I found this article on the web and felt it was extremely appropriate to post since we just finished our Competition Auditions for the 2014-2015 Team selections. It raises some great points about what we are looking for as teachers and mentors with our students.
Having watched the dancers get excited to audition and then perhaps struggle with their own personal effort afterwards, I think it’s really important to remind our dancers that we are cheering for them to be successful. We have the advantage of watching them all season long and seeing how they respond to all kinds of situations. We are educators first and foremost and we will always look for the teaching moments we can provide.
We are focused on the process not the results. We are committed to making sure the dancers have positive caring environments to learn, make mistakes, grow, mature and take risks. I hope you enjoy the article below as it is very well written.
Author: Miss Erin
"Inside the mind of a dance teacher: How I make Casting Decisions"
I have heard from so many parents and students, ‘I wish I could read your mind.’ Well, here you go. Here are some of the things I look at when making casting decisions.
Challenge but Not Overwhelm When looking at casting, I always try to challenge my students with their roles, but not to overwhelm them with a part that is too difficult for them to perform. I know every parent wants their child to have the leading role, but when you stop to think about it, you probably don’t want me putting your child on stage in a role they have no chance of performing successfully. This is the reason why I cringe when I hear a parent ask me, ‘When will it be my daughter’s turn to get the lead.’ There is no turn taking when it comes to lead roles and the sad truth of the matter is that your child might never get the leading role in a ballet if their technique and artistry never reaches a certain level.
Technique For every role, there is a set of skills that a dancer needs to have in order to make that role a success. Sometimes this means being able to execute certain steps, like being able to do so many fouette turns. Sometimes it’s simple technical skills like use of their feet or high extension. I am always looking for the most technically proficient dancer to dance the lead roles and so is everyone else. It is not a coincidence that guest choreographers choose the same dancers to work with and feature in choreography as I do and, no, I don’t talk to them and influence their decisions. They simply see what I see.
Stage Presence There are students that light up the stage and there are ones that don’t. Whatever you want to call it: charisma, stage presence, star quality; to be successful as a dancer, the audience has to enjoy watching you. Some dancers have the best technique in the world, but without this quality, the audience will not care to watch them. Unfortunately, after years of teaching, I’m beginning to believe you either have this quality or you do not. I can bring out some passion in students and I can improve their performance quality a bit with coaching, but whatever you choose to call it, either you were born with it, or it will elude you.
Corrections Application and Retention/Work Ethic Sometimes I hear from dancers that they are surprised about casting because, ‘I thought I gave the best audition.’ This actually can be true. I sometimes have a dancer that gave the best audition, though it wasn’t perfect, but I know that they don’t have much of a work ethic. Then I have a dancer that didn’t do as well in the audition, but I know will take corrections well and will work themselves to death in order to make the role perfect. Despite what happened in the audition itself, I’m going with the latter for the part. There are students that rest on their laurels once they get a role and there are ones that work every day to make their performance the best it can be. The dancers that remember corrections, apply them and maintain them will always be my first choice for roles.
Class Attendance If a child does not come to class, they cannot improve. A student can be the most talented in the class, but if they are not attending on a regular basis, that really doesn’t matter. If you don’t show up for class, how do I know that you are going to take the rehearsal attendance any more seriously?
Personality Traits If a role requires being funny, such as Mother Ginger in the Nutcracker or the Step Sisters in Cinderella, and a dancer is very quiet and shy, he or she probably won’t be considered for those roles. If there is major partnering required for a role and a dancer isn’t fearless, I probably won’t look at them for that role. If I need someone who attacks movement with power and a dancer is hesitant, you get the idea.
Fairness Believe it or not, most dance teachers I know try to be as fair as they can when casting. For instance, I try to give the same amount of roles to everyone in Nutcracker. I try to give the seniors a special role, it might not be the lead depending on ability, but I give them something to look forward to and to call their own. There are times that I try to highlight everyone, usually at the end of the year recital. It is something I consider. Something for parents to consider: You have to advocate for your child, but I have to advocate for all the children. I cannot ‘take a chance on your child’ if there are other children who can actually perform the role, that is not fair to them.
What has little to do with casting: How much a parent volunteers, whether we like a student personally or not, parent’s behavior/attitude, whether or not a dancer is facially pretty. I’ve heard many excuses parents use to justify why certain girls get roles. Being facially pretty has absolutely nothing to do with it, at least not for me. However, to tell the absolute truth and this does not happen as often as one might think, the only time the rest matters is when I have two students who have the same amount of pros and cons in all of the above categories. If and when that happens, I might go with the student whose parent is positive and helpful and/or with the student who doesn’t gossip about others and who does not interact with the other dancers in a negative way. Otherwise, it’s all about technique, work ethic and stage presence and nothing else