A Step-by-Step Guide in Setting Up a Successful Dance Audition

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Auditions are an integral part of every professional dancer’s life. With competitions, dance groups, and huge opportunities comes a screening procedure to ensure all performers are capable of conquering a massive stage. As a coach, captain, dance instructor, or choreographer, things are also not meant to be easy on your end. Making sure you have a brilliant troupe of performers means being organized in sifting through the auditionees trying out. It’s not simply about watching an audition performance and then deciding on their fate right on the spot. The more spectators you’re expecting, the stricter your guidelines have to be. 

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Here’s how you set up a successful dance audition to end up with the best performers.

Setting Up a Successful Dance Audition

Write down what the audition is all about.

You have to be clear about what these dancers are auditioning for. If they don’t understand what the audition is about, they might feel hesitant and anxious about joining and not join at all. Here are questions to ask yourself:

  • Do they need to be a certain age, have a certain skill, or both?
  • Will they be dancing solo or as part of a group?
  • What style(s) of dance will be used?
  • What are they performing for?
  • When will the performance be?
  • How many days will the dance audition be held?

Decide on audition material and requirements.

Part of being clear about the dance audition you’re holding is deciding on what the dancers have to prepare and bring with them to the venue. How long should their dance routine be? Will the audition entail an on-the-spot choreography? Should they be wearing something specific? Are they required to prepare a dancer’s résumé? List this information down as well so you can announce it along with the details above.

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Gather the necessary team.

Reach out to those you need to be a part of the process. This may include a marketing person, a choreographer, a few assistants, etc. Some might need a stage manager to manage the flow of the dance audition, including greeting candidates, handing out forms, collecting requirements, bringing in the next dancers to the room, and introducing them to the judges.

Prepare your own materials.

On your end, prepare the entire process of the audition so you don’t end up panicking. There may be various information sheets you need to print out, songs or tracks to download, and a dance routine to create. Here are some of the materials you may need to prepare with the team to ensure a smooth-sailing dance audition:

  • Registration. Determine how you would like the candidates to register. Will it be online? Are walk-ins welcome? If there’s a registration fee involved, make sure to have extra change on hand.
  • Warm-up and stretch. Decide with the choreographer what music will be needed and what equipment will have to be provided. Does the choreographer prefer using their own speakers and files? Do they want you to provide these instead?
  • Choreography. Coordinate with the choreographer for the lead tryout routines. How many routines will there be? What styles? What music will be used? Does the choreographer’s prepared routine match the director’s or coach’s vision?
  • Audition waiver. You never know what happens! It’s best protect the dance company with a waiver that includes each candidate’s name, dance history, email, phone number, and signature.
  • Numbers. Giving each candidate a number makes judging and announcing results easier. You can use either stickers or cards with safety pins. If the audition lasts multiple days, be sure to have extra numbers in case someone loses theirs. 
  • Score sheets. What will you be looking for and how will you be scoring your candidates? Be sure to include a space for additional notes. Pencils and pens are often forgotten, so don’t forget to prepare a box of them.
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Book the venue, date, and time.

The physical location where the audition is held should be chosen with care. The venue you choose says a lot about your production. No one’s going to take you seriously if you’re holding auditions in your basement. The audition venue should be soundproof and spacious, complete with mirrors, a waiting area, and a nearby bathroom. It should accommodate the entire audition process you have planned above, which means good lighting and ventilation system are a necessary fixture. Acoustics are another valuable factor when scouting a venue. Overly large places like a gymnasium can cause echoes or drown out voices, making it hard for the candidates, choreographer, and judges. Do not forget to reserve the venue according to the number of days you need it for.

Market the audition early.

The dance audition should be announced months or weeks before the first rehearsal. This not only gives dancers ample and reasonable time to prepare but it also ensures that the audition process is not hurried. You’ll have enough time to prepare your materials and team, set callbacks, and do other preproduction activities.

Have the team members assigned to marketing email out to any candidate who expressed interest in your program throughout the year, or post audition posters on bulletin boards. Announce the dance auditions during assemblies, programs, and school activities. Advertising ahead in the school paper is another great way to attract interest. For community or professional dance companies, social media is the best route to go. Almost everyone in this generation has a social media account, so take advantage of this and post on your official page, relevant groups, and personal feed. Tag people and ask them to share the opportunity to interested performers.

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Invite trustworthy judges.

These judges need to be unbiased and professional. Perhaps the first thing you should ask a potential judge is if they have any association with or prior knowledge about those they will be judging by showing them the registered candidates. Unbiased judging is the best way to run an audition. This ensures that everything is done fairly for each dancer.

Judges also need to be knowledgeable about what it is they are judging. Do not, for example, invite a non-dancer beauty queen to judge the audition. It’s important to know the person’s credentials and it is not unusual to request a résumé to learn the background of the person being considered. Once you’ve invited qualified judges, you may also ask for their advice on scoring each dancer and ranking them for the final list.

Record and review all performances.

If needed be, recording all candidates’ performances for reviewing later may help you all decide better with a clearer state of mind. This may be necessary if the audition attracted many dancers. It can be impossible to remember who did which performances and how well each one fared compared to others. Recording and reviewing them allow you to compare two or more candidates easily. Be sure to ask the dancer’s permission before you start the camera. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries and a tripod. 

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Post the results.

Once the audition is complete, be sure each dancer receives information about how/when/where to find the results. Collect all the score sheets from the judges, coordinate with them for changes when reviewing, and decide when the final list will be released. You can release the results through email, social media post, or a posted hard copy on a certain location (e.g., office, headquarters, rehearsal area, etc.). Make sure everyone knows that participation is appreciated and to try again next time if they did not make it.

Now reap the benefits of being prepared and take your time to choose the cream of the crop. Aside from the candidates’ talents, conduct background checks if you need to, take a mental note of their attitude, try to remember how quick they picked up the choreography, and consider their commitment.

Remember, choosing performers can make or break a performance.

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