the journey to paid professional performing artist

Archive for the ‘my background’ Category

well-rounded dance background

Even if you’re auditioning for a ballet company, you don’t truly know what is going to be asked of you once you get into the studio.

Twyla Tharp and Mark Morris use jazzy and modern movement in their “ballets.”  I’ve been to cruise line auditions where they ask if you dance on pointe.  I’ve heard of Rockettes who perform all the Rockette numbers, and also dance in the ballet Nutcracker section of the show.  To make yourself marketable, so have to know as much as you can.

Any good dance school, even if it is a ballet conservatory, will have strong classes in jazz, tap and modern, and maybe even offer hip hop, ballroom, anything else to supplement your dance study.  Not only does this familiarize the dancer to these forms, it makes a dancer who is more willing to try new things.  We’ve all seen the girl in class who is too self-conscious to try something new.  She looks more the fool for making a big deal out of it than if she had just done it.

Of course, I have an example of where trying new things makes you better, but it’s along thread of experiences.  It begins with me going to a summer dance program that I thought was going to be ballet.  Toronto Dance Theatre is a modern group.  At first I was really nervous.  I had exposure to modern dance, but in the context of a ballet conservatory program.  This was the opposite.  We had ballet class, but in the context of supporting the modern dance.  It was only a two week program, and by the end I wasn’t totally comfortable with what I was doing, but at least I was doing it to the best of my ability and giving it my all.

The story continues with me taking a hip hop style jazz class.  I’m of the age where hip hop wasn’t around when I was young.  The frist time I tried it was after college, and I felt like a ballerina trying to do it.  But the class fit into my schedule, so I kept taking it.  Usually when you’re older you can get more afraid to try to new thing and hurt yourself or look stupid.  But I think I’ve gotten past that point to realize that if I want to make it as a dancer, I have to throw myself into everything 100%.  So I kept on with the hip hop.

That lead to a paying (for a while at least) job on a dance team.  Believe me, I am neither the hip hop or cheerleader type.  A friend of mine was leading the team and she convinced me to try out.  The team was an arena football team in its second season, so not a huge turnout at the audition.  So, for whatever reason, I did get on the team.  More dance that I’m not comfortable with!!!  But it wasn’t difficult at all, so all I had to get over was in my head.  If the pictures and videos have anything to say, I think I got over that.  And probably got better at hip hop sexy style as well.

While I prefer the glamorous Rockette style, they are a rare dance troupe to keep performing that way. 

me dancing badly (on purpose!) as Gloria

After the moves that the dance team had me doing, playing a sexy secretary in Bye Bye Birdie was nothing.  And now I’m a ditzy Follies Girl in Crazy for You.  Although not paying roles, they are paving the way, giving me great experiences and experience, so that hopefully I will be paid for being on stage someday.

The moral is, even if you are concentrating on being a ballerina, please take other forms of dance as well.  They can only help you.  And if you want to be anything other than a ballet dance, please take ballet.  You’ve heard that it is the basis of all dance.  It’s true.  More on that later, I’m sure…

rockette summer intensive audition 2011 – part I

me (the one on the left in black) and my roomate, Catherine, on the stairs of Radio City Music Hall with two Rockettes, Summer Intensive 2010

Sunday is the audition for the Rockette Summer Intensive.  This is my third intensive audition, so I’m confident I know what’s going on.

This is also the third city I’ve gone to to audition.  The first year I went to Washington DC.  I can officially say that I’ve danced at Lincoln Center!  There were about 50 girls there.  I remember being shocked at the amount of junk most of them were wearing.  When I was young I was taught never to wear shorts or hoodies or shirts or any junk at all to auditions.

Last year I went the NYC to audition.  There were twice as many girls there, and they seemed a lot more serious, less junk 🙂  I think this was to foreshadow the intensive that year, for I found the dancers in general to be a lot more serious than the previous year.

This year I’m going to Pittsburgh to audition.  I’m going whenever it fits into my schedule best, and this is the earliest one in my area, so it’s best to get it out of the way before Crazy for You performances get too close.  I also have company this year; Lucy from the Crazy for You cast is coming with me.  Usually my husband, Brian, comes with me, but it’s not too exciting for him to wait around for me, so it will be nice for him to be about to sit this one out.  I also like that I’m able to share what I think is a great experience with a dancer friend.  You know me, I’m all for helping each other out!

I’m going to do what I always do in preparation for this audition.  I’ve been going to class when I can, and giving myself ballet barre before rehearsals.  Since Crazy for You is a jazz and tap in heels show, I’m feeling good about being prepared for the audition in heels as well.  The day or so before I’ll give myself a french manicure.  This is not a requirement, though it was suggested to me by a previous Rockette.  But for me, it makes me feel more the part, as does the hair and make-up.  And I think the more your feel the part, the more you will portray the look and feel of the part, and the people auditioning you will look at you and say, “she already looks like a Rockette!”  It’s more than outward appearance, it’s about how you carry yourself and feel inside as well.  It all shows!

