Auditioning for Netherlands Dance Theatre

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Emily Molnar (right) in the studio with NDT dancers. Photo by Sacha Grootjans.
Emily Molnar (right) in the studio with NDT dancers. Photo by Sacha Grootjans.

The Artistic Director of Netherlands Dance Theatre explains the company's auditions process to Karen van Ulzen.

There are so many good dancers out there,” states Emily Molnar, the Artistic Director of Netherlands Dance Theatre (NDT). She knows what she's talking about. Every year more than a thousand hopeful dancers audition for the famous company.

NDT is made up of two parts: NDT 1, the professional company of 28 dancers, and NDT2, for 16 young dancers between 17 and 22 years of age. For pre-professional dancers and graduates, NDT2 is the most likely entry point.

NDT2 works closely alongside NDT1, but it has own performance program and especially created repertoire, and is specifically for emerging artists, explains Molnar.

Auditions for NDT2 are annual. Applicants are required first to submit a video demonstrating some class work, improvisation and two contrasting pieces of repertoire. They are also required to learn and film themselves performing an excerpt from the NDT repertoire: currently it is a piece by Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal.

“The reason we do that is to be fair,” Molnar explains. “Some dancers have more privilege of repertoire than others, depending on the school they go to; some have better access to certain choreographers, some schools don't, so by providing the choreography we create a baseline from which to make our assessment.”

From these applications a percentage is invited to audition in person – this year about 150 made the trip to the company headquarters in The Hague.

The company rehearsing William Forsythe's 'Of Any If And'. Photo by Sacha Grootjans.
The company rehearsing William Forsythe's 'Of Any If And'. Photo by Sacha Grootjans.

When Molnar first took up the NDT reins in 2020, the audition would be held over just one day. She has now increased this to two, saying that one day was too short a time to see so many dancers.

“So we'd have more than a hundred dancers coming from all over the world, and we would cut them immediately after class!” she explains. “First of all, cutting them after barre doesn't help us. We need classically trained dancers but that's not the [only] language – we need to see them do so may other things before we can decide if they are the right fit for us.”

On the first day dancers take part in a full classical class and learn a piece of repertoire. A smaller group is asked to return for the second day. The dancers in this group are each asked to generate their own work, “to see how they think and feel”, then do some improvisation. The day finishes with a discussion, to make sure that both dancer and employer will be happy with each other should a contract be signed.

NDT Artistic Director Emily Molnar. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
NDT Artistic Director Emily Molnar. Photo by Michael Slobodian.

“We are really trying to work hard on individuality within community,” she explains. “With the range and amount of work we do, and with so many different makers and choreographers with such differing processeses, we need people who really get excited by that. It's not for everybody.”

NDT2 dancers stay in the company for three years. On graduating, they can audition for NDT1, but there is no guarantee a place will be available.

About 2-300 dancers apply for NDT1 each year, usually professional dancers. They come as a group, for a whole day, and undertake a similar program: learning repertoire, generating their own material and improvising.

Another potential point of access to NDT2 is through the NDT Summer Intensive. While it is not an audition, Molnar explains, “it is a wonderful first step to start meeting people.” Again, places are in hot demand: up to 700 apply each year. The company offers a scholarship to the Intensive through the annual Prix de Lausanne.

Does the company scout for talent? Yes, she says, but she prefers to describe the process as “building relationships”. The company holds workshops whenever it tours and “if the NDT team really see someone who's super interesting, we will invite them to apply. I'm always looking, and I have a scouting committee for choreographers.”

Molnar is highly conscious of creating equal opportunities for all dancers to apply, no matter their walk in life. She keeps aside a proportion of places to the Intensive for applicants from different or distant parts of the world, and has created accessible “satellite” on-line classes. “We are really trying to reach young dancers who are not coming from the big schools, and may not even know about NDT or ever feel they were that person who could apply.” She is building a support fund to finance scholarships or for those needing help with audition expenses.

Molnar finishes our interview by thanking Dance Australia for the opportunity to spread the word. “It's such an important topic” she says. 


This article is one of many fantastic stories in the special AUDITION issue of 'Dance Australia'. OUT NOW! Buy from your favourite dance retailer or online here or here. And remember, print is for keeps!


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