Auditions: What if they Make me Improv?

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January 15, 2014 by Nicole

You spend hours in class preparing for auditions…..but what if the audition throws you something you can’t prepare for? Like an improvisation component. Improvisation is becoming more common in auditions, even if the eventual job doesn’t require it.

I think the scariest thing about improvisation is that you can literally do anything….so it seems like there are about a million things you could do wrong in that scenario. Not only that, if you’re auditioning, there’s probably something you want – a job, a spot, a scholarship – on the line, and you’re being asked to be really vulnerable. That’s not most people’s idea of a safe, creative space.

If you’ve never improvised before, you don’t want to try it an audition first, if you can help it. If an improv class is offered in your area, check it out. It may not stroke your ego, but if improv comes up in an audition, at least you’ll have the confidence of having survived it once already.

If improv classes are not an option, talk to your modern and/or contemporary teachers. Sometimes they incorporate improv into their normal class routines. Or, if they don’t regularly, they may devote a small amount of class time once to orient their students to improvisation in the dance room. There’s also the option of booking time in an empty studio to let yourself practice improvising. See what comes naturally to you – find your comfort zone. Then push past that threshold. Don’t think about being impressive or perfect. Let your dancing excite you…feel what comes naturally and use that movement to define who you are in that moment. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel when it’s no longer just you in the room.

When you’re in the audition, try to recall that practice. Close your eyes for a couple seconds and avoid focusing on anyone around you. Especially the mirror. Unless you’re super comfortable improvising, looking around and watching the mirror just invites comparison and second-guessing what you’re doing, which is pretty much the complete opposite of what that improve section is supposed to be. Be in your body and be you in the moment.

You may get help – sometimes you’ll get a prompt like “write your name with your body.” This is a gift! Use it. They’re narrowing down your options, which can help you focus. If you don’t get this kind of help, you can always make up your own. Prepare a small list in your mind (“focus on one body part”, “embody an abstract idea with your body”, whatever works for you) before you walk in, so you’ll have something to fall back on.

Also remember every audition has different expectations. You want to show them you know what they’re looking for, while also dancing like you. Doing some research – YouTube is your ally! – can help you prepare. There’s a time and place to show off your arsenal, and you should know going in whether it’s the time to show off your switch splits, quadruple turns and aerials or if the emotional quality of the work is most valued.

But no matter what, they’re going to watch how you react. If you become shrinking violet in the corner, it can seriously affect your chances in a negative way. Confidence can carry you to places that will shock you. And most directors want to see how you react to challenges. If you embrace it and show courage, especially in the face of your own self doubt, it makes a strong statement about your character and the kind of artist you would be for them.

Bottom line: don’t be shocked if you’re asked to improv. Instead, go in prepared. Do your research on the company/school you’re auditioning for and get a feel for what they’re about. Then come up with a strategy to help guide you during the improv section, especially if you want back up prompts in your mind. If you feel prepared, it’ll help you feel more confident, which is key for any audition.

What are your improv strategies? How do you prepare for an audition?

About the author: I’m a professional communicator with a love of dance, entertainment and constant improvement. You can find me on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


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