These could be your new BFFs!
Calling all comp kids! Are you dreaming of making your small-screen debut? If you think your leaps are as strong as Maddie Ziegler's, your shimmies are as fierce as Asia Monet Ray's and your pirouettes are as sharp as Chloe Lukasiak's, now may be your time to shine! Here's the catch: Your mom (or dad!) has to be on board as well.
Why? The infamous Abby Lee Miller is looking for new kids and their parents to add to the cast of "Dance Moms"—and possibly "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition."
Auditions for dancers 13 and under will be held in Orlando, FL (Oct. 25), Atlanta, GA (Nov. 8), and NYC (Nov. 23). Find out more and register at dancemomscasting.com.
See you on TV!
Anyone who’s seen A Chorus Line is familiar with the high-pressure, “I hope I get it!” process of a musical theater audition. Out of hundreds of hopefuls, you have to be the one whose skills are strong enough to catch the casting director’s eye. Then comes the callback, the workshop—and, most of the time, the “no, thank you.” But while rejection can sting, it happens to everyone, including the very best. We spoke with five talented Broadway pros who missed out on coveted gigs. As their experiences prove, audition disappointments don’t mean the world’s ending—or even that a role is permanently out of reach.
Current role: Freelance performer (Hamilton was her most recent Broadway show)
Roles that got away: Understudy for Amneris/ensemble member in Aida
In the fall of my senior year at Juilliard, I got a call from a casting director, Bethany Knox, asking me to audition for the first national tour of Aida. The team was interested in me as an understudy for one of the leads, Amneris. After singing and reading scenes, I received two more callbacks; the second was a dance call in front of the choreographer, Wayne Cilento. There were about eight other women in the room, and I felt very confident. But I wasn’t hired. A few months later, I was invited to another dance call for Aida, for an ensemble part. This time, I was immediately cut. I was so confused—and a little angry. I’d been invited, after all! But as I was leaving, Bethany pulled me aside to tell me the team was looking for incredibly specific traits. They’d wanted someone older than I was for Amneris; now, they felt I had the wrong look for the ensemble. It made all the difference to get that feedback. I learned that some decisions just aren’t in my control, because they’re not about my skills or performance.
Fiedelman (right) performing with American Dance Machine for the 21st Century (photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy ADM 21st Century)
Rosie Lani Fiedelman
Current role: Ensemble member in The Lion King
Role that (almost) got away: Ensemble member in The Lion King
In 2008, when I was performing at the Tony Awards with In the Heights, I watched The Lion King cast do a special tribute celebrating the musical’s 10th anniversary. I’d never seen the TLK before, and by the time the number ended, I was in tears. I told my friend that I had to be part of that show. I first auditioned for TLK in December 2013. It was an Equity Chorus Call—required by the union, even if the show isn’t hiring. I was there for about five hours, but ultimately I was sent home. I tried to look on the bright side and convince myself that the show just didn’t need anyone. About five months later, TLK held another audition. The call was a similar all-day affair, and I made it through to the end. Ultimately, the directors asked if I’d be interested in doing the tour. I said “of course”—and then added that I’d prefer to be in the Broadway cast. I left that day wishing I’d stopped at a simple “yes.” Did I overstep a boundary? Turns out, I didn’t. The next day I got a call asking if I could make it to a costume fitting in four hours—for TLK’s Broadway cast. I couldn’t believe it. It was the role that had gotten away…but I got it! Just goes to show that it doesn’t hurt to speak up.
Current role: The Acrobat in Matilda: The Musical
Role that (almost) got away: Swing in American Idiot
I went to see American Idiot when it first opened, and it spoke to me in such a powerful way. It had to be my Broadway debut. I auditioned for a swing track that also included understudying the character “What’s Her Name.” During the audition, it seemed like the entire creative team was rooting for me. It came down to me and just a few others, but I didn’t get it. I was heartbroken—like sobbing-in-my-room heartbroken. Months later, I was called back in to audition for the role of Heather. I got to do some fight choreography, and I sang “Last Night on Earth.” I made it to the top two or three contenders again, and I thought this was my moment. It wasn’t. Devastated, I told myself to put my dream away. But a few months later, I got a call: The woman who’d been hired for the original swing position was leaving, and though I wasn’t a perfect fit for “What’s Her Name,” the directors were going to customize the swing track for me so that I could understudy the Heather role instead. It was an amazing ending to a process that had been so painful for so long.
Nicely (center) in Something Rotten! (photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown)
Beth Johnson Nicely
Current role: Ensemble member in Something Rotten!
