Career Development With a Twist: How to Make the Most of A Cattle Call Audition

Hello misguided youths, and welcome back to Career Development With a Twist, the career development service that just wants to keep things business-casual.

This week’s edition is for dancers hoping to stand out in those jam-packed open-call auditions. Sure, the chances of being hired on the spot from cattle calls are slim. But can they be an opportunity to make an impression, build connections, and strengthen your audition skills for next time? Unclear. Try these tips anyway.

  • Don’t miss an opportunity to network! Start conversation by going up to someone who looks vaguely familiar and trying to figure out what you know each other from. Compare the auditions and workshops you’ve each attended recently and find no overlap. Agree that it was probably just some class at Peridance. Realize halfway through the audition that it was actually Tinder.
  • Practice spacial awareness in a crowded studio by pretending that you’re Frogger and all the other dancers are the cars. You’ve got three collisions before you loose.
  • Fake it till you make it! If you can’t really see the choreography demonstration, guess the missing moves by asking yourself  “What would Left Shark do?” 
  • When they say they want to “see more of your personality this time,” take the task seriously and whip out the John Mayer guitar faces you’ve been practicing in your spare time.
  • Really watch the dancers in the other groups. Not to compare or criticize, but to cast a sci-fi soap opera musical in your head. 
  • Notice which dancers are being asked to stay. Notice which numbers they are. Look for patterns and syncronicities. Decide that you need to aim for a 2-digit prime number next audition, and plan your arrival time accordingly.
  • Enjoy dancing or something. Maybe.

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Questions for Artists Rethinking What They’re Making and Why

(Including and not necessarily limited to me)

  • What art do you like?
  • What art do you like when no one’s watching?
  • What art has changed your mind?
  • What art has changed your life?
    • Yes, sitcoms count.
    • Yes, comic books count.
    • Yes, music videos count.
  • Do your answers have anything to do with art you make?
    • Why not?
  • Are you only making art for people exactly like you?
  • Are you only making art for people unlike you, selling them a caricature of your difference?
  • What if you didn’t care what critics think is “quality,” agents think is “marketable,” grants think is “important,” or your artist friends think is “cool?”
    • Of course you care, but just pretend for a second and see what still excites you.
  • Would you rather make art that everyone likes, or art that at some people need?
    • Keep in mind that the former is impossible.
    • Yes, you count as a person.
  • What do you wish existed?
    • Why not make it?

Things I’ve Been Doing

In the absence of more regular blog posting, I thought I’d share some links to things I’ve been up to lately.

I made this new solo:

This honestly started out from a desire to practice my emerging DJ skills in turning Janelle Monae bangers into ballads. It turned into an irreverent little ode to queer culture for showing me how to mix pleasure with politics, party with protest, laughter with disaster; how to keep dancing, loving, and fighting when the world is on fire.

I was also in this recent Dance Magazine Article, sharing some recent grad perspectives on how college dancers are (and aren’t taught to talk about money). This issue has several great articles related to financial transparency in the freelance dance world, so I would really recommend checking it out. Talking about money as artists is hard, but we can’t solve our problems in silence.

You’ll hear more from me soon!

“Labor of Love”

On the Dance NYC Junior Committee blog, I’ve shared some of my thoughts on the use of the phrase “labor of love,” in preparation for our Long Table discussion next Tuesday on labor, artistic love, and monetary and social value in the dance field. Read the full post here, and check the blog for more JComm member’s thoughts!

“Labor of love” is a phrase brought up to justify not paying artists, with the assumption that we are so eager to practice and perform our craft for its own sake, we will be willing to do it for free. (In regard to myself, I can’t say this isn’t true.)

“Labor of love” is how I justified to my parents my desire to pursue a highly underpaid and unstable career in dance. They asked how health insurance fit into that. I didn’t know.

Throughout high school and college, I was told by some (overwhelmingly kind and supportive) teachers and advisors that “the most important thing in life is to do what you love.” In a sense, I am following that advice, but the reality is that not everyone has the privilege to view work as more than a means of survival. When we treat the choice to pursue our passions as a morally superior one, we can develop a disregard for work done “only” for money and the people who do it. (In other words, “labor of love” won’t really help you pay your rent, but it can help you feel superior to the people living next to you.)

Believing in the moral purity of “labor of love” means dismissing those lucky enough to get significantly payed for their art as “sellouts.” (I wouldn’t mind selling out one day.)

In addition to art, I have heard the term “labor of love” used to refer to to social justice-oriented work and childrearing.

A “labor of love” is usually supported by a labor of money (either yours or someone else’s).

A Dance About Nothing

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to make a dance about nothing. She had made dances before, about people and thoughts and pains and places and days and words and feelings. But now, she thought, would be her time to make a dance about nothing at all.

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She decided to start off by making some shapes, as pure and plane as can be, unblemished by a reason. She was sure she could do it; there were infinite points for her to touch before needing touch upon why. But every triangle she made started to feel too much like love, every square too much like time–with a glacial rush though it–every pentagon too much like war. This was not a dance about nothing, she realized.

So she tried again to cut the dance off from her mind and its clutter, and directing it with a roll of dice. She tossed the dice in the air, pretending the motion didn’t ignite flickering wishes, prayers and fears over the landing. She ignored the way the clattering of dice on the table brought back backgammon games under little clouds of smoke and politics. She read the faces, noted the steps, and eagerly rolled again, as if she never knew of livelihoods consumed by addiction to chance procedures. She tried not to enjoy the strangely delicious sense of freedom that came in stripping herself of all agency. Maybe this wasn’t a dance about nothing, she admitted.

A dance truly about nothing, she decided, would not move: not a soul, not a heart, not a muscle, not an inch. So she didn’t. She stood still, silent, and centered in the empty room. She thought she might finally be on to nothing.

But in her stillness, the breeze from outside found space to creep in, stirring her bones from the inside. So she closed the windows. You need closed windows to make a dance about nothing.

But slivers of rogue air still slipped through the cracks and into her system. They tasted just a little smoky this time, like half-assed eyeshadow or fading cigarette butts. So she shut her eyes and mouth and ears and nose. You need a closed nose to make a dance about nothing.

The air outside grew hotter and thicker, but she remained uninterrupted in her pristine stillness. You need to not notice to make a dance about nothing.