Sunday, March 28, 2010

So YOU Think You Can Dance? -A First Day Audition Guide

As an emerging dancer, I decided, as thousands of others do, to audition for Fox's hit reality show "So You Think You Can Dance?" I have been a less than casual follower of the show itself but admire the opportunity and exposure that it provides. My parents and most of my fellow dancers are devout viewers, but I find that watching it makes me anxious and critical. I want to be dancing, not watching. So I finally decided that I should see if I had a shot at being the one watched and I found that the audition experience was far from what I thought it would be and more than I hoped it could be.

The day started as one would expect: painfully early. I set my alarm for 4:00 am to leave by 5 and arrive in downtown Los Angeles at the Orpheum Theater by 6. My mom accompanied me for support. As she and I groggily rolled out of bed we reviewed what little we knew of the day ahead. We knew it was going to be long, the doors were to open at 8:00 am, and that there we were to prepare for 2 days of potential call backs. We found nothing else online via blogs and far less on Fox's website. All we could do was prepare to the best of our abilities and it is for this reason that I write this post; it is my sincere hope that this blog will help to better prepare future contestants for the first day of auditions.

Before attending the audition, I was told to choreograph a solo and have a cd with music cut and prepared for the judges. I assumed that this was going to be my audition process. However, for the first day/preliminary cuts, you do not even hear mention of the televised judges. It apparently takes about 1-2 days to perform your solo and see the judges, depending on how many times you are asked back. I arrived at the Orpheum Theater around 6:15 and had about 200 people in front of me. My mom and I threw down a blanket onto the uneven concrete and huddled together in the cold and dark morning to keep warm. We watched the sunrise in between the run down buildings and made casual chatter with the people around us. No one had auditioned before and none of us knew what to expect. For the next two hours, sporadic cheering and dance circles would break out as cameras from Access Hollywood, Fox, and ET would pass and conduct interviews. Kat Deeley was at the front of the line and conducted the interviews seen on tv, but the cameras did not ignore the rest of the long line. In fact, my mom had to constantly move to hide from them! She wasn't too keen on being a part of national television.

By 8:00 the sun was up and the line was extended by about 300 people. There was a definite impatience and tension in the air that hadn't existed earlier as we all anticipated the doors opening. However, we learned from crew members that the producer wasn't ready yet and that meals and parents would not be allowed inside. Both of these were a blow to me and my mom who had prepared a feast for the day, (I learned later that snacks were allowed, but salads and more substantial food were not permitted in the Theater). By 9:30 the line finally started moving and by 10 I was parting from my mom and being admitted to audition. I promised my mom I would call as soon as I had information so she would know when to drive back and pick me up, but soon after it was announced that phones were not to be used at all to uphold the integrity of the reality show process. Oh dang. This day was quickly running from mildly structured to chaos and uncertainty. (Another important side note for those who are auditioning, blankets, tents, pillows, etc. were not allowed in the theater and they had to be disposed of before entering. **Also, opened liquids or oils were discarded and prohibited. Make sure you remember that you will need to comply to the theater rules as well as the audition rules... I spent all day without a water bottle or drink.) Once everyone was off the street and seated in the theater, we were asked to do some shots for the camera and cheer. About 15 minutes after that, the producer Simon entered and gave us a briefing and pep talk. The audition was to be conducted as follows:
-We were going to be divided into groups of 10 based on style
-We would then have about 30 seconds to improv individually within our group to a randomly selected song
-We would then advance, be cut, or asked to stay for later.

Waiting for the audition was the worst part of the day. It was entertaining to meet such a diverse group of talented dancers but you didn't know when your section was going to be called so napping was rather difficult unless you were at the very end. Dancers were called in groups of 25-50 and sent to the smaller audition room. When that room cleared, the next group would enter. Each transition took about 45 minutes, but some took longer than others. We were told we would have time to stretch before hand but it was excruciating not to stretch or dance for such a prolonged period of time in anticipation. I waited about 3 hours and passed the time listening to music (which wasn't banned) and meeting people around me. I met people from all over the country and the atmosphere was surprisingly familial and fun. While I noticed that people would make comments, everyone was helpful and, again surprisingly, not snobby.

By the time my section was called, I had already warmed up and cooled down twice and had eaten only a handful of almonds and dried fruit. My group entered the audition room and waited about another 20 minutes while the others before us finished their audition. There was limited room and time to stretch or practice so I was glad I had started to stretch earlier. The producers would announce the upcoming genres and we would join a group of 10 when we were individually ready. Before dancing, it was a pleasure and an honor to see the talent surrounding me. The audition itself was really fun and we all supported each other with applause and cheers. The producer and 2 old top 20 dancers sat at a table and stared blankly ahead as every dancer had their 30 seconds to impress. Los Angeles was the last city and they had seen thousands of dancers prior to our day. Standing out was not only crucial but fatal. People were cut that I was sure would continue and people continued that I was sure would be cut. While watching everyone, it was important to remember that the judges were looking for a rang of people and you didn't know if they had someone just like you already. Truly, you had to stick out from the 1000s of other dancers. Based on my observation, 50% of the day's participants were cut. I finally danced at around 3:30 and was asked to stay until the end of the day. Luckily, I was allowed to leave and get food and I ate a power meal of carbs to give me energy for the rest of the night. There were about 50 people asked to stay and we got along in the same manner as before, except more exhausted. The second audition was the same as the first and happened at 8:30. In general, if you were asked to stay you had to go through 5 processes for the cameras in case you proceeded to Vegas. All of the filming was done on this first day. If you were cut you had to leave the theater and wait outside (if need be) for a ride.

If you were called back you were given a day and time for your next audition. The improv process and cuts would be made again before you advanced to the "real" judges. You would then be cut, asked to stay, or progress to Vegas.

Overall, I had an amazing time and it definitely was an experience. The dancers were great but the waiting took a toll on my overall health. By the time I danced I was exhausted and over-prepared. I think I would do this again, but not for a year or so... I know personally this whole day ordeal was a bit much for me. If you are considering auditioning I would recommend a few things:
-Bring unopened drinks and plentiful snacks
-Try not to exert all of your energy before the audition
-Bring something to do and a full MP3 player
-Remember that above all, this is a REALITY tv show... you might be a great dancer and be cut because you fill a certain genre that is already complete. While dancing is obviously a huge factor, so is personality and how the show can sell you and how you can sell yourself. Don't let others abilities intimidate you and work to your advantages (don't try to be a dancer that you aren't).
-Most importantly, have fun. That will transmit to your audience and help take off any pressure you may put on yourself.

Good luck!!! Maybe we will see each other on tv ;)