Embrace Your Musical Theater "Type"
“As a teenager, I auditioned for Spring Awakening, only to realize it was a lot of blonde girls," says Skyler Volpe, a performer with brown, curly hair. This experience taught Volpe to research characters that would best fit not only her voice but also her look—such as her current role as Mimi in the Rent National Tour.
Not fitting certain character types, especially those based on looks or physicality, might feel limiting. But understanding your type makes you a smarter auditionee and helps you pinpoint which natural skills you should continue to home in on.
Ask the Right Questions
Understanding your type requires self-reflection about your look, personality and dance strengths. “The components of an actor's type are age, physicality and skill set," says casting director Benton Whitley. “What age can you read for? Are you serious or comical? Do you look sweet or quirky? Are you a tenor or pop-belting soprano?" Ask your teacher, choreographer or friend to help you identify your type. “My senior year of college, my professor helped me pick out audition outfits, talked about the dance styles that fit my body and gave examples of roles I would fit," says Mallory Nolting, who then landed a gig on the 42nd Street National Tour.
Kent State University students performing "Footloose" (photo by Bob Christy, courtesy Kent State)
Do Your Research
Nolting researches choreographers before auditioning to see what type of dancer they usually cast. “I took Randy Skinner's class before the 42nd Street audition to get a feel for his style," Nolting says. “I could picture myself fitting into the show. At the audition, Skinner recognized me from class!" Jo Rowan, dance chair at Oklahoma City University, advises taking as many different Broadway choreographers' classes as possible to figure out whose styles best fit your body and skill set.
Your overall look at an audition will be your first impression, so be sure your appearance
matches your vocal, dance and acting type. For example, Nolting, who sees herself as more of a showgirl, found a 1930s-style outfit for her 42nd Street audition. Terri Kent, the musical theater coordinator at Kent State University, encourages her girls to get makeovers to reflect their type: shorter, edgier hair and dramatic makeup for the powerhouse dancer, or soft curls and brighter makeup for the ingénue. Look at headshots from other Broadway performers to see how they let their personalities and types shine through.
Kent State's "Jane Eyre," directed by Terri Kent (photo by Bob Christy, courtesy Kent State)
Use Professional Help
Acquiring an agent will open up more audition opportunities, and can also help you figure out your specific type. “My agency and I discussed my strengths, then they started broadening my horizons by putting me up for gigs I wouldn't have felt confident enough to try myself," Volpe says. She trusts her agent to find her jobs where she fits in both her looks and her talents. “They know I look right for West Side Story, but I just don't have the voice for it," she says.
A casting director can also be a great tool for helping your audition success. Reach out to casting directors after an audition for feedback. But remember, “we hire people, not performers," Whitley says. “Don't apologize for what type you are, because if you're
honest and authentic, we can figure out where to place you. So do your research about what shows and characters are your type—but also make sure you're sharing you."
A version of this story appeared in the January 2017 issue of Dance Spirit.
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
Last month, we asked why there wasn't a Best Choreography category at the Oscars—and discovered that many of you agreed with us: Choreographers should definitely be acknowledged for their work on the super-dancy movies we can't get enough of.
Now, we're taking matters into our own (jazz) hands.
We've decided to create a Dance Spirit award for the best cinematic choreography of 2017. With your input, we've narrowed the field to four choreographers whose moves lit up some of the best movies of the year. Check out our nominations for best choreography below—and vote for the choreographer you think deserves the honor. We'll announce the winner on Friday, March 2.
Contemporary phenom Christina Ricucci has super-flexible hips, which means she can stretch her legs to unbelievable heights. But when she noticed herself making contorted positions in class, Ricucci realized she was approaching her extensions all wrong. "I went back to the basics in class, squaring my hips and using my turnout," Ricucci says. "I learned to create proper positions, rather than whacked-out versions of them."
Some dancers are so wonky they have a hard time supporting their high legs, while others struggle with limited flexibility. But no matter your facility, you can find a balance of stretch and strength to achieve your fullest range of extension. It's not about how high (or not) your legs can go: It's the quality of the movement, and how you get those legs up, that counts.
Yesterday, the dance community was heartbroken to learn that Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran, both 14-year-old dancers, were among the 17 people killed on Valentine's Day in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
Once upon a time (until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded, to be exact), figure skaters had to compete to music without words. Before this rule change, a skater faced an automatic point deduction if the music even hinted at vocals. Understandably, there were *a lot* of Olympic programs skated to classical music, and you'd tend to hear the same music selections over and over and over.
There are plenty of current Olympic figure skaters who'd make beautiful dancers (first among them Adam Rippon, whose gorgeously choreographed long program won the internet, if not the gold). But today, as we wait for the women's figure skating competition to crown its new champions, we wanted to throw it back to one of the most beautifully balletic skaters of all time: Sasha Cohen.
The high-flying leaps of grand allegro are meant to be incredibly exciting. But at the end of an intense ballet class, when you're exhausted, it can be hard to give them the attention they deserve. Want to pump up your big jumps? Follow these 10 vital tips from Jennifer Hart, curriculum director and instructor at Ballet Austin.
"Whole, low-fat, or skim?" The question of which milk to drink has gotten a little more complicated lately, with a wide variety of nondairy milks popping up in grocery stores. To find out which ones are worth your milk money, we had registered dietitian Monika Saigal answer some FAQs.