Sheryl Murakami is a bona fide superstar in the commercial dance world. She’s performed at the MTV Video Music Awards, VH1’s Fashion Rocks, the Latin Grammys and on “Saturday Night Live,” in addition to countless appearances in commercials and industrials. She’s worked with Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Avril Lavigne, Nelly Furtado and P. Diddy, to name a few. So it’s safe to say Murakami—now a regular teacher at NYC’s Broadway Dance Center, where her popular classes are always packed—knows her stuff when it comes to auditioning. Read on for her advice.
Take care of your body. Let’s be honest: This is the entertainment industry. How you look matters. Own it.
Go in without any expectations. No matter how well you think you do at the audition, someone else is always making the final decision, and you never know which way that person is going to go.
Compete hard! Friendly competition is a good thing—you gotta fight for your right to dance.
Be prepared for anything. Study and train in all forms of dance, from ballet to hip hop. Being able to freestyle is a huge plus.
Dress the part. Know who and what you are auditioning for. There will be so many people going out for the same job you are. The more you look the part and play the role, the easier it is for the casting directors to envision you in it.
During the audition, really listen to and watch the choreographer or director. Follow every direction you are given and pay close attention to the details of what they want. You are being hired to fulfill a specific vision. Not your vision—theirs.
Find out who is choreographing the audition, and then do your research. Go online and learn his or her style by watching as many videos as you can find.
Stand out in the crowd. Bold colors are a plus, and a big personality is a must. Develop your own personal style so people will remember you.
Remember to breathe. If you don’t breathe, you’ll lose your focus and forget everything you have worked so hard for. And you may pass out, too! That would be embarrassing.
Have fun! Auditions are stressful enough, so make it a positive experience and learn something from it.
What Not to Do
Don’t hide in the back of the room the whole time. You’ll get lost in the sauce and never be seen.
Don’t be rude. When you’re told to switch lines, don’t stay in the front. That causes unnecessary “showgirl drama,” and it’s bad dance etiquette.
Don’t change the choreography to show off. Choreographers hate that. Save your individual skills for when you’re asked to freestyle.
Don’t show up with just one pair of shoes. Ladies, always bring a pair of pumps, even if you’re auditioning for a Nike commercial.
Don’t wear Uggs. Uggs are ugly.
Don’t show up looking like you rolled out of bed. Treat the audition like a show. Full face, full hair and full wardrobe. Bigger is always better.
Photo of Sheryl Murakami by Hao Zeng.