As audition season starts winding down (did it ever even wind up this year? ugh.) I just finished the third and last audition for various productions with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet for next season. Unfortunately none led me to a job, but the process was still interesting.
Because they work the auditions by particular show for the most part, each audition is very different and there are different directors/choreographers/producers in charge choosing dancers. So the three I went to over the past month were all unique.
The first was for "Aida" with amazing choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. This was my favorite and the best one for many reasons, besides the fact that I actually came close and got a callback for that one. Auditions can be a very painful process, but it's a nice treat when you actually gain something from them besides a hit to your self-esteem. In that audition, Ratmansky himself taught the phrase we would audition with. His choreography itself is just wonderful, organic, musical, and fun - but that goes without saying. What was better was that he took the time and energy to work through the details of the steps, focusing on particular elements he wanted emphasized and explaining the syncopated timing he was aiming for. Even though there were over 50 people crowded in the studio and hundreds more waiting to be seen, he actually made sure we knew what we were doing.
Whether or not you made the cut, I think most everyone in that room got something out of the experience of just working for half an hour with him. That's the kind of audition I appreciate, where you actually learn. The audition I did months ago for Phantom of the Opera was like that as well - it's more of a workshop where you learn the choreography quickly but then have the opportunity to develop and clean it instead of whipping out a nervous mechanical version of it for the "judges."
I would guess this method would be more helpful to the people selecting dancers as well because they can see how we interpret corrections, listen to the choreographer, and improve with every attempt. It is indeed time consuming, but these auditions make us wait around forever anyway, so why not put that time to good use?
I was beyond pleased just to get a callback for that one. Ratmansky is at the top of the world right now and I was honored he even saw me at all in such a crowd (there are some good dancers in New York City...). I usually have a knack for turning invisible in large groups of dancers.
The callback was equally as enjoyable as the open call, with a whole new combination taught. Everyone could see Ratmansky was having a hard time deciding on a final cast, especially with the girls. So many talented, lovely, strong dancers. We must have done that combination a million times in various groups before they finally made decisions. Seeing fellow dancers who I KNOW are amazing and beautiful onstage get cut before or with me just reminds me that so much of casting is not about anything besides "what they're looking for." It's not personal, and it's not all about body or technique.
Last week it was on to the next call - this time with Christopher Wheeldon for "Carmen." The audition notice was rather vague like most of them are, and just said they were "looking for ballet, contemporary, and modern dancers. Flamenco dancing a plus. Bring pointe shoes." Well, I couldn't have been more surprised. It was all very no-nonsense compared to the previous week. After waiting 2 hours to finally dance (the amount of unemployed dancers in the city is ridiculous) we got a 16-count pure flamenco combination, taught quickly by a real Flamenco dancer, and run in big groups. Cut! Definitely wasn't surprised with that one - I've only taken one flamenco class in my life (last summer at ABT) and it was a joke. Just proves dance schools should expand their curriculum beyond a thousand technique classes to prepare students for opportunities like this...and maybe audition notices should be more clear, haha, so that a thousand bunheads didn't show up without character heels or anything. Still, it was kind of cool to be (briefly) in the room with Wheeldon!
Today was the last call of the season, unless they post more later on. And it was another eclectic audition, haha. This time I got smart and instead of taking class immediately beforehand and arriving half an hour early to the audition, only to wait for 2 hours and get cold, I got there more than an hour ahead of time. I found out they took a group in early (which again I missed by only 3 numbers) but I'd only have to wait an hour this time. Good good.
We went in and were asked to just go chenne' turns straight across the floor (to the LEFT!) to the choreographer (Bartlett Sher) standing watching from the side - and if you're a dancer you know what a pain that is...I can't turn on a straight line even though I'm the most sober person out there, haha. One by way we wavered across, haha. As we reached him he directed us either to his right or left, clearly marking the good pile from the bad, haha. At least he was direct!
After that we were asked to improvise "like a doll." Um, what? In groups of four we got on our Coppelia/Harlequin/Columbine mood and pretended to be dolls. It was hard! I have no clue what exactly I did, but I'm sure I mimicked some form of the doll dance from Nutcracker, blowing kisses to nobody with flat palms and angular elbows. Cut! Haha. Well, I tried.
He kept about 10 of the 60 or so in our group and the rest of us headed through the maze that is the Met's basement to the elevator, up to "S" level, and out the stage door to Lincoln Center's construction madness - a maze I now know all to well.