Seven dancers share their biggest audition mishaps—and how they pulled through.
Lockhart Brownlie onstage with Katie Perry (photo by Rex Features/Brian Rasic)
I went to an audition for “True Blood” right off a plane from India. I was jetlagged and swollen and felt gross. As a guy, it’s not uncommon to be asked to take your shirt off at an audition, but this time they wanted us to dance in our underwear. The L.A. dance world is small, so we all knew each other, and body image is such a competitive thing—it was definitely uncomfortable. Plus the routine was full-on stylized jazz choreographed by Marguerite Derricks, which was also intimidating, because she’s such a big choreographer. I just had to pull it together and dance. In the end, I did book the job!
Tessa Alves in Rock of Ages (photo by Paul Kolnik)
performer in Rock of Ages on Broadway
The first acting audition I ever did was for a play called The Trojan Women at Stratford Festival. I was terrified. As I began my monologue, I started crying because I was so scared. After I finished, the director said, “I really like where you were going with that. There were a lot of ups and downs.” She thought I was crying because I was really good at acting! She said, “Can you do it again?” And this time I started bawling. That’s when she realized there was a problem. She said, “Why don’t you go to the corner and take a moment.” There I was, at my first acting audition, crying and standing in the corner like a 4-year-old. I did it one more time, and she said, “Thank you, that was great.” And I got a call the next day: I booked it. Now I’m on Broadway, understudying three lead roles and only crying onstage when it’s necessary.
Thayne Jasperson (far right) in Matilda: The Musical (photo by Joan Marcus)
performer in Matilda: The Musical on Broadway
When I was auditioning for “So You Think You Can Dance,” I made it to the round where you do your solo for the judges. But at the last minute, I found out I couldn’t use the song I had choreographed my solo to, because the show didn’t have the rights to it.
So I scrambled. I found a song I sort of knew, but when I got out there I completely blanked. My throat started swelling up, and my blood was pumping so hard in my head. I just started improvising, and it was a tragic mess. Of course, we’re all our own worst critics. But when I look back at it, I still don’t know how I made it to Vegas.
(Photo by Jae Man Joo)
dancer with Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Three years ago, I auditioned for Dance Theatre of Harlem. I had been going to a ton of contemporary auditions and was in that mindset, so I showed up in a tank top and shorts—but everyone there was in a leotard and tights. I saw a girl in the dressing room with an extra leotard in her bag. I asked if I could borrow it, and I wore it with my shorts. I also went up to the director beforehand and said, “I’m so sorry, would it be OK if I auditioned in shorts?” He said, “Yes.” And it actually went well. They didn’t take anyone from the audition, but they did offer me a scholarship to their summer intensive. I went—and wore tights and a leotard every day!
Sarrah Strimel as the Mermaid in Big Fish (photo by Paul Kolnik)
We had a lengthy round of auditions for the part of the Mermaid in Big Fish. For the final callback, I wanted to wear something soft and mermaid-like, so I bought a light-pink sports bra and skirt. I had never danced in them before the audition, but I thought they couldn’t be too risky. Wrong. I was dancing by myself, and right as I went into a big pas de chat, both straps on the sports bra popped! The boobs came out, and, well, you can’t really catch your chest in the middle of a pas de chat.
Susan Stroman, the director, called out, “Stop, stop!” and the pianist stopped playing. I came up with a beet red face and said, “Hey guys, just trying to book the job.” Then Susan had to personally pop the straps back in for me. I danced it again, boob-free—and ended up getting the part.
(Photo by James Dimmock/FOX)
Soon after I finished the “SYTYCD” Season 8 tour, I was in a terrible car accident. It was a life-changing experience. I decided I was going to quit dancing and go back to school and do things “normal” people do. But then I got a call for an audition for Madonna’s MDNA tour, and I thought, Why not? The audition was a blur. I know they asked us to freestyle, and I tripped at least a few times. I came out of it thinking I was done dancing forever.
Then I got a call from my agent saying they wanted to see me for a callback. They flew me to NYC, and there was a weeklong audition with other dancers. I got to work with choreographers Rich + Tone Talauega, and the experience woke me up. I realized I shouldn’t have thought of giving up at all. My “worst audition” was actually a blessing.
(Photo by Djeneba Aduayom)
About 10 years ago, when I was just starting to establish my career, I had an opportunity to audition for a Michael Jackson show. I flew to NYC, made it to the end of the audition and felt really great about it. But I didn’t hear anything about a callback, so I assumed I was cut and flew back to L.A. Right after my mom and dad picked me up from the airport, my phone rang. It was someone from the audition—they wanted me to be at a callback in four hours! I told them I’d already flown back to L.A., and they said there was no way I could do the job if I missed the callback. I was devastated.
