How the pros rise above audition mistakes
Slips, trips, forgotten steps and (dare we say it?) falls—audition flubs can feel like the end of the world. But most choreographers don’t expect perfection in tryouts. In fact, the way you bounce back from a mistake shows them how well you perform under pressure—and in the professional world, that’s as important as talent. Dance Magazine asked four seasoned professionals to share the good, the bad and the benefits of their most embarrassing mishaps.
Assistant dance captain and ensemble swing, On the Town on Broadway
Choreographer Joshua Bergasse loves exquisite technique and tricks. For the On the Town audition, he wanted a quadruple pirouette and a double back attitude turn and kicks as high and turned out as you can—and very fast. It was daunting. I saw so many talented dancers crumble under this crazy combination. I just focused on how much I could infuse my personality into the steps. The first time through, I didn’t do four pirouettes; I got around three times. Instead of beating myself up, I used that extra second to smile and do something fun and Paloma-esque. Josh loves when you infuse his combinations with your personality, make a choice and own it. It’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned about auditioning for Broadway—to fearlessly show who you are. And for the most part, the audition will be harder than anything you have to do in the show. Granted, we do do four pirouettes in On the Town!
Tip: People want to see if you’re the type of person who goes for it and gives it all you’ve got. They’re not going to write you off because you fall—they want you to succeed.
Photo by Jayme Thornton.
Dancer, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
In an audition for Luna Negra, we had to improvise on some phrases with a partner. While we were dancing, my contact lenses fell out. I can’t see anything without a prescription—I couldn’t see my partner. I didn’t know where front was. I kept thinking, This is a disaster. Should I just stop? I went through the entire audition process blind as a bat, and I had to rely on listening and my other senses. My partner had no clue! Looking back, it showed the choreographer—and me—that you can rely on me. It gave me a lot of faith in myself. I know that if something goes wrong, I have many tools in my back pocket. I was offered the job, but ended up taking a different contract. But I learned an important lesson: Now I keep extra contact lenses in my tour bag all the time!
Tip: Personal expression is key. It’s important to learn the material, but if you don’t remember the steps, it’s more about evoking the world that the choreographer is trying to shape.
Photo by Amber Bliss, Courtesy Cedar Lake.
Dancer, Keigwin + Company
When I auditioned for Mark Dendy in college, we learned a circle dance that was very swirly and swoopy and didn’t have any counts—and we were going backwards. I just couldn’t figure it out. I was chaîné-turning the wrong direction, and then I was double-spotting. I looked like the 4-year-old girl who is going the other way in the ballet recital. Half the time you’re not as crazy-looking as you feel. That’s probably how it was at that audition, but in the moment it was like the world was crumbling. I got a callback, but in the end I wasn’t available for the project. Now, when I help run auditions for Keigwin + Company, I look at the whole package. Mistakes at auditions can be very informative about how someone thinks on their feet.
Tip: Follow through and commit yourself fully. You’re not just auditioning, you’re building relationships.
Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy K + C.
Dancer, Joffrey Ballet
When the Joffrey did Lar Lubovitch’s Othello, I auditioned for the part of Bianca, who does a very sensual gypsy dance with Iago. I had never tried the Bianca solo in front of everybody, and I was still learning the character and trying to get the dancing right. I was a bit frazzled and I completely blanked; I couldn’t even remember the first steps. I just stood there. And everyone had to stop and do the scene again—it was horrible! I had to get out of my own head and focus. It helped that Lar was sweet about it and said, “It’s okay. No one is expecting you to be perfect.” Sometimes it can seem completely overwhelming to remember everything. But it’s a growing experience to get back up and say, That wasn’t my best, and next time it’s going to be better. I did end up getting the part, and it was one of my favorites. And I never forgot the steps again!
Tip: If you’re right for the part, they’re going to see it even if you mess up or forget something.
Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey.