Jordan Grubb

It’s been a while since my last blog post, but I hope you will find this entry well worth the wait!  It will give you valuable insight about dance auditions, swinging, and as promised, it will give you a tiny glimpse of life “behind the table” with the incredible Jordan Grubb.

I don’t think anyone would begrudge Jordan the title of the hardest working man in the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady.”  We have been very lucky to have had him as our dance captain and off-stage swing for the past three months.  The “off-stage” part of the “off-stage swing” title, however, is a bit misleading.  He was constantly stepping in almost every single week for a different performer, even me for one performance!  On some extra frantic days when we had two performers out, he was also responsible to adjusting the choreography and blocking accordingly and making sure the rest of the cast up to date and rehearsed on the changes.   In addition to being the dance captain and off-stage swing, he also had a heavy hand in casting the production.

I haven’t even mentioned yet what a fantastic dancer he is!  Every single audience member who saw him perform should count themselves very lucky.  A true triple threat, Jordan also effortlessly switched vocal parts, singing solos ranging from the bass to tenor line and put his own individual acting stamp on each character he played. Not to mention, he is just a really great guy with a heart of gold.  He is a true inspiration!

So without further ado, I give you Jordan Grubb’s “Muscles for Musicians” interview!

Can you give us a little bit about your dance background?

Well, about 20 years ago, I started taking classes at my local studio in Easton, PA. That really gave me my technical foundation. Because I lived so close to New York, my mother used to take me into the city on weekends/summers to take class as well. Those trips were really important in shaping me as a dancer.

What is your advice for someone who is a singer but has never danced? How should they get started, and how often should they practice?

I think like anything, you need to start at the very basics. Take a basic ballet/jazz/tap class, and don’t be afraid to go in and push yourself. I think how often you take should be related to what you want out of it. If you fancy yourself a singer and you just want to feel more comfortable in movement calls, I think a reasonable commitment is 3 times a week. If you’re looking to be a full-on dancer, you need to be in class 6 days a week.

Do you have any favorite classes in New York City that you would recommend for a singer who moves?

I think Kat Wildish’s ballet class at Alvin Ailey is amazing. Finding a ballet class that can keep my attention can be daunting, but she creates this great low-stress environment. You can be an absolute beginner or a “trina” who needs to brush up on some things, and they both can get something out of it. Kat has a great sense of humor, and really puts forth a great class.

Jim Cooney’s Musical Theatre class at Broadway Dance Center is also a great place to start. He really makes you push yourself to be a better artist.

For tap, there’s no one out there better for a beginner than Ray Hesselink. He’s my main tap teacher out here, and he provides such an attentive and easy-going class.  He teaches at both BDC and Steps.

Do you have any advice for how to quickly pick up combinations during an audition?

I think the hardest thing for people to pick up is transitions. If you can remember the beginning to any transitional step, I think that at least gives you a road map of the combination. Also, many times everyone is so concerned about picking up the steps that they just tune out what the choreographer is saying. Pay attention to how he breaks everything down. More often than not, he’ll help you.  If you can’t retain everything, then really hammer down the most important steps. When a choreographer is watching a group of 3 or 4 dance, he can miss lot. Even if you do mess up, he may not have seen it, so you need to fake it ’til you make it.

Where do you like to stand during auditions?

I like to go toward the front. Oftentimes, you’ll have choreographers change lines, but if they don’t and you’re stuck in the back, it’s so much harder to pick up a combination.

When everyone is broken down into smaller groups to practice, it’s important that if you don’t know the combination, stand in the back. The audition starts the moment you walk in the room. Just because you’re not broken down into groups of 4 doesn’t mean you’re not being watched. It’s better to learn it and work out the kinks and THEN blow everyone away in small groups than to look slightly lost in the front. So to recap: LEARN in the FRONT. PRACTICE it FRONT or BACK according to your confidence that day.

What do you typically wear to a dance audition?

When I first moved here, I was told by a Broadway choreographer that I needed to invest in a good pair of slacks. It makes you look more masculine and professional. I found a black pair that was made of stretchy material, and I also invested in a pair of Lulu Lemon pants. I always wear a belt to make it look clean, and I usually wear a tank or tight t-shirt. Unless the audition calls for it, I would NEVER dress/style myself effeminately. I’m all for having your own individuality, but often times, men type themselves out of things because the choreographer can’t see past what they’re wearing.

