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Getting Work

Ever wanted to ‘get that show’, but didn’t want to deal with the dance call? Jenny Patrone talks through overcoming dance audition fears and how to use the skills you have to your advantage.

Dance isn’t just about high kicks and pirouettes. It improves posture, mental health and the benefits are endless.
Jenny Patrone

Even those who say, ‘I don’t dance,’ love a boogie to their favourite tune now and then. But, for many of us, somewhere between dancing round our living room to suddenly having to dance in front of a panel, there is a shift. A gear change from ‘I’m so happy’ to ‘get me out of here’.

You are not the only one

Each week, I have conversations with performers regarding their fear of dance auditions – and we’re not talking regular audition nerves. Some are not able to walk into a studio for class. They have manifested fear from a variety of past experiences and over time, the thoughts have become over powering, resulting in avoiding dance altogether. It really is, unfortunately, very common.

First thing’s first: take a class for you, not just your career. Dance isn’t just about high kicks and pirouettes. It improves posture, mental health and the benefits are endless. So, it really is worth adding it to your weekly schedule. Going to class can be really enjoyable, it’s just a matter of finding a style you will have fun with and most importantly, a teacher who you will enjoy learning from. Once you take this first step, you can then focus on what styles will benefit your career and you can progress from there.

Be prepared

This is where my motto for career life comes in:

To be successful, you need to be confident. To be confident, you need to be prepared. To be prepared, you need the tools.

Whether you are being asked to freestyle whilst being dressed as a hot dog for a commercial, or auditioning for a West End show, you need to be prepared for anything in the audition room. The more you go to rep sessions, the more you work on your harmonies, the easier they become, and your confidence grows. It’s the same with dance, so add some tools to your belt.

Make use of what you’ve got!

So many of us categorise ourselves and others by their skills. How many times have you heard yourself or someone else say ‘I’m a singer’ or ‘she must be a dancer’? We all excel in different areas, but at the end of the day we are all performers.

Every singer has to act through song and every dancer has to act through musical movement. It’s easy to forget that you can use your acting and vocal skills in dance, but is absolutely essential and puts you at a huge advantage to use all the skills you have. Bring the story to life when you dance. Use your musicality as a singer to help nail those moves. The best choreographers have intention behind most of their work, so use it. Connect and show them the story ‘between the moves’ and let the panel to see what you will bring to the production.

Create your character

This is especially useful if those nerves really do get the better of you. Give yourself a character name and a reason why you’re doing that particular dance. Use the story that has been given and the scene that has been set, and if they haven’t given you much to go with, create something yourself. It will help you to be ‘in the room’ with thoughts of character driven purpose, not freak out thoughts like ‘I’m not going to pick it up!’

Stop worrying and immerse yourself

I really wish someone had said this to me years ago. I used to dance with one eye on the panel, watching to see if they were watching me. As a result, I started out never completely absorbing myself in the routine, often getting through a few rounds, but rarely getting the job. It was only the auditions where I completely invested myself in routines where I was cast and looking back it makes complete sense. I got the job when I was prepared, confident and most importantly, trusted my skills and instincts.

Now trusting yourself is one thing. But trusting yourself in the room, owning your space and presenting ‘you’, quirks and all, is one of the hardest things to do. It’s exposing and we all just want the house lights to go down and some stage lighting switched on to hide the audience.

Now being on the other side of the table, I cannot stress enough: the panel get it. They understand. Just because you can’t get that double pirouette, doesn’t mean you might not get the job, so don’t give up part way through. At the end of the day, you don’t know what they’re thinking so stop worrying and give it a go.

Get to know yourself

You need to know how you move, how to safely push your own boundaries and how to make things work for you. This will only come from going out there and doing. Exposing yourself to different styles of dance will only enrich and help you become a well-rounded, individual artist.

You are worth your own investment, so every time you take a class you are enhancing yourself as an individual, not just your skills. And remember, we are all unique and you should celebrate your individuality knowing you will bring something special to a role and make it your own.

Believe it, work like you believe it and things will happen.

Jenny Patrone is the Course Creator of CBS Dance providing training for professional actor/singers. She is an audition choreographer for Disney, co-founder of The Gatsby Girls and guest teacher at various training colleges including RADA and Central School of Ballet. Jenny specialises in Musical Theatre and Historical dance.

Image credit: Paige Courtney Photography