Role that (almost) got away: Swing in Young Frankenstein
When I read that Young Frankenstein was coming to Broadway—and that Susan Stroman was choreographing—I knew I had to be in it. I’m a tall dancer, just Susan’s type, and I’d long dreamed of working for her. I auditioned to be an ensemble member and got a callback. But after the entire audition process, I was put “on hold” for the role for almost a month, just waiting to hear a “yes” or “no.” Finally, my agent let me know I didn’t get it. It was such a letdown. Then, a year and a half later, I got another phone call: A swing position had opened up, and the Young Frankenstein team wanted me to audition. There were five of us up for the role this time, all similar in height, but I ended up with the gig—I was exactly the same size as the original woman, so her costumes wouldn’t need to be altered. Later, I asked my agent what went wrong the first time. Apparently, the issue was that I was just too young for the ensemble. Casting a show is like putting a puzzle together, and I didn’t fit with the group. The experience was proof that it never hurts to go for it—because you never know which piece of the puzzle might be missing.
Current role: Ensemble member in Aladdin
Role that got away: Shark in West Side Story
Early in my career, I performed in a bunch of regional West Side Story productions. I’d done so many that I felt like it was my show. So when I heard it was coming to Broadway, I figured there was a good chance it could be my big debut. I went to the open call, then another callback. Finally, it was just me and two other guys up to play one of the Sharks. But disaster struck halfway through the final dance call: I fell and tore the meniscus in my right knee. It was a serious injury, and I ended up missing out on the role. I was pretty devastated for a good six months. I think I might have gotten over it more quickly had I not also been hurt—my knee was a constant, aching reminder of my failure. I questioned my warm-up, my training, diet, everything. Ultimately, though, I learned that sometimes, injuries just happen. I decided not to blame myself too much, and that turned out to be the healthiest thing I could do.
Boston Ballet’s Lauren Herfindahl is a dance-world rarity: an artist who actually likes understudying, a task most dancers see as a chore. That’s a good thing, since it’s an important part of her job as a corps member. “I choose to focus on the fact that every time I get to explore a role, even if I’m not first or second cast, it’s an opportunity to learn,” Herfindahl says. “The more parts, the better!”
Being asked to cover someone else’s role (or multiple roles) without any promise of stage time can feel daunting, nerve-racking and straight-up demoralizing. But understudies are a critical part of the dance-world ecosystem—without them, the show (sometimes literally!) can’t go on. Here’s how to make the best, and the most, out of those times when your name is low on the casting sheet.
Work More than Usual, Not Less
As an understudy, you may feel invisible in the rehearsal studio. But you’re not—and taking the job seriously is a great way to get noticed. “What’s important is to show that you’re always working at your fullest, not just when you’re excited about your role,” says Louise Lester, ballet mistress at Houston Ballet. “That continuity in your performance is what the staff looks for. Show us that you’re consistently motivated, and you might end up getting a big break.”
Karina Gonzalez and artists of Houston Ballet rehearse Garret Smith's Reveal. (Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)
Rather than messing around in the back of the studio, go above and beyond during rehearsals, which will show that you’re hungry for more. If you’ve already mastered the ensemble spot you were assigned to understudy, learn another. Figure out the work’s overall patterns, entrances and exits, not just your own. You never know who’s going to go out, and being able to say “I know that spot—I can do it” in a crisis will win you major points.
Be a Fast, and Strategic, Learner
Usually, there isn’t enough time or staff available to teach each cast of a work separately—only the first cast gets detailed instruction. So being able to learn quickly and accurately without the help of a teacher or coach will make you an invaluable understudy.
Herfindahl recommends the strategy she’s developed for learning by watching. “Especially in the beginning, have a game plan for each rehearsal,” she says. “One day, focus on just the feet and legs. The next rehearsal, figure out the arms. If you zoom in on one piece at a time instead of trying to get every component simultaneously, your brain will retain the choreography better.” Make good use of videos to study on your own, too. And don’t be shy about asking for help from the rehearsal staff or fellow dancers, especially if you can catch them in not-too-busy moments outside of rehearsal. That shows commitment—and it’s in everyone’s best interest, after all, to have a reliable backup cast.
Writing down what you’ve learned is another great way to help your brain and body internalize choreography, especially if you’re understudying more than one role. Ashlee Dupré covers four ensemble tracks as a swing in Broadway’s An American in Paris. “When we first learned the show, the swings just sat in the front of the room and wrote down everything: blocking, steps, props, set moves,” she says. “There was no room for us to get up and dance, but I could go home, read what I’d written, and do the steps in my living room for another hour and a half. I could still be sure I knew what I was doing.”
