Megan Mekjian

I’m am so excited to present Megan Mekjian’s audition advice!  Why am I so excited you may ask?  Megan is an extremely strong singer, actor, dancer, AND teacher!  As such, I thought she could provide some particularly insightful audition information.

I met Megan at an open theatre dance class at CAP 21.  She was the teaching assistant and I was immediately wowed by her dancing – especially her precision!  The teacher introduced the two of us and we became fast friends.  It has been such a blessing to have her huge heart and upbeat personality in my life.  She is one of those girls who will eagerly do whatever is possible to help her friends reach their goals and is TRULY happy when they succeed.  As such, one can only be overjoyed with Megan’s own successes!  She is currently thrilling audiences as Fruma Sarah in the national tour of “Fiddler on the Roof.”  She was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to share her audition advice with the Muscles for Musicians blog!

So – I am thrilled to present to you – MEGAN MEKJIAN!

Can you share a little bit of your dance background?

When I was 4 years old, I saw a children’s theatre production of Annie and turned to my mom and said, I don’t want to sit here, I want to do that! With persistent enthusiasm I began to perform in the school musical and did shows with the children’s theatre that ignited my passion. When I was about 7, I started taking dance classes. Initially, I just took dance to be a well-rounded performer. However, in the process of taking class, I became more and more enamored with dance itself. I have been studying ballet, jazz, and tap all throughout elementary, middle school, high school, college, and beyond! Because of shows or being on the road there have been some gaps in my training time. However, whenever I have the opportunity, I am always eager to get back into class!

How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?

When I first started auditioning in New York, I went to EVERY audition and sang basically the same song every time. As I have discovered myself more as a performer and person, I have been able to target auditions more specifically. I am now willing to sacrifice auditioning for EVERYTHING in order to spend more time preparing for auditions that I know I am right for. This has helped me both in the audition room and for my psyche. It is significantly more fulfilling to look at auditions as an opportunity to explore a role and character. I like to think of it as my chance to play a role that I would love to play.

Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?
In dance calls, I like to stand near the front in the beginning, but not directly expose myself to the creative team. This gives me the opportunity to see the choreography clearly without the pressure of being watched while I am trying to pick up the combination.

What do you wear to auditions?

I always wear something that I feel really good in! I like to incorporate the style of the show into my outfit as much as possible, but for me the most important thing is feeling confident and fabulous!

Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly at an audition?

Ahh!!! Always the challenge!! For me it is absolutely a matter of concentration. With so many possible external distractions (the other dancers, the creative team, hating your outfit, etc…) I am just constantly telling myself to focus back in on the steps and the choreographer. Easier said than done, though!!!!

What do you do if you are having trouble picking up a combination or style?

I really try to just pick up whatever I can. When I start getting down on myself, it is just the hardest hole to climb out of. I try to keep it positive and pick up whatever I can, even if it is just one eight count.

Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?

When you ask questions in the audition room, it automatically draws attention to you. I try to only ask questions when I am confident I will be able to incorporate the direction into the combination. I think it is better to just get something wrong, then to get something wrong after the choreographer has specifically told YOU how to do it right. However, I think if you have the combination for the most part and are a little confused about something specific, asking questions is wonderful. Also, on the flip side, if you are given a correction and you take it, that is a fantastic opportunity to make a really great impression!

If you were to recommend one style of dance for a singer who moves to study – which would it be and why?

I recommend they study ballet because it really is the foundation of most dance styles. It will be the most prolific dance form as far as learning universal terms, positions, and steps.

Which classes do you take that you feel are most helpful for auditions?

I like taking any dance class! Picking up different combinations and teaching styles is so helpful for the audition room. For singing auditions, I like working with an audition coach on my material. I love having another pair of eyes to assess my work. It gives me a sense of confidence and also the opportunity to work out any musical kinks before presenting it an audition.

You are equally strong dancer as a singer – what would you say is the main difference between how your prepare for dance call versus a singing call.

In a weird way, I guess I prepare similarly for both dance and singing calls! For both, I do as much research on the role I am right for before I enter the room. For a dance call, if possible, I try to familiarize myself with the choreography. I use youtube to look up the show and/or choreographer and if I know anyone involved in the production I try to hire them to teach me the choreography. In a singing call, I also use youtube to research the music and composer. I then try to find a song with a similar message, style, and range as the character I am going in for.

What is the best audition advice you’ve ever received?

You are enough. Tell the story the best way you know how and trust yourself. If you try to be someone else or what you think they want, you are constantly chasing your own tail. They might as well just hire the person you are trying to be. However if you go in as the authentic you, you may or may not be right for the role, but at least you are only competing with yourself!

