In my final year of college, I attended my first Broadway audition.
I have an extensive background in concert dance. I had been to many auditions, but never a Broadway one.
Immediately, I realized I had a problem: I was woefully unprepared.
The monitor called dancers forward to put their head shots and résumés in a neat pile on his table. I took out my head shot; I had a 4×5 photograph printed out from CVS Pharmacy. But when I looked around, I realized everyone else had a glossy, professional 8×10 photograph.
Okay, I thought, no problem. It’s just a picture.
When I heard my name, I walked to the front of the room. The monitor took one look at my materials and got the kind of exasperated expression I’ve seen on mothers with young children.
“If you’re going to a Broadway audition,” he yelled, and the room fell silent. He was speaking to everyone, but he held up my tiny head shot as an example. “Then you have to bring an eight by ten head shot stapled to the back of your résumé. This is the industry standard, folks! Learn it!”
I was mortified. I’d just wasted a few minutes of everyone’s time. Worse, I knew it was obvious I had no idea what I was doing.
That day was full of many tiny lessons, none of which related to my dancing ability.
There were seven hours of waiting, but I hadn’t brought food with me. My phone died, but I didn’t have a charger. I hadn’t used hairspray, and my lipstick needed to be reapplied. But I didn’t have hairspray or makeup with me.
By the time I actually got to dance, I was hungry, disheveled and somewhat embarrassed. Needless to say, I didn’t make a great impression.
So, what did I learn?
I learned that you start auditioning long before you actually step into the building. Being prepared is a vital part of the process. It shows that you’re professional, organized, and ready to focus on the work in front of you.
Here are some items you should always bring with you to a Broadway audition:
I like to bring character heels, jazz shoes and ballet flats to every audition, but you may be asked to wear anything. Read the breakdown carefully. Wear the right shoes.
Always prepare sixteen bars of a song to sing. The breakdown will tell you what kind style the casting team wants to hear, but it’s a good idea to bring several options, just in case. Work with your singing coach to prepare pieces that show off your range and personality.
With that said, don’t panic if you forget something; it’s not the end of the world.
I left my first Broadway audition feeling embarrassed and confused, and I didn’t get a callback. But that was just one audition.
Now, I attend auditions regularly. I’m always prepared when I arrive, which allows me to think about the work and my dancing.
And I learned one very important thing from that first experience: it’s okay to make a mistake, as long as you learn from it, laugh, and move on.
Elizabeth Shew is a Portland, OR native and a New York-based dancer, writer, and creator. She is a graduate of The Ailey School and Fordham University and holds BFAs in Dance and English/Creative Writing. She has danced for choreographers Cindy Salgado, Jae Man Joo, Brice Mousset, Christopher Huggins and Taryn Kaschock Russell, among others. Recently, she participated in Cherice and Charissa Barton’s summer program, Axis Connect, and performed alongside the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in their annual piece *Memoria. *She is a current apprentice with BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance.
Kick up your heels and let's dance!
Broadway Dance Dreams