The day of I’ll wear my hair in a french twist, and do my blue make-up (which highlights my blue eyes) with a red lip (but more subtle than the real Rockette audition I think, no crazy black liquid eyeliner and probably not such a strong red lip).  I’m giving us an hour to spare so we can either get lost or find lunch.  And I know they haven’t requested a headshot and resume, but I always bring them just in case.  Never go to an audition without one, you never know!

So Monday I’ll hopefully have some new thoughts and pictures to share about the Rockette Summer Intensive audition 2011!

my motivation for writing

It occurs to me that some of you might be wondering why I’m writing this blog.  Why would I be giving tips to my potential competition?

Yes, we all are in competition.  However, if someone gets something useful out of this who lives in LA, I don’t think that is going to hurt me.

Also, as Adrienne once told me, you have to dance well.  If you’re my competition at the same audition, and we both have the same information, but I dance better than you do, then I deserve to get the part over you.  None of these tips are going to replace being great at your craft.  What it will do is if there are two artists that are both talented enough and look the part enough, the one with audition savvy is more likely to get the part.

The biggest reason of all is that I believe we in the arts need to stick together.  I have believed this for a long time.  When I lived in Erie, PA, there were a few things happening that I thought were great.  I was a member of the Lake Erie Ballet.  There were a couple of times where we collaborated with the Erie Art Museum.  One was for an exhibit, “Dance Bodies,” where a few members of the company did living statues in different created environments.  We also did a similar thing when the museum debuted a dance inspired exhibit.  We dressed up at Degas dancers and were out on the front steps of the museum to attract attention.  I love when arts organizations come together, because I do believe that together we are stronger.

Rockette auditions happen to be the best and worst.  They are horrible because you have the smallest amount of time to impress the directors of any audition I have ever been to.  Of course, they are also the biggest audition I ever go to, so maybe all the huge Broadway auditions are like that.  I’m not sure this is true, because I hear a lot of girls complaining that this is the audition they feel worst about themselves after.  I was getting to the good thing!  The longer you go, the more people you meet.  Rockette auditioners are some of the nicest dancers I have ever met!  You see people from previous auditions.  You see people from summer intensives.  It’s really wonderful and fun!

Auditioning is a very stressful part of being a performer.  I think it’s what keeps many performers out of the business.  So if I can help, I think it’s worth it.

seize every opportunity

I have people in the show I’m rehearsing for now telling me I’m crazy.  I’m going  to run myself ragged.  How do I fit everything in?  It’s because I’m trying to put myself out there and take every opportunity that comes my way.

I know that if I’m successful I won’t be able to do this.  But right now I have a day job that is thankfully sensitive to my desire to perform.  So I try to take everything that comes my way.

That resulted in the great singing audition I had a couple of weeks ago.

It also takes me to new places, like the DC Tap Festival.

Sometimes I drive a lot, or get up really early to get to places, but I know the experience will serve me and my resume.

Recently, I had another opportunity present itself when I got my headshots taken.  When Christopher heard that I was a dancer, ballet specifically, he suggested we do some artistic dance shots.  This turned out to be a great new experience!  These are the first photos where my dance position doesn’t matter.  That is kind of freeing. 

It’s taking a lot for me to do these new things, like Gloria in Bye Bye Birdie.  But each experience is showing me that I can be successful at new things.  That my training will get me through what is asked of me. 

That is confidence building if nothing else!

Want to see how Christopher edited this photo?  Click here…

maybe i can sing

So last time I wrote about the audition I was planning on attending at the Fulton.

I am so glad that I went.  After all the craziness it caused me, it was worth it.

The only other singing only audition I have ever done was back when I was just starting to take voice lessons again.  I put some dance moves to “I Want To Be A Rockette” as a crutch.  So this was the first audition where I just stand there and sang and had to act.  Any other audition where I had to sing, I also got to dance, which I see as my strong point.

I felt a little like a fish out of water.  There are big differences between singing and dancing auditions, at least in my eyes. 

1) dress code: Dancers audition in dance clothes, usually appropriate to the show you wish to do.  So if you want to be a Rockette, you were tan tights, and leotard and heels.  If you want to be on a cruise line, you wear jazz pants and a drop top.  So ti doesn’t matter much how you arrive to the studio or stage, just that you look nice.  I mostly see nice jeans and top.  For singing, you dress up.  I think all the girls I saw were in dresses and heels.  You look very nice, but don’t dress for the show.  Especially if it’s period, that might be too weird.