More importantly, KNOW what you’re auditioning for. If it’s for “42nd Street,” I’m wearing a nice pair polo shirt with my hair slicked back. If it’s “Chicago,” I’m probably wearing something different. You have to be careful about this though. You want to have an allusion to the style, but not audition like you’re wearing a costume.

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

I put the steps I’m having trouble with on a mental shelf, and learn the combination. Once we have any downtime, I’ll practice my trouble spots. Even when we’re broken down into larger groups, I’ll mark everything on the side. If I can’t 100% get a certain step, I just adapt it to look as much of the original step as I can. I’d rather see a clean single turn than someone falling out a sloppy double.

As far as style goes, look at the people who stand out. What are they doing that’s different than everyone else? Why are they standing out? Figure out what that is, and steal it and make it your own. Either way, you must have a semblance of style. Dancers who are just technique and no style don’t catch my eye. You need to have both.

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

It’s fine to ask a question, but be sure to limit yourself to 1. You don’t want to come across as someone who can’t pick up a combination quickly. And make sure it’s something you can’t figure out later. Oftentimes, if you wait, your question will be answered.

How has dance captaining/swinging changed how you approach auditions?

It has helped me pick up choreography better. Right now, I’m covering 12 tracks. It’s been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. I’ve learned so much through this process, and even more than auditioning, I’ve learned how to approach performance. I now know as an actor how I should take a note and how to approach my dance captain about things. I’ve also gained so much respect for what a swing does on a daily basis. It can be one of the most random and on-your-toes position in this business.  It requires a TON of work and focus.

When running a dance audition, are there any specific habits dancers do when they are learning the combination that turn you off?

I can’t stand when dancers continue to practice on the sides after I’ve broken people down into audition groups. A) It’s distracting to me.  B) It’s disrespectful to the people who are auditioning.

I’d also be very conscious of the attitude you give off. Nothing is more unattractive to me than someone who comes in looking cocky and “over it”.

What qualities do you look for in someone you want to hire (besides technical dance ability)?

I ask myself: “Would this person be fun to work with?” At some point, there’s an even plane of talent. There could be 6 people in the room who could all do the track I’m looking for, but what separates one from the other is how easy they look to work with. Cast chemistry is important. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, so it’s important to approach every audition with a positive attitude and to give 100%. Those qualities show.

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

I think it was when a casting director once told me that I shouldn’t be so nervous because they WANT us to do well. It makes the people behind the table’s jobs easier if the actors they’re auditioning are good. They’re rooting for us to be the best we can be. I think people get so caught up in fear and worrying about what everyone else things. It was kind of a liberating when I just let it all go and let myself be the best I could be.




You can learn more about Jordan and his current adventures by visiting his website!

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!

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.


Megan Reinking’s Audition Advice

Here it is – the entry you’ve all been waiting for – a feature on MEGAN REINKING!



My freshman year of college, a group of friends and I made plans to see the movie “Billy Elliot.”  There was time to kill, so we ended up in the Border’s across the street from the theatre.  In this group of friends was a girl I didn’t know, but somehow we both ended up in the “Discover Your Past Lives” section of the book store.  (I think we were both aiming for the history section, since we are both history buffs, but got distracted.)  While reading about the “purple mists of time” we ended up not seeing “Billy Elliot” and became best friends instead.

The MARVELOUS woman I met was none other than the incomparable Megan Reinking – a girl with both a voice and a heart of gold!  Since this blog is about “muscles for musicians,” I’ll spare you my dissertation on how incredible she is as a person and jump right on to her talents as a performer.   She is best known for her powerful high belt (which some have called the personification of fierce – see facebook group here ), but has a beautiful soprano voice as well.  What truly sets her apart is her acting ability.  She has the talent to truly “be” the character on stage, whether it’s a vampire (Lestat/Dracula), hippie (Hair), prohibition mistress (Boardwalk Empire), mother figure during World War II Germany (The People in the Picture), or cabaret singer (Les Enfants de Paris).  What perhaps few people know is she is actually an incredible dancer as well.   In her last Broadway show, “The People in the Picture,” in which she played Dobrisch, she totally held her own with some of Broadway’s best dancers!  Because she is a singer/actor who also has incredible dance skills, I thought she would have some valuable insight regarding the “singers who move” dance audition process.  I was right!  So without further ado – I’ll give the mic to the beautiful Megan Reinking!

