Mark Morris and our Artistic Team talk about our upcoming Company Auditions, and what goes into finding new members for the Dance Group.
Coming up June 12-16th, we will be holding Company Auditions. Go inside our process with Artistic Director Mark Morris, Company Director Sam Black, and Company Manager Julia Weber, to learn how we manage the process of selecting dancers for the company.
SAM: My name is Sam Black and I’m the Company Director for the Mark Morris Dance Group.
JULIA: And I’m Julia Weber and I’m the Company Manager for the Mark Morris Dance Group.
How would you describe our audition process?
What goes into planning our auditions?
SAM: I come up with a list of dance excerpts from Mark’s repertory that I think would be a good representation of what kind of work dancer would need to be able to do if they had this job. I run that by Mark and get his approval, and then I ask certain dancers [company members] to help teach the phrases on audition day. And I try and choose a really wide range of dance styles, meters – slow, fast, jumping, not jumping – so that we can try and see the full range of what somebody would have to offer if they were to come dance with us.
JULIA: And I do everything that happens outside of the studio administratively. So I process all registrations that come through and put everybody into a time slot, making sure that it’s even across the board so you don’t have 60 people in one slot and 20 in the next. And then make sure everyone has the information they need to show up and check in and then dance with Sam in the room and audition day.
What is it like on audition days?
SAM: People come in for two-hour slots, like Julia said, and they’ll learn a few phrases of material. We’ll make a cut, we’ll teach some more material, we’ll make another cut. And usually, one more phrase followed by a final cut, at which point we ask anywhere from, depending on that group, five to 10 to 15 dancers from that group to come back for callbacks in a few days.
What do you look for in a company dancer, and what makes an auditioner stand out?
MARK: Hmm. Here’s what I look for in a dancer in an audition: people who can dance really well. And that’s very interesting because it’s not always who you think right away. And that ties into how to stand out in an audition. You stand out in audition by wearing flashy clothes that are the latest trend in dancewear, and you push your way right to the front and do everything slightly ahead of everybody else. That’s how you get noticed. That’s not how you get a job. So, what you have to do is be a person who dances and can hear music and can recognize the space around you who’s where. Find out rhythm, be really interested and curious about music and dancing and how that all works. So there has to be a real interest in continuing growth and development as an artist, dancer, artist. We’re heading for the artist part.
How are final hiring decisions made?
SAM: On the last day of callbacks; we sometimes have two days of callbacks, sometimes one. Mark and I are in the back room, sometimes with a small group of other people, just kind of going through each person. We have a headshot; we hold it up and we sort of hash it out and say, you know, “what do we think this person would bring?” Very often we’re taking a chance on someone that we don’t know. So, there’s a certain amount of chance taking. But at this point, we have watched someone dance for anywhere from 3 to 4 days and have seen them do a lot of different dancing. They dance a lot at our auditions, so we feel like we’ve seen a good chunk of material that we feel like we’ve seen enough to make as informed a decision as we can. And then we offer someone a job, very often right on the spot.
What is the most exciting part of auditions for the dance group?
JULIA: I would say it’s meeting new people. Oftentimes we have 400 applicants who show up to audition for us, and there are people that we’ve never seen before, and it’s a really great opportunity to get some different people in the space and dancing with our current company.
SAM: Yeah, I would say the same thing. I think seeing new people exposed to Mark’s work and sort-of imagining them as potentially the future of the company is really exciting. I would say pretty much every audition in the final callbacks, there’s always a combination of people that we’ve known for years – who have come December Intensives, who have maybe even worked with us before – and people that we’ve never seen before, total surprises who were kind-of new to us. And so that sort of imagining what the future of the company is going to look like is really, really exciting.