8 Tips for Dancers at Musical Theater Auditions

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Let’s walk through a familiar musical theater audition scenario: You arrive for the dance call and, assuming you’ve done well—you’ve made it through a possible cross-floor, combo one, and possible combo two—the team announces that they’d like you to sing. Whether it’s a 16-bar cut or a song of your own choice or vocal sides from the show, at this critical stage of the audition, I prefer my dancers to leave the dancer at the door and walk in with a singer’s mindset!

What I don’t want to see are dancers who walk into the singing component of an audition with an attitude that screams, “I’m not really a singer. I’m a dancer, so please don’t expect me to ‘nail’ this.”

This may sound like a no-brainer, but time and time again, I see dancers sabotage themselves during this part of the audition process. They come in with little or no preparation on their song; they exhibit a voice that has obviously had limited training. (If you’re a musical theater professional, it’s imperative that training be maintained in all three disciplines.) They choose easy or unimaginative songs as their quick, predictable go-to’s. They walk into the room as a dancer, often standing in third position, and gesturing or adding bits of choreography or movement to their songs. Many times these gestures are nervous habits because they don’t seem to trust themselves as singers.

So, what’s the solution? When you, as the dancer, enter into the singing component of your audition, take a minute to get your head in the game and establish what you want to accomplish. Sufficiently impress the panel with your vocal prowess so they see you as a bonafide dancer and singer. Below are 8 tips to improve your musical theater audition—and hopefully land you the part!

  1. If you have the time post-dancing, take a few minutes to change into another outfit or look and not the sweaty clothes you’ve been moving in for the past few hours. Towel off. Pull your hair back or put a comb through it. 
  2. When your name is called, walk into the room with confidence. Have your organized music binder under your arm and head directly to the accompanist.
  3. Give brief but specific instructions to the accompanist regarding tempo and any other notes you may have to ensure they play the very best for you.
  4. Walk into the center of the room in front of the panel and should they ask you what you’re singing, state the name of the song and then start with no delay or apology.
  5. Trust in the power of the song’s words and yourself as a singer. Stillness is your friend here. Hands down by your side presenting a clean, crisp image.
  6. Keep your eyes open and sing over the heads of the panel instead of looking them directly in the eyes.
  7. Once your song has ended, thank the panel, collect your book from the accompanist, and start for the door.
  8. Finally, once you’re out of the door, take a well-deserved breath and reflect on what worked (or did not work) for you in the room. This is the time for honest and helpful self-critique—critique that is going to help you up your game for the future!

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Duncan Stewart
Duncan Stewart, CSA, is a casting director and owner/partner of the New York casting office of Stewart/Whitley.
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