I'm looking at some of these past posts and averaging about one blog post a year. Maybe I should write more...
Anywho, yesterday was the last day I was accepting casting submissions for expanding my company roster with High Society Cabaret. I should make a note that although it's not my first time being on the other side of an audition table, it WAS my first time being on the admin side of a casting call to artists and being able to see how people submit themselves for a call. The process proved to be... interesting. I learned a lot! I was amazed at applications making some mistakes on processes that I thought were common sense! But since common sense doesn't seem to be common to the new stock of emerging dancers, let me outline some dos and don'ts when submitting yourself and your content to a casting call.
1. Read the casting submission directions and follow them
You'd think this goes without saying, but I got quite a few submissions missing vital information I needed in order to assess whether or not the dancer was suitable to bring in for an interview.
I should note that because I think auditions are a time and money suck and I generally don't like them, I approached my casting this time around more like a job interview (also because I feel like artistic business endeavours such as casting and company policy should be handled with a more business/corporate veneer and I'm attempting to put that into practice). So when I say you need to include your headshot, resume, cover letter (tell me what you've heard about my company or me, why you want to join my company, and why I should hire you) and video footage, you better give me all four of those items. Most of my applications were missing cover letters, which is annoying but I can survive. However I had a couple of applications missing footage, one was even missing a headshot! If I'm not auditioning, I need to see you dance and I need to see your face. Your look is part of how I evaluate whether or not you're right for the job.
2. Make sure your headshot looks like you.
Glamour shots are fun! (remember how I'm pretty and naked for a portion of my living?) and they're great for promotional material for classes, shows, etc., but they are usually TERRIBLE for headshots! You're gussied up, sexified, airbrushed, and basically only being one facet of yourself, and it may not be the facet I want. Your head shot should be relatively neutral in terms of casting and should look like you!
3. Make sure YOU are the one featured in your demo reel/dance footage
*sigh* Where do I begin?
There are two major pieces of footage you should try to avoid when making a submission: large group choreography and class footage. Here's why:
I DON'T KNOW WHICH DANCER YOU ARE!!!
How can I assess your fabulousness when I don't know which one is you? My eye is going to be drawn to the most dazzling, eye popping mover in the video, and that mover may or my not be you. I don't know. If you feel you MUST submit footage of you in group choreography, please, for the love of god, make a note in the video which one is you. There are a bunch of ways to do it: title written on the frame, isolating you in the group and opening up to the wide shot of the ensemble, fucking draw an arrow, I don't care. But I'm not psychic, I barely know your face so how am I going to know your movement. Help me out a little here!
My personal pet peeve is also class choreography in lieu of a demo. If that's what you're submitting, you better be fucking slaying that routine Yanis Marshall style. I naturally better not be taking my eyes off you. It's super depressing and makes me feel a little guilty when you send me footage of your dancing in class and I find I'm not watching you, I'm watching the girl to your left that is giving me way more face, style, heart and is fiercely outshining you. Sorry.
Also, when I've asked for professional working experience and all you have available is class footage, I just naturally assume you haven't really worked professionally. I need to know you have stepped foot on a stage or set before, know how to work in the environment and with other people. Also keep in mind, working professionally means you GET PAID IN MONEY for what you do. Not experience, not exposure, not during some half-assed, not real, post secondary "training program" (almost every single one of them is a scam, btw), you get paid in coins and notes. If that is not something that happens on the regular for you, you need to re-evaluate how you approach your career, how you train, and who you work with, otherwise you're not a professional.
4. Please please PLEASE on the hips of Martha Graham research the company you are applying to!
The number of young urban dancers that applied to my company because of the word "burlesque" was ASTOUNDING! Before I continue down this tangent, let me clarify exactly what burlesque is for a moment:
I would like to make this clear: just because you dance in heels and make a face as if you're taking a really sexy poop, does not make you a burlesque dancer. Modern burlesque involves any combination of satire, humour, caricature, visual opulence , sensuality/sexuality and/or tease (stripping). Dancing is an asset for sure! But your visuals, performance quality and overall charisma are equally important.
Moreover, a lot of the work I do works strictly in vintage aesthetics before about 1975. I work in a cabaret dance style, where our stages aren't always big so you have to be smart and adaptable in your dancing. Our work also takes from vaudeville, is interactive, and I stress that the dancers be strong performers who are comfortable with audience interaction and can freestyle and improvise on stage and in the audience (and that doesn't mean high kicks, tricks and 32 foutteés. It means, can you pay attention and react in character to your environment and all it holds.) All this I feel is present in the company's media if not blatantly stated on our website and Facebook page. When you drop a sentence like "I've been doing burlesque" and I see nothing that fits the above descriptions and definitions, I wonder a) do you even know what you're talking about and b) do you even KNOW what company you've sent your content to? All it does is it makes you look sloppy and uneducated, and I don't want to hire someone I have to do some intensive training with.
5. You can't control what the panel wants, all you can do I bring the best version of yourself forward.
You could be the most technically talented dancer that applies, but if you don't fit what I'm looking for, I won't hire you. It's not personal, I promise. I just have some specific traits I want out of my performers and you may not have those specific traits. And this is the life when you work as a dancer, or any artist! If your goal and method is the audition circuit, you have to constantly hone your craft while playing a numbers game. And the more you submit to, the more likely someone, somewhere will give you a job. It can get really defeating, trust me. I did it for nearly 10 years before I pretty recently decided it wasn't the game I wanted to play anymore and that's not how I wanted to play it. And that's the other thing: there is no "right" way to have a career. That being said, how your career unfolds has a lot to do with you. So discover what you want, how you want to work and the work you want to do any take the steps you need to make it happen. No one will do it for you. There is no job as a dancer that is going to "make " you. They are all cumulative experiences that will shape you as an artist , and it's up to you to use them to cultivate the career you want to have.