Aleksey Igudesman

I came home this afternoon after ballet class fully expecting to sing through some arias.  Or practice belting.  One of the two.  Instead, I got stuck on youtube watching videos of my favorite musical comedy duo, Igudesman and Joo.  If you haven’t checked them out, you certainly should! I discovered a few videos that the violinist of group, Aleksey Igudesman, made where he plays the violin and dances.  Not only does he do this, he TEACHES his viewers how to do the dance steps he is doing while playing the violin, starting very slow and speeding up throughout the course of the video.  It’s certainly not meant to be an instructional video – but it is certainly good fun!  Since this blog is MUSCLES for MUSICIANS – I couldn’t help but share.  I hope he doesn’t mind me uploading his videos into the blog!

Bust out your violins and put on your dancing shoes!  Here is Aleksey Igudesman!

Michelle Joy

Michelle Joy IS a bundle of joy!  Every moment she is around you feel as though life is covered with sunshine.  She is also a spectacular dancer!  What really sets her apart aside from her impeccable technique is the emotion she brings to her dancing.  I saw her in Damnation of Faust at the Met Opera and was astounded by her free and passionate movement.  


It is incredibly exciting to be able to share her audition advice with you!  One thing that has always impressed me about Michelle is her laid back energy at auditions.  It is almost as though she is there just to have fun and go with the flow.  (In her own words: “I just try to perform my best.  I remind myself that everything else is out of my control.  When I was a younger dancer I used to compare myself to other dancers in the room.  Now I just try to stay focused on myself.”)  I think that attitude is part of what allows her to be so successful!  


But enough about my observations of the glorious Michelle Joy – let’s let her speak for herself!:)






Can you give us a little background your dance career?
  I’ve been dancing professionally for ten years nows.  I received my dance training from Houston Ballet Academy on full Scholarship.  After I graduated at age 17 I landed my first paid job with Colorado Ballet as an apprentice.  I later danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, American Repertory Ballet and The The Metropolitan Opera.  I’m currently performing this leading role a workshop of a new show, 49th St and Other Stories.
How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?
   
  I find I’m less stressed about auditions, I just try to perform my best.  I remind myself that everything else is out of my control.  When I was a younger dancer I used to compare myself to other dancers in the room.  Now I just try to stay focused on myself. 
Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?
  I like to stand is where I can see the combination the best and practice the steps.  Sometimes the most space is in the very front, (because some people are scared to stand there) and sometimes it’s in the back row.
What do you wear to auditions?

  I seem to do the best when I am wearing just a nice leotard and booty shots or something that shows my body.  Directors and choreographers want to see dancers, not their wardrobe.
Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly at an audition?

  I try not to over analyze any one step and let the entire combination sink it.  Paying close attention to the counts helps memorize the combination faster.
What do you do if you are having trouble picking up a combination or style?
  If I’m not familiar with the style I try to pay more attention to the counts and make sure that my body is in the right place at the right time.  Hip hop and tap combinations are very difficult for me. 
Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?
  Yes, but I try to be specific, such as: “what is on count seven?” or “can you repeat the opening section?”
What was your most challenging audition and how did you conquer it?

  The most challenging audition for me was when I auditioned for American Repertory Ballet.  The audition was six hours long including a class, repertory, partnering and improve.  They kept making cuts after every different combination.  I had no idea I was going to be there all day long.  I ended up signing the only female contract at the end of the day, but I couldn’t walk for a week.
If you were to recommend one style of dance for a singer who moves to study – which would it be and why?

  I would suggest a musical theatre class such at Richard Pierlon’s class because the first hour you spend in the center working on technique and flexibility and the second half you work on a combination.


Which classes do you take that you feel are most helpful for auditions?

  Deborah Roshe’s jazz class at Steps on Broadway helped me learn to pick up choreography quickly and to put counts to every move. 

As a dancer who sings – how do you approach a singing callback? Do you have a different mentality than during a dance call?

  Naturally I’m way more nervous about the singing portion of the audition.  I’ve been taking weekly voice lessons for the past 3 years which has given me more confidence.  My voice teacher and I always prepare a song in advance for an audition which I may or may non get called back to sing.
Are there any classes you would recommend a non-dancer take to work on audition skills?

  Lisa Lockwood’s class at Steps is a great basic ballet class with lots of begging adults.  I think that taking a ballet one or twice a week will help anyone with the basics for any dance audition no matter what the style is.  
What is the best audition advice you’ve ever received?

  You’re not going to get any job sitting in your apartment.  Showing up is the most important thing whether you think you are right for the show or not.