ABL: Always Be Learning
Lauren Herfindahl performing in The Nutcracker (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet)
As an understudy, don’t forget how much you can absorb from the sidelines. It’s a precious opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal look at the dancers you admire most—to see how they learn, how they work and how they perform. Herfindahl says understudying William Forsythe’s The Second Detail while still in Boston Ballet II taught her a lot more than just the ballet’s steps. “Even though I never performed, I came to every rehearsal and every show,” she says. “I grew so much from observing the dancers’ artistry and skills. Sure, I would’ve liked to be up there with them. But just being an active presence in the room made me a better dancer.”
Take the Stage with Confidence
If you get that 11th-hour “You’re on!” call, don’t panic! While even the world’s most dedicated understudy will inevitably feel underprepared if she’s thrown onstage, there are ways to push past the nerves. American in Paris swing Sam Rogers, who frequently has to perform one of the six tracks he covers in the show, has trained himself to keep cool under pressure. “Prioritize what you really need to remember,” he says. “I have a top-down system of ‘problem spots’ in each track, so I’ll review them in my tracking book right beforehand. And don’t worry too much if something goes wrong. Just keep the show running.”
Remember: You’re the hero saving the day! Even if your performance isn’t step-perfect, the director and choreographer are grateful to have you out there.
As a young ballet student, Jonathan Porretta dreamed of dancing the Prince in Cinderella. But as he began his professional career, he realized his short stature might make that dream unreachable. “Ballet princes are expected to be tall, long and lean,” says Porretta, now a Pacific Northwest Ballet principal. “I had to come to terms with who I was as a dancer and accept my body type.” At PNB, Porretta enjoyed dancing less height-specific leads in works such as George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son and David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to My Skin. And his story has a fairy-tale ending: After dancing beautifully in other roles, he ultimately was cast as Cinderella’s Prince.
Missing out on a dream role is a tough pill to swallow. But it also happens to every dancer, no matter how talented. Read on for more advice from students and professionals on how to transform your casting disappointments into stepping-stones on your path to success.
Jonathan Porretta coveted the role of the Prince in Cinderella, but in the meantime, he grew as a dancer performing in works like George Balanchine's Prodigal Son (pictured here). (Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Handling the Initial Shock
When you feel upset and disappointed about casting, it’s important to express your emotions rather than keeping them bottled up inside. Talk to a family member or a close friend you trust. Your first impulse may be to blame others, but avoid venting about your teacher or griping about the dancer who got the part you coveted. That’ll just breed unproductive bitterness—and it won’t make you feel any better.
Kathy Chamberlain, director of Chamberlain Performing Arts in Plano, TX, says many teachers will be open to discussing casting with their students. But rather than asking why you didn’t get the part, she advises taking a more positive approach: “What do I need to do to prove I’m ready for this role? What should I be working on technically?” Questions like these will show your teacher that you’re dedicated and willing to put in extra time to achieve your goals.
And remember that you’re probably not the only one who was unhappy when the cast list went up. Turning to fellow disappointed dancers, who know exactly how you’re feeling, can be helpful, too. When not a single dancer in Jessica Blume’s class at Chamberlain Performing Arts was cast as Clara in The Nutcracker, they all supported each other throughout rehearsals. “We were pretty upset about it, but we banded together to make sure it didn’t affect our performance,” Jessica says.
Sometimes dreams do come true: Eventually, Porretta was cast as Cinderella's Prince (here, with Kaori Nakamura). (Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy PNB)
Working Toward Your Goal
The first step toward avoiding casting disappointments is to be a smart auditioner. Especially in musical theater, notes Broadway casting director Benton Whitley of Duncan Stewart and Company, casting decisions are frequently based not only on the dancer’s skill set, but also on the “look” the choreographer is going for. So doing a little research before the audition is a good idea. Find out when the choreographer offers dance classes, and drop in to get a feel for his or her look and style.
If you aren’t cast in your desired role, ask the director if you can still attend
rehearsals for the part or act as an understudy. Chamberlain usually has several girls learn a piece of choreography before locking in casting, paying close attention to the way each dancer applies corrections. “It’s about how they approach the learning process, not just the steps themselves,” Chamberlain explains.
Jessica now treats every class like an audition, to prove to her teachers that she can work hard and take direction. “I stay after class to work on a difficult step, or I practice choreography at home,” she says. “I remind myself that most principals start from the corps!” That was certainly true of Porretta, who joined PNB at the age of 18. “Early on, I’d politely ask to learn roles even if I wasn’t cast in them,” he says. “I always tell younger dancers to ask to attend extra rehearsals, because you need to show your director that you’re multifaceted—that you’re not limited to a certain type of role.”
And sometimes earning the part you want is just a matter of persistence. Even professionals go through hundreds of auditions before landing their dream job. “Auditioning is truly a numbers game,” Whitley says. “It’s about throwing your name in the ring as much as possible.”
Seeing the Big Picture
Remember that a production is a team effort. Your part—even if it’s not the one you wanted—is essential to the show. Are you the third snowflake from the left? Be the best third snowflake from the left you can. Directors notice hard workers, so doing a great job in a small role might land you a bigger role in the future.
Above all, don’t start playing the comparison game with the dancer who did earn your dream part. Constantly sizing yourself up against other dancers will just distract you from your own growth. “You have to put blinders on to stay focused on your goals,” Porretta says. “I know my career is different from the careers of other PNB dancers, and that’s OK. Opportunities tend to appear at exciting, unexpected moments.”
Less than two months until Peter Pan Live! on NBC! So far, we've been pretty excited about the cast: Christopher Walken as a tap-dancing Captain Hook? Obviously. Allison Williams ("Girls") as Peter Pan? Yes, please.
But OMG, you guys, it gets so. much. better. This week, NBC made the full casting announcement, and Newsies alums are taking over: Ryan Steele, Jacob Guzman, David Guzman, Daniel Quadrino and Garrett Hawe will play The Lost Boys. Alex Wong will be repin' the Newsies in the "Islanders, Pirates, Litter Bearers and Mermen" category. And Jake Lucas will play John Darling.
(L to R) Alex Wong poses for our Newsies cover (photo by Jacob Pritchard); Allison Williams in a new production shot for Peter Pan Live! (photo courtesy NBC); Ryan Steele poses for our Newsies cover (photo by Jacob Pritchard)
If pulling a bunch of alums from one of the danciest shows to hit Broadway is any indication of the amount of dance in Peter Pan Live!, count us the most in. Remember to tune in to NBC on December 4 for the live event!
Have you guys seen the cast list for Step Up 5?
We heard a little while ago that the latest installment of the series would bring back some of our old Step Up friends. We didn't know it would involve quite this many.
Two days ago Summit Entertainment announced that the film would star Ryan Guzman (Step Up Revolution) as Sean and Briana Evigan (Step Up 2: The Streets) as Andie. Good start. But then they kept going.
I'm just going to list out the rest of the cast, because really, they need no introductions:
Moose: Adam Sevani (Step Up 2 The Streets, Step Up 3D, Step Up Revolution)
Eddy: Misha Gabriel (Step Up Revolution)
Camille: Alyson Stoner (Step Up, Step Up 3D)
Jason: Stephen 'tWitch' Boss (Step Up 3D, Step Up Revolution)
Jenny Kido: Mari Koda (Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D, Step Up Revolution)
Hair: Chris Scott (Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D)
Monster: Luis Rosado (Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D)
Vladd aka Robot Guy: Chadd Smith (Step Up 3D, Step Up Revolution)
The Santiago Twins: Martin Lombard & Facundo Lombard (Step Up 3D)
Marc 'Marvelous' Inniss (Step Up Revolution)
Nolan Padilla (Step Up Revolution)
Phillip Chbeeb (Step Up Revolution)
Bianca Brewton (Step Up Revolution)
Tony Bellissimo (Step Up 3D, Step Up Revolution)
Josue 'Beastmode' Figueroa (Step Up 3D, Step Up Revolution)
Brandy Lamkim (Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up Revolution)
How will all of these characters be woven into one coherent plot, you ask? We have no idea. But we also kind of don't care. Because how can this massive gathering of awesome not generate more awesome? (And really, can you describe any of the plots of the last four Step Up movies right now? Didn't think so.)
Shooting for the film begins September 19. Obviously, we'll keep you in the loop!
Are you a male hip-hop dancer looking to make your big break? Yes? Well, we've got great news! Casting agents for Cirque du Soleil's The Beatles LOVE in Las Vegas are looking to immediately fill an opening for Walrus, a male hip-hop dancer in the show.
It's super easy to get started with the audition process: Just fill out this mandatory audition application by September 20. Good luck!
Get Dance Spirit in your inbox