Auditioning With Confidence
For today's blog post, I asked my friend Jenifer Ringer for words of wisdom on the mental challenges of the audition process. As a former principal with New York City Ballet, Jenifer has seen her share of auditions and knows a dancer can be his or her own worst enemy. Read on to hear what she has to say -
Going to an audition can be an anxious experience, whether you are auditioning for summer courses, college dance programs, or professional employment. Obviously there will be great physical efforts at auditions that will test the limits of any dancer, both in terms of technique and endurance. But as you prepare for audition season, it is important to walk yourself through the emotional and mental side of putting yourself “out there” to either be accepted or rejected.
Midway through in my career, I learned that it helped me to walk through stressful scenarios mentally before I physically experienced it, even allowing myself to play out the worst-case scenario circumstances. This removed a lot of the fear for me, because I realized that many of the things of which I was fearful were either not that scary or could be prevented with preparation. Facing my fears head-on and with clear eyes took away the power they had over me. If I were about to enter audition season, I would ask myself these questions:
-Why am I dancing? Why am I auditioning for this place? This will help you ground yourself. “I dance because I love it; I love moving my body to gorgeous music. I am not dancing to impress anyone, please anyone, or be better than anyone. I am auditioning for this place because it inspires me and will help me grow.”
-What if I fall? Everyone falls. Major principal dancers and elite stars in the ballet world have fallen, often in front of thousands of people. If you fall, you are in good company and no auditioner worth working with would hold that against you.
-What if I forget something, like my shoes? Well, start a checklist a few days before and keep adding to it until you have nothing missing. Then check everything off the day of the audition as you put them into your dance bag.
-What if I have a bad class? Auditions are difficult because they often judge you only on the day of the event, right there in that moment. Calm yourself before the class and remind yourself of your strengths. Remind yourself of why you love to dance. Remind yourself that you know what you are doing and that you have put in the work. And then dance.
-What if the class is not what I am used to? Auditions can come in many different forms, and your auditioner may decide to change things up to see how the dancers respond. Know that there might be surprises, and then roll with the surprises and triumph over them.
-What if everyone is better than me? Stop that thought immediately. Be there only to do your work, your class, your audition, your best. Do not look around at everyone else. Comparing yourself to the others in the class with the result that you feel bad about yourself is not constructive. You are striving for your own personal excellence and you will have qualities the other dancers do not that are unique to you.
-What if my nerves take over? Here is where probably the most mental work happens. Remind yourself what you love about dancing. Remind yourself that you are valuable, not only as a dancer but also as a person. Know that you have trained yourself for this time and that you have put in the work. Know that it might feel strange because it is a different teacher, in a different studio, with different people around you, but in the end, a ballet class is a ballet class and you speak that language fluently. Just go into that studio and do the thing that you know so well how to do.
And after walking through your fears and realizing that they are not so bad, I suggest you focus on the positive aspects of the audition. You are getting the opportunity to take a class with a new teacher, who will have new wisdom for you. And this is an opportunity to show who you are and what you are capable of, so above all, you need to remember to really dance. Lots of people can do five pirouettes, but not as many people have a movement quality that is musical and fills up the space. Yes, execute the technique to the best of your ability, but then, DANCE as only you can. And show who you are – let your light shine out as yourself, unique with your own individual gifts. It is that special spark, shining through your eyes, that will catch an auditioner’s eye.
When you go on an audition, you are making yourself vulnerable, and yes, opening yourself up to rejection. That can be hard and scary and intimidating. But, you will feel better if you go ahead and go all the way – dance to your fullest, show your real self, let your love for dance and music radiate from your heart and eyes as you dance. No matter the outcome of the audition, you will feel the best when you know you have held nothing back and have fully expressed yourself to the best of your abilities in every step, not letting fear or insecurity hinder you. Enjoy it! You are getting to share your gift with a new audience.
Oh and don’t forget – DANCE.
Jenifer Ringer danced with the New York City Ballet for 24 years, retiring at the rank of principal dancer in 2014. She has worked as a repetiteur for the Jerome Robbins Trust and as a guest teacher for the Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Royal Danish Ballet, and New York City Ballet. She has won the Dance Magazine Award, Jerome Robbins Award, and the Dance Teacher Lifetime Achievement Award and is currently the Director of the Colburn Dance Academy in Los Angeles along with her husband James Fayette.
photo credits: James Fayette and Cambley Fort