Many dancers long for the day when they’ll hear those words: “You’re going to Hollywood!” So how do you deal when it actually happens?
Whether you’re headed to the City of Angels as part of a prize package or making the move on your own, navigating a new city can be overwhelming—especially in a place where so many dancers are vying for the same dream. To get you off on the right foot, we’ve compiled a go-to guide of need-to-know info for any aspiring L.A. starlet.
Sneak Peek: Footloose Audition
Ever wondered what an industry audition is really like? Wonder no more! Dance Spirit snagged an exclusive invite to the open agency call for the movie Footloose, Hollywood’s hottest remake, and we’re ready to dish all the details. Held in August, the audition attracted hundreds of dancers hoping for a shot at performing in the film. Here’s a rundown of the jam-packed day, along with insider advice from Bloc Agency’s Laney Filuk.
9 am: Dancers start to converge on Center Staging, a studio-like lot near the Burbank Airport. More than 100 female dancers form a line outside Studio 11, where the Footloose audition will take place. The first half of the day is all about the girls, while the guys will take over for the last few hours of the audition. Each dancer is given a number and asked to provide her referring agency and contact information. Eighties looks are the name of the game, from studded belts to scrunched socks to tiered bubble skirts. Neon is definitely where it’s at.
Tinseltown tip: Is dressing on theme a good idea? Sometimes, advises Bloc Agency’s Laney Filuk. “It can make you stand out in a room with a multitude of dancers, and it shows you’ll go the extra mile,” she says. However, Filuk cautions that it’s important to do your homework first. “For this audition, dancers who researched the director would know that he also did Hustle & Flow, which is a very rough, raw movie,” says Filuk. “This version of Footloose is said to be a grittier, more modern-day hip-hop version of the original, so dressing ’80s may have been a risky move.”
10:15 am: Spirits are high as choreographer Jamal Sims welcomes the first group of approximately 75 dancers into the studio. Lots of dancers greet and hug; it’s clear that many of them regularly hit up the audition circuit together. With Dondraico “Draico” Johnson and assistants (or “protégés” as Jamal calls them) Bianca Brewton, Myke Dizon, Christina Glur and Miguel Zarate, Jamal demonstrates the combo of six
8-counts, set to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Full of kicks, snaps and fast-paced turns, the choreography is true to Footloose form.
10:30 am–11:15 am: Lots of dancers are still waiting in line, so the first group is ushered outside to practice the choreography. During this time, two more groups come in to learn the same combo. Dancers are trickling in throughout the learning process, so it seems some of them will have to pick it up faster than others! For many, the hardest move appears to be a rise up from the knees onto the toes.
11:15 am: The initial group returns—it’s time for the first round of auditions! Before it begins, Jamal gives some direction to the hopefuls: He’s seeking realistic “high school types” of all shapes and sizes, who don’t necessarily come off as Hollywood dancers. “Throw your training out the window and just dance and have fun,” he advises. Everyone practices the combination together once, and then the formal audition kicks off.
Tinseltown tip: Make sure to show up at least 45 to 60 minutes early for any audition, says Filuk. Not only can parking and traffic in L.A. be extremely unpredictable, but arriving with ample time to spare can also give you a leg up on the competition. “When you get there and see hundreds of people already there before you, it can put you in a different frame of mind and offset your whole vibe,” Filuk says.
11:20 am: Jamal and his crew sit at a table, with a video camera set up behind them to capture the action. Dancers are called in groups of six to perform for the judges, while the others offer cheers and whoops of support from the sidelines. Each group does the combo twice, switching lines so the judges can see each person. In the beats before the first 8-count, the dancers freestyle and ham it up with each other. After each group, the dancers are given a simple “thank you” and then exit; they won’t know the results until the agents receive bookings weeks later.
11:45 am: The first round is finished, and the second round of dancers load in. A quick survey of the crowd reveals some familiar faces from “So You Think You Can Dance,” including Kayla Radomski and Katee Shean. Center Stage: Turn It Up star Rachele Brooke Smith is also in the house. It’s clear this is one coveted gig.
12:15 pm: While the auditions have been happening indoors, more dancers have lined up outside in anticipation of the second agency call at noon. (Even though each audition portion is the same, arrival times are staggered to help thin out the crowds.) In order to keep things running on time, Jamal sends his assistants to the parking lot to start teaching the combo. There are about 350 female dancers vying for the job, for which Jamal is casting six different dance scenes. “Every girl in L.A. wants to be part of it,” says Katee, who worked with Jamal on Miley Cyrus’ “Can’t Be Tamed” video.
1 pm: Director Craig Brewer stops by to observe the audition and see the prospective dancers in person. Bianca brings in reserves of apples, nuts and energy bars for Jamal and the other judges—it’s been a long morning! But the energy is still rockin’, and every time a group performs, Jamal is clapping and singing along.
