayed for the promise of getting
seen but walked away disappointed. “This whole
thing was crazy: I paid to fly up here and audition, and
they weren’t hiring and barely saw us dance.”
In other industries, having a job candidate pay a future employer for an
interview would be considered unethical. Yet in dance, it is common practice.
in exchange for that fee, they are providing a class. Now, cash-strapped danc-
ers and even some company leaders find themselves questioning this norm.
Just saying no
In August, Brooklyn-based downtown dancer and choreographer Raja Feather
Kelly was asked to help advertise an open call. When he saw that there was a
fee to attend, he immediately posted on Facebook: “I just don’t think dancers
should pay to audition. NO!” The post stirred up discussion among the modern
dance community. Some choreographers lamented the higher cost of booking
space when it is used for an audition rather than a rehearsal, while others admitted that it should still be part of a company’s budget. Dancers expressed frustration at being expected to contribute to a company they didn’t even dance for
yet. Too few jobs seemed to come as a result, and there was a sense that some
companies might be holding auditions opportunistically—to collect money or
advertise an upcoming show. Dancers’ confidence in the process was waning.
Kelly sees another path. “It is very possible to take class, see dance shows
and meet people you want to work with without having to audition, much
less pay to audition. That is how people really are getting work,” he says.
“Dancers need to take responsibility for building relationships.” In the long
run, the cost for classes and tickets ends up being more expensive, but this
type of investment is likely to have a bigger payoff.
are tHere any Benefits?
In the ballet world, where companies are spread out, making connections often
comes with the cost of travel and auditions. To counter that, Kansas City Ballet
artistic director Devon Carney made a compromise: an audition tour. Beginning in 2014, he expanded auditions beyond New York City and Kansas City,
aiming to reach a major metropolitan area in each region of the U.S. While it
does cost non-AGMA members $25 to attend a KCB audition, Carney insists
that bringing open calls to a broader community has made the process more affordable. “The alternative is traveling further, which costs the dancer more, and
the room is more crowded,” he says. To date, Carney has hired from open calls
in Houston, San Francisco, Boston, Kansas City and New York City.
If you’re considering submitting video auditions to forego travel costs, be
aware that you’ll often pay as much as $35 per application. Why? “It’s a more
stringent process,” says Carney, who receives about 500 submissions every
season. Unless you think you’re the perfect fit, you may want to save a little
cash and stick to open calls. “Ultimately, it’s best way to get the most time in
front of a director.” n
PAYING TO PLAY
Should auditions cost the dancer?
BY CANDICE THOMPSON