Even though I was upset, I knew I had to pull myself together. I looked at my parents and said, “Well, the good news is that I probably got the Michael Jackson job. The bad news is I’m not going to be able to do it. Let’s go get some ice cream and celebrate.”
January 1 is the perfect time to hit the “refresh” button on your dance training and shake off whatever was holding you back last year. It might be hard to believe, but even the most amazing dancers use this time of year to look for ways they can improve and set new goals. Here are 10 pros’ resolutions.
Photo by Gene Schiavone
Whitney Jensen, Boston Ballet Soloist
“I want to focus on being more creative in the roles I dance and the way I approach the process of taking on a character. Also, I’d like to start doing more choreography. We have a lot of amazing young choreographers at Boston Ballet, and right now I’m working with Paolo Arrais on a contemporary pas de deux. The experience has inspired me to begin working on a piece of my own.”
Sasha Mallory, “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 8 Runner-Up
“My New Year’s Resolution is to push hard, to grow and to create, whether in my choreography, teaching, performing or personal relationships. I try to learn from every
experience. For example, if I went to my little cousin’s play, I’d see what I could learn from the kids, because kids are always inventing new ways to perform. You can learn from anything if you’re aware.”
Photo by Gene Schiavone
Sam Black, Mark Morris Dance Company
“I’d like to go see more shows. There are so many great shows to see in NYC. It’s important for me to see what my friends and peers are doing—supporting other people helps me to be a part of the bigger dance community. I live in Brooklyn, so I plan to go to shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They host a lot of international companies and have a range from well-known, established choreographers to lesser-known choreographers that need exposure and audiences.”
Photo by Leopoldo Bayol
Martin and Facundo Lombard, aka “The Lombard Twins,” Tap and “Free Expression” Artists
“Right now, we’re writing a script for a feature film called Dreamers. It’s an autobiographical drama with a lot of dancing and it’s based on a play that we wrote a few years ago and toured Europe with. Our goal for next year is to finish the script and sell it. Then, we’re going to go to every producer and production company in L.A., and we’re going to knock on doors and tell people about it. That’s what we used to do when we were younger—that’s how we ended up performing with Michael Jackson and James Brown, and how we got into Step Up 3D. When you have a dream, you just have to go for it.”
Photo by Todd Rosenberg
Alice Klock, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
“I’d like to become more bold in my dancing, and to do my best with real conviction whether I feel confident about it or not. I just joined Hubbard Street in August, so I learned a lot of repertory in a short amount of time. I worried about doing everything correctly, so I would pull things back a bit and focus more on the steps than the feeling of the piece. By performance time, I finally got to that feeling, but if I had really danced right off the bat and made the mistakes I was so worried about making, the rehearsal director might have been able to help me more. I think if you just put out everything you have in rehearsal, that’s when you can be the most productive.”
Photo by Melissa Hamburg/Courtesy Broadway Dance Center
Jared Grimes, Tap Instructor at Broadway Dance Center
“I have the same resolution every year: to be on time. I’ve gotten a lot better, but punctuality is tough for me. I have a crazy schedule, with training and rehearsals and shows, and it’s getting busier. This year, it’s all about staying on schedule.”
Photo by Derek White
Shonica Gooden, Bring It On: The Musical
“Sometimes I find myself being so much of a perfectionist when I’m dancing that I forget to have fun with it. As part of the Bring It On cast, I’ve learned that I have to find a happy medium between being a professional and enjoying myself. Our profession is work, but it’s also a lot of fun. I think sometimes we think ‘professional’ means ‘no mistakes’ and that we’re not still learning. When I tell myself to just let loose and enjoy a class, it’s so much easier to do the movement. My resolution is to be a healthy perfectionist: to keep myself on my toes and remain humble, but also to enjoy the process.”
Photo by Old Hat Creative
Marisa Viestenz, Oklahoma City Thunder Girls
“I want to run a half marathon. We [the Thunder Girls] work with our trainer, Steve Clausen, year-round both as a group and on our own. He makes us do some tough stuff—like rolling tires across the floor—that helps us get stronger and keeps us in shape. I never liked running before, but I enjoy it now. This year, I’ll follow one of his training guidelines for running.”
Photo by Erik Tomasson
Lorena Feijoo, San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer
“This year, I want to make an effort to spend more time with people who are important in my life. Every time I do, it grounds me and helps me put things in perspective. To be great at anything, you need to be a great human being first.”