2 pm: It’s showtime for McDonald/Selznick Associates-repped dancer Jasmine Ejan, whose past gigs include the World Music Awards and Celine Dion’s A New Day DVD. She has a promising start, but then falls down during her audition. Afterward, she’s bummed but chalks it up to a “c’est la vie” moment. “I gave it my best shot, laughed and kept going,” she says. “Hopefully I’ll get the chance to audition for Jamal again and I can do more than fall!”
3:15 pm: Bring on the boys: It’s time for the guys to audition! More than 300 male dancers gather for their shot at the spotlight. It seems the guys are having an easier time with the much-dreaded toe rise move. “This piece is extremely athletic,” Jamal says. “The toe rise really requires a lot of power.”
4 pm: Another guy joins the mix, but it’s not a dancer candidate—it’s the film’s star, Kenny Wormald! Unassuming and friendly, he blends into the background to watch the auditions along with Jamal and the others.
5:15 pm: That’s a wrap! All of the dancers have auditioned, and now Jamal and Draico will spend the next several weeks reviewing headshots and audition videotapes before filming begins in Atlanta. “My challenge is to find real people that can naturally dance and retain choreography, but don’t look like they’ve been training for years,” Jamal says. “It’s about stripping away all of the technique and dancing like ‘normal people.’ This story is a celebration of dance for everyone!”
Tinseltown tip: So what exactly is an open agency call? It’s basically a large audition that all dancers from various agencies can attend, whereas other auditions are typically limited by specifications (i.e., B-boys, dancers of certain heights or ethnicities, etc.). Agents receive word several days before and send out the information to their full mailing lists.
But for those who haven’t snagged an agent yet, don’t despair: Filuk says that by keeping your ears open, you can have your shot as well. “These are not auditions listed in Backstage or posted on dance websites—the information can be funneled out through people who have agents,” she says. “If you’re able to find out about open auditions, chances are slim to none you’ll get turned away.” Filuk suggests following prominent dancers on Twitter and reaching out to your personal network to stay in the loop.
Get Studio Savvy
Sneak a peek at any dancer’s to-do list: Taking class is usually right at the top. Navigating L.A.’s studio scene is easy once you know the major players. Most professional commercial dancers train at Hollywood’s EDGE Performing Arts Center or North Hollywood’s Millennium Dance Complex and Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio. But relative newcomers, like Culver City’s Your Neighborhood Studio, Hollywood’s International Dance Academy and choreographer Ryan Heffington’s The Sweat Spot in Silverlake, are also making a splash.
Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio
EDGE Performing Arts Center
International Dance Academy
Millennium Dance Complex
The Sweat Spot
Your Neighborhood Studio
See the Stars
Always wanted to attend a TV taping? Snagging a spot may not be as hard as you think. Tickets for shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Best Dance Crew” are just a click away!
For “ABDC” tickets, visit: www.1iota.com
For “DWTS” and “SYTYCD,” visit: www.ocatv.com
Experience it All: Four things that should be on every dancer's L.A. bucket list
Do the touristy thing. Break out the camera, because L.A. is bursting with Kodak moments. A walk down scenic Hollywood Boulevard provides plenty o’ photo opps—from the Mann’s Chinese Theatre to the star-studded (literally!) Walk of Fame. The Hollywood sign is another must-see, with great vista points on Mulholland and Beachwood Drives. If beachy beauty is more up your alley, drive down the Pacific Coast Highway for some wow-worthy views.
Get on the move—outdoors! It’s easy to stay in shape in L.A., where the great weather makes being active fun. Hit up Runyon or Beachwood Canyon for a hike, or head west to climb the famous Santa Monica Stairs. Runyon Canyon offers free outdoor yoga daily, and Westwood’s W Hotel hosts free poolside yoga classes in the summertime. Peaceful and healthy!
Party at the pool. You’ve worked hard for your dancer body—now go show it off at one of L.A.’s many summertime shindigs! Lots of hotel hotspots hold regular pool parties, with the Hollywood Roosevelt, The Standard Hotel and Shangri-LA being just a few. And for those under 21, visit the Annenberg Beach House—a great place to get your swim on.
Enjoy live entertainment. It’s no secret that L.A. is prime territory for everything from TV tapings to live music to comedy to theater. So how do you choose from all the options? Start with these staples: the Hollywood Bowl, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the Choreographer’s Carnival and Disney Concert Hall. The Ford Amphitheatre also offers a fabulous Summer Dance Series, and Cinespia’s summer movie lineup at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is not to be missed.
L.A.'s dance innovation doesn't happen only on camera. Lots of daring dance companies are also making waves on the West Coast stage. Don't miss these six trendsetters currently setting the creative pace:
- Collage Dance Theatre
- Method Contemporary Dance
- Los Angelese Contemporary Dance Company
- Lux Aeterna
- Invertigo Dance Theatre
- L.A. Ballet