Can you give us a little bit about your dance background?

I started dance lessons at the age of 3, ballet and tap. Later I added on jazz and lyrical as I got older. I majored in Musical Theatre in college at the University of Michigan, where I also took theatre dance. Overall, I have roughly 20 years of dance experience. However, I stopped training as a dancer when I moved to New York 8 years ago, though I do take the occasional class still. I decided to focus on my strengths, which were singing and acting as the degree of dance that I’ll be required to do as a singer/actor, I will always be able to do.

How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?

I’ve come to accept that I will *never* know or understand what a casting director is looking for. So I have stopped trying to BE whatever it is that I *think* they want. As far as dance, you can’t get into your head about it. You can’t suddenly become a better dancer than you were before you walked in the room. Same as with singing, your technique is what you had up until that point. The only thing…the ONLY thing you can worry about in the audition room is telling the story. Remind yourself this is THEATRE, first and foremost. If you can’t tell a story, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your pirouette is. You never know what they are looking for. When I did HAIR, they were specifically looking for people who moved like REAL people, not dancers…yet there was a dance call. My favorite people in dance auditions are the storytellers. Focus on that.


Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?

I like to start in the front. It doesn’t matter what your level is. Don’t let the other dancers get in your head. What matters is being able to see the CHOREOGRAPHER. You can’t learn the combination off of the other dancers because then you are learning -their- interpretation of the choreography. Stand wherever you need to so you can see the choreographer and try to learn it as best you can off of them. Musical Theatre is all about style, and you will only observe the correct style from the choreographer. Don’t trust the girl in the sexy unitard to have it right. Usually they will switch up the lines anyway, but not until they’ve taught a significant portion of the combination, at which point you WANT to be in the back so you have room to do the combination full out. Most people crowd up to the front and there are leagues of room in the back. This gives you an advantage when it counts, because you will have done it full out a bunch of times. I always try to be up front when it’s first taught, and then move to the back where no one else seems to want to be and do things full out.

Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly in auditions?

Usually combinations are taught in groups of 8-counts, or 16 counts. I focus on the transitions so they naturally flow for me. You will have already practiced each 8-count individually, so when you’re given those moments to review (choreographer is finding music, talking, or looking through headshots)…those transitions are what I practice so each section flows in my head and feels natural. I’m also a “counts” person…I learn by what counts each step is on as opposed to the music feel like a lot of choreographers use. But it helps me learn. If I know the counts, I won’t forget what comes on the next beat.


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

Ask questions. They will always answer questions. Just ask them at the appropriate time.

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

Absolutely!!!! If you’re having trouble, do NOT be shy about it. The time working with a choreographer is your time. They WANT you to get it right and be brilliant. Don’t stay silent and mess up and beat yourself up about it. Don’t stay silent and assume they will give you notes if you’re doing it wrong. The important thing is to BE SPECIFIC. Don’t ask general questions. If there is just one part that you couldn’t see when it was taught, or you’re confused on a count, or you are unclear where your arms are at a certain point, ask that. I usually wait until the combination has been taught and we’ve reviewed. I try to give myself time to get it myself and watch the choreographer for those specific details, to see if I can answer it myself. If it has varied (sometimes a choreographer will do arms different every time…this drives me NUTS)…I will ask. However, don’t BLAME the choreographer! (ie…”you’ve done it differently every time”). I always phrase it that it is ME that is unsure…and sometimes they won’t realize they were doing it differently and it will force them to set it. 


What was your most challenging audition and how did you conquer it?

Probably the AMERICAN IDIOT dance call. I felt like I had been hit by a truck afterwards. I actually injured myself, pulled my quad, in the audition and couldn’t walk for a week! There is a lot of violent movement in the audition combination, and specifically throwing yourself in the air to land on the ground. Honestly, I’m not sure I “conquered” it, but I threw myself into it 200%. I told myself…don’t be shy of the movement. Attack it. Figure out how to not bruise yourself when you GET the job. 

What do you do to stay in shape? What are you favorite things to do at the gym?

Recently I’ve taken to doing Bikram Yoga more than gym workouts. It’s greatly increased my strength and flexibility as well as joint health. But it has also had great impacts in my health overall in many other ways than simply staying in shape and losing weight. 

What is the best audition advice you have ever received?

Be yourself. Just do you. You can’t be anyone else. You can’t be whatever this nebulous idea you have about what you think “they” want. All you can do is bring yourself, your creativity, you unique thing to whatever it is you are doing. Only then will you do anything unique, brilliant, and TRUE in that room. And that is what they are looking for ultimately. They want to be moved…and truth is moving. No one else is you. The only way you will stand out is if you can learn to bring that into the room.


Any other words of wisdom?

The best thing I learned is to throw out the negativity. Rejection can kill you in this business. As long as you do everything you can to prepare before you go in that audition. If you can see the show, if you can listen to it, if you can go to the Lincoln Center Library and watch a past production of it, if you can watch the movie it’s based on, anything you can think of to prepare yourself, then you are READY.

You need to get out of your head and throw away your doubts. You need to remind yourself that you are equal to the task of the role you are aspiring to. You need to be WILLING.

You need to remind yourself that you are fully capable of accessing within yourself everything that is required of you in this role. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by it. You are ABLE.

That is my pre-audition…pre-performance mantra. You are Ready. You are Willing. And you are Able. There is nothing standing in your way. This is yours.

Your confidence in yourself is your most invaluable asset.

************

If you want to know MORE about Megan as a performer you can read Broadwayworld.com’s Gypsy of the Month feature of her here!  

You can also see her in “Les Enfants de Paris” currently performing at NYMF!  This is a BEAUTIFUL new musical that is to “Notre Dame de Paris” what “West Side Story” is to “Romeo and Juliet.”  I was lucky enough to see a few readings of the musical before it reached NYMF, and let me tell you, the music is glorious and the book is so intelligent.  If you only see one NYMF show, make it “Les Enfants de Paris.”  If you’ve never seen a NYMF show, this is a great one to start with!  This is a publicity shot of Megan for the show!  If that doesn’t get you to buy a ticket, I don’t know what will!

Megan is also the current standby for the role of Dyanne in “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Annie’s Audition Advice

Ashley Anne Russ, who I know as Annie, is one of those incredibly luminous people who was born to dance.  Any audience would be lucky just to watch her take class, let alone sparkle on a stage.  


I met Annie back in the day when I was actually more of a director than a performer.  She auditioned for a show I was directing (choreographed by the brilliant Jeff Shade), nailed every aspect of the choreography, and was instantly cast.  Her work ethic makes choreographers and love working with her.  Her huge heart and giving spirit make dancers love working alongside of her.  Every time we audition together, I am astounded at how quickly she latches on to the choreographer’s style and executes the combination as though it were a final performance.  It is truly inspiring.  She is a true star inside and out, and Muscles for Musicians feels incredibly lucky that she was willing to share her audition experiences with us.   So without further ado, here is Annie’s audition advice!







Can you give us a little background your dance career?


I grew up in Chicago in more of a “concert dance” world. I was fortunate to get my jazz training at Gus Giordano, and I studied ballet in a studio my mom’s best friend owned. I would also take class at Lou Conte in the city on occasion. To further my training, I was accepted into ABT summer camp as well as three years with Chicago National Association of Dance Masters (CNADM). My first taste of musical theater was with Northstage Theater Company in Chicago where I connected with Rebecca Timms (former Broadway dancer turned choreographer). She got me an audition for West Virginia Public Theater which ended up being my first taste of summerstock (2 years in a row). Upon moving to the eastcoast, I attended SUNY Purchase Conservatory. Being so close to the city, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take the train into Manhattan for auditions. Needless to say, I didn’t last 4 years… I landed my first agent and immediately booked a show in the city. Since then, I haven’t stopped doing everything from regional work & tours, as well as international with Tokyo Disney.  I would consider myself a “theater jazz dancer”. While I am trained in everything from ballet, tap, contemporary, latin, etc. I am most comfortable in athletic movement that tells a clear story or emotion. 


How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?

My approach to auditions has changed over the years since I have learned to not put so much pressure on myself. I am an assistant to a director/choreographer which has put me on the “other side of the table” for auditions. Casting a show is like putting together a puzzle. 90% of the time when you walk in the room, they may only be looking for 1 or 2 specific tracks. You can be cut before even learning the combination because they are looking for someone 5’8″ or someone who sings the alto line. I’ve learned to just show up, do MY best, have a good time, treat it as a free dance class or a chance to meet new people and if I’m not the puzzle piece they are looking to fill…”onto the next!” 







Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?

I like to stand toward the center in auditions. I don’t always put myself right in the front because I want a full view of the choreographer, but I stand where I can see and have the most space to move. 


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

I have always been a “fast learner”, so picking up choreography has never been a problem for me. I do find that saying the steps in my head as I’m doing them helps. 





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

When it comes to style, I focus more on making the pictures and “less is more” to start. If it’s a style that doesn’t feel as comfortable in my body, I try and copy the shapes that the choreographer is making and allow my body to RELAX when making transitions. Feeling the music helps too.


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

YES! Always ask questions and pay attention when other people ask questions too. There is nothing worse than asking a question that was just answered. When I am unsure of something I ask for clarification, ie. “Can you clarify this phrase—“, “Would you mind breaking down the steps before/after…”, …Be as professional as possible because how you ask a question says a lot about how you will be in a rehearsal setting. 


What was your most challenging audition and how did you conquer it? 

My most challenging audition was actually for the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil tour. Like I said before, I am a theater jazz dancer…the hip-hop/pop stuff isn’t my forte. I felt completely out of my comfort zone. Instead of comparing myself to the other girls in the room and trying to be a carbon copy of the choreographer, I decided to learn the steps as well as I could…have fun…show my personality…and even learn a new way of moving. I didn’t get cut right away, but I didn’t make it to the final round either. I actually learned a lot from that audition because there were dancers in the room who moved exactly like MJ—it was incredible to watch. They were made for that particular show. However, if they were auditioning against me for a show that I am perfect for, the tables would be turned. 







Are there any classes you would recommend a non-dancer take to work on audition skills? 

Just take class and vary it up! The more you challenge your brain & body outside the audition room, the easier it gets. I recommend Jeff Shade, Lisa Harvie, Scott Thompson…they all teach a beginner level and are wonderful at mixing up styles. All three of them were once performers themselves, so they get where you are coming from. 





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

The best advice I can give is to just show up. There is a puzzle that everyone fits in. Don’t take anything personally, and don’t try and be someone you’re not. Judy Garland once said, “Always try and be the first rate version of yourself instead of the second rate version of someone else.” By trying to be what you think the people behind the table want may cost you a job you are perfect for further down the line… I’ve been called in for shows after being seen at a different audition. You may not be right for the show you are auditioning for, but you may be perfect for their next project! Have fun and do what you love to do!




GET EXERCISED!

Once upon a time, when I was directing shows not performing in them, I met a wonderful girl named Dina.  She played a magical talking orangutan in a very interesting (interesting can be taken many ways) outdoor one act play I directed.  Dina is a yogi and fully utilized all of her yogi moves to embody the physicality of an orangutan.  The physicality she was able to incorporate is what made the show.  Without her daily exercise routines, she wouldn’t have had such a wealth of movements to tap into.  (She was doing handstand, it was amazing.)

At any rate, she has since moved to California, lucky state, and decided to help share her love of exercise with others.  She has a website called Get Exercised  where she posts yoga poses other other fitness tips you can do at home in a fun and interesting way!  Her goal is: 

Get Exercised began with my desire to teach anyone around the world with web access the most beneficial exercises I know while making it fun and entertaining to watch.

Until I am able to get my camera up and running and post new exercises and choreography ideas, I highly suggest checking out her website.  It’s amazing!  If you are IN California, check out one of her classes!

Spotlight on Cara!

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who is following this blog for following this blog!  Secondly I would like to thanks several of my friends who offered to contribute their expertise to help make this blog more informative.  I sent out a questionnaire, and they kindly filled out their answers.  The first person I would like to spotlight is Cara.

Cara is an inspiration to everyone she meets.  A multi-talented, intelligent, kind, beautiful young lady who truly embodies the “never give up” attitude. You would be hard pressed to find someone who genuinely loves performing as much as she does.  She is also a true role model on how to always be supportive of friends and cast mates.  She has performed with several ballet companies, in a production of Cabaret, and as a solo dancer at the Met Opera!   You can see her in “Great Performances” production of Thais starring Renee Fleming!    She is currently performing in the Vegas Spectacular JUBILEE! much to the dismay of all who miss her presence in New York.  Vegas is a lucky city!

Without further ado – here is her advice for dancers who are just beginning to discover the art form in which she is building her career.

M4M: What is your pursued career?:

Cara: Musical theatre performer (singer, dancer, actor,) dance focus, currently a female dancer in Jubilee! (Las Vegas)

M4M: What are your favorite forms and exercise and why?

Cara: Well, nothing can compare with a good dance class. If I’m having a rough day, class always perks me up. It’s a great workout for mind and body, not to mention your creative side! I’m also addicted to pilates! I can feel the difference in my body when I’m out of pilates for too long. It just makes me feel centered and fit and prepared for my class or performance. Pilates is a great workout that is easy to adjust based on your fitness level or just how you’re feeling that day.
M4M: What are you favorite classes in New York?

Cara: My fav classes in the city are:
 For Pilates, definitely Robin Powell’s class at Steps! She is such a great and supportive teacher (as well as person, she helped me get the job I have now!) and her class will work you’re whole body.
 Diana Laurenson’s Musical Theatre Performance class at Steps and BDC (Broadway Dance Center) You actually learn Fosse rep from a true Fosse dancer. She works on your whole performance, even encouraging students to sing! She is super nice and takes a personal interest in all her students. Plus it’s a joy just to watch her demonstrate!
 Dana Moore’s Theatre Dance class at Steps. No one is more just plain cool than Dana, and her combos reflect that. She uses her own choreography, but it’s in the Fosse style. I also love her warm up, it gets you all warmed up and feeling good for class (with great music).
 Crystal Chapman’s Tap class She goes through everything step by step and it’s amazing how much she can fit into one class. She’s one of the best pull-back teachers in the city. She gives every student individual attention so even beginning tappers can make real progress.
Debbie Roshe’s Jazz class She tought me to dance to counts (no small feat!) which is a very important skill for dance auditions. Her class is a mix of jazz , hip hop, and balroom, and she focuses on precision.***
Martha Chapman’s ballet class at Dance New Amsterdam lot’s of fun, great for beginning or intermediate ballet students, or more advanced dancers who want to focus on technique.
James Kinney’s Theatre Dance class (subs at Steps and BDC) upbeat and fun with a great combo!

M4M: What do you do at home or on the road to stay in shape when you can’t get to a gym?

Cara: I often give myself a little pilates mat at home. It’s easy to do in a small space and a great workout.

(M4M note: Pilates will help you get an awesome bathing suit body like Cara’s!)
M4M:  How do you approach a dance or movement audition?

Cara: First I always make sure that I look the part, so I wear something form fitting that somewhat reflects the show, but not over the top. I also make sure my hair and make-up look polished and nice. I also try to know what the style of choreography is going to be, so research the show or choreographer.

M4M: What advice would you have for non-dancers in a dance audition?

Cara: I think the most important thing to remember at a dance audition is not to overthink yourself. Don’t be afraid or stressed. Stay calm and just think about learning the combo and performing it as taught. Also, don’t have a Chorus Line moment of “Please God, I need this job!” There was an audition yesterday and there will be another tomorrow. This audition will not make or break you. Also, I swear casting teams can smell desperation! Last year, I had a job coming up but kept auditioning, and I got kept twice as much as I normally do! Why? I think because I wasn’t psyching myself out thinking “I have to get this”. Which is not to say act like you don’t care. Have a nice smile and warm personality, but don’t cram it down people’s throats.

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We are hoping to feature Cara again in our blog in a FOSSE special!  She is truly amazing at FOSSE choreography and will be able to give you some amazing Fosse poses to work on at home.  She was recently features in a production of Cabaret where she stole the show!:)

***Muscles for Musicians note.  Debbie Roshe’s class is amazing, but will probably be a little more than appropriately challenging for a beginner.