2) time: Even in the short time given to show your stuff at the Rockette auditions, you still get more time to impress the director in a dance audition.  You have all the time it’s taking for them to teach you the combination (so never mark it!!!), plus a couple of times to run it in groups, and then the part where they’re actually watching you perform.  For singing you go in, sing your 16 bars, and that’s pretty much it.  I think it’s much harder to get attention.  [As an aside, I wish I had spoken more.  Chalk it up to inexperience.  The person auditioning me noted that I was a dancer and said, “So you’re a dancer…”  I said “yes I am.” when I think I should have gone into detail that I was rehearsing for Crazy for You right now, etc.]

3) preparation: For dance, your daily classes are your preparation.  I’ve never been to an audition where you came prepared with something, though I know they are out there.  Improv, yes, but that’s on the spot, and again relying on all that training you have.  For singing you have a book of sings and have to prepare a specific one for the audition.  I find it more stressful.

That all being said, I finally feel like maybe I can sing.  Previous auditions have been in huge rooms that seem to swallow my sound.  I always felt that I couldn’t hear myself, I was off-key, stuff like that.  And it’s in front of everyone else, more stress for me!  But this was one at a time in a smaller room, and my sound bounced everywhere.  I remember thinking, wow, I am loud.  It was great, and gave me lots of confidence.

Now I’m more excited about doing what I do, and ready to get new headshots.  But more on that later…

try new things

I have held this belief for a while: there is a place for every performer in this world.

You may have to relocate and try new things in order to find your place.  But if you have the drive, you just have to find your niche.

Relocating is something we can’t always do, so that one is up to you.  But as far as new things, that’s something with which I have experience!

It’s been a little over a year since I’ve been trying in earnest to break into show biz.  I’m not old, but I’m competing with right-out-of-high-school kids.  I’ve also been performing a lot in ballet.  I like ballet, but tap is my favorite.  Ballet performing has just been more accessible to me, so I’ve done it.  So it was time to make my resume look more like the well-rounded dancer that I am.

For experience and resume building, I started going to every audition that I could.  Through a friend I found out about a local dance team audition.  I have never been the cheerleading type, but I had the day free, so I went.  And got in.  It ended up not being as professional as I had hoped it would be.  However, it taught me to dance in a totally different way.  Very sharp, which I hope will help me in my Rockette endeavors.  It was also more like hip hop, which is a dance form that I haven’t been exposed to very much.  But now I feel more comfortable dancing that style.

Auditions for musicals were scarier.  I’m still not very confident singing at an audition.  In grade school I was a good singer, took voice lessons and sang in the select choruses at my schools.  However, singing by myself is very nerve-wracking for me.  But I do it because the more you can do, the more marketable you are.

So I finally got into a musical, and thank goodness, it was with an absolutely wonderful organization.  It’s Theatre Harrisburg, and I have nothing but good things to say about them.  Even though it is community theater, the results are professional quality.  Anyway, good for me, I auditioned for a part without really knowing what the part entailed.  All I knew was that Gloria in Bye Bye Birdie was a tap dancing secretary.  Tap dancing, yea!!  Not so fast!  She has only one scene, but she has to talk.  And she has to dance, badly.  I was so nervous to do this, it was incredible.  But I don’t like to quit, so I did it.  And I’m so glad I did!  I loved playing a character so opposite from my personality.  And I got over talking on stage, for that show at least.

The thought of auditioning with song and reading still frightens me.  But now I’ve found a niche for myself.  I love musical theater now, and have a Theater that I love working with.  So even if I never make any money performing, at least I’ve found a place to find my fulfillment of performing.

And it’s all because I started trying new things.

welcome fellow performing artists!

Hello!  It’s taken a lot of consideration to start this blog.  All the typical worries.  I’ve finally decided to get started!

I’m writing this to hopefully help other dancers, actors, and performers on their journey. 

About a year ago I started in earnest to have a career dancing.  My dream is to be a Rockette, so I knew there were things I needed to do to make that happen.  Here are the steps I’ve taken so far:

1) resumed voice lessons: I was taking voice in high school, but stopped when I went to college.

2) danced more: I stopped teaching so much so I could take more classes.  I’ve also searched out many different schools and teachers so that I could get the training I need.  Often a school that is fabulous in ballet isn’t as good in tap, and vice versa.

3) auditioned as much as I could: I find this is hardest part of becoming a professional, and something I”ll write a lot about.

4) tried new things: If you look at my resume, I look like a bunhead.  Not exactly Rockette material, even though my favorite form of dance is tap.  In my area there is a ton of quality community theater, so lots of auditions to attend.  It also gave me a chance to sing more, not just dance.  Getting musicals doesn’t just look good on my resume, I’ve found another performing art that I love!  The more options the better, right?

So, in just a short time I have found out a lot about myself and a lot about the performing arts world.  Hopefully by sharing this I can help others trying to do the same thing.  It’s a hard thing to do.  You wouldn’t persevere unless you really enjoyed doing it.  At least we can commiserate together 🙂