Many contemporary companies or independent choreographers recruit through associated training or secondment programs, writes Karen van Ulzen.
Entry to many companies these days is not by taking part in a class and hoping the director will see you. Many directors prefer a more nuanced and prolonged way to recruit new dancers, especially young, inexperienced dancers. They want to ensure that the new recruits are not just technically up to scratch but also comfortable with their particular movement style. Additionally, they want to ensure that each recruit is philosophically and intellectually connected with the vision and aims of the group as a whole.
Increasingly in the contemporary dance scene, that connection begins with the company’s training or apprenticeship programs, before a professional contract is offered. For example, Perth’s professional contemporary dance company, Co3, recruits some dancers through a secondment program.
Explains artistic director Raewyn Hill: “They will spend time with myself and the dancers, giving them the opportunity to experience all aspects of the company and the creative philosophies and practice first-hand.”
Dancers apply for a Co3 secondment either directly or through their training institution. This can be by video. “Keep in mind to show a diversity of technique and performance qualities,” Hill advises. “I would encourage [the aspirant to include] an introduction sharing some information about yourself and what you are interested in. It’s helpful to keep the video short and in a format that is easy to access and download.”
Sydney Dance Company has established a Pre-Professional Year through which some graduates enter the professional company. While SDC is made up of dancers from many different backgrounds – some are from overseas companies, others from Australian companies and one even from Broadway, as was the case with Dimitri Kleioris – five of the present 17 dancers have come through the PPY – Jackson Fisch, Morgan Hurrell, Sophie Jones, Coco Wood and Chloe Young.
Young dancers can apply for the PPY through an on-line application which requires the submission of three short videos.
“Included in this form are questions about why the dancer is interested in the program,” says Linda Ridgway, SDC's Head of Training. “This helps help us to find the right fit. The audition panel then selects the most suitable dancers to attend a live, in-studio audition. If an applicant cannot attend, we request further information to be considered through a video-only audition. Once at the in-studio audition we treat it like a two-hour workshop that includes improvisation, ballet and contemporary technique and repertoire. Also remembering that [the applicant is] auditioning us as well!”
The videos should demonstrate examples of contemporary technique, ballet technique and some improvisation or an alternate style. “In the videos we like to see you at your most comfortable authentic self,” Ridgway says. “We need to see the skill level but also the dance ability.” She advises applicants to “enjoy and have fun with these videos”.
SDC's PPY receives over 140 “extremely strong” applications each year, of which about 26 are accepted for the first year. “I wish we could take everyone,” Ridgway says. “We must remember that young dancers are auditioning elsewhere so may not want to take up the position with us in the end. . . I believe we all end up where we’re supposed to be.”
This article first appeared in the July/Aug/Sep print issue of 'Dance Australia'. Print is for keeps! Subscribe and never miss an issue. Just go here.