400 Dancers, 4 Choreographers, 1 Audition: Behind the Scenes at a Shared Audition for Kyle Abraham, Brian Brooks, Kate Weare and Anna Sperber This Fall

By Aylmer, Olivia | Dance Magazine, February 2016 | Go to article overview

400 Dancers, 4 Choreographers, 1 Audition: Behind the Scenes at a Shared Audition for Kyle Abraham, Brian Brooks, Kate Weare and Anna Sperber This Fall


Aylmer, Olivia, Dance Magazine


It's noon, and the audition is already running behind schedule. The next group of warmed-up dancers is led into the room. "Swedish Fish and Terra Chips," Kyle Abraham tells his company manager, who has offered to make a snack run. It's going to be a long afternoon.

Nearly 400 dancers are gathered at Gibney Dance in Manhattan for an audition that's anything but typical. From 10 am to 6 pm, groups of roughly 60 male and female dancers--all of whom submitted a headshot and resume before arrival--will vie for the chance to work with contemporary choreographers Kyle Abraham, Brian Brooks, Kate Weare and Anna Sperber. In other words, this is speed dating, dancestyle. The shared audition offers these dancers the rare opportunity to be seen by four notable choreographers in just one hour. From where the choreographers sit, the equal-parts exhilarating and exhausting day allows them to scope out New York's eclectic community of contemporary dancers--including some they might otherwise miss out on.

PAYING IT FORWARD

Before they show any movement, each choreographer shares a bit about the works they're casting for. Their introductions hold a common denominator: They view today's audition as only the beginning of a conversation. Up to 30 dancers will make the cut for the individual callbacks, and only 1 to 3 will ultimately be hired by each choreographer. Still, they welcome the chance to see new faces and stay in touch for future projects. In Sperber's case, although she will not show any movement, she's on the lookout for fresh talent.

Abraham initiated today's shared audition because he often found himself writing the names of other choreographers beside dancers' names at his Abraham.In.Motion auditions--pairings he thought might work well together, even if the dancers were not quite right for him. This collaborative impulse eventually translated into Abraham's first shared audition in 2014. Fie finds that the unconventional format works for both sides of the table. For the hundreds of dancers who show up, it offers the opportunity to be seen by several choreographers at once, introducing them to companies they may not know about. And from the choreographers' vantage point, they see dancers with a range of backgrounds and movement qualities who might not normally come out for their standalone auditions. Abraham brought Weare, Brooks and Sperber on board since he knew they, too, would embrace the day with an open mind.

NOT JUST DYNAMICS

Abraham's up first. Without wasting a moment, he dives into a fastpaced, fluid sequence that requires dancers to move in and out of the floor with relative ease. He developed this particular material to see how the dancers dealt with dynamic shifts. With less than five minutes to process the choreography, filled with blink-or-you'll-miss-it moments, the dancers struggle to practice without running into each other. They then break into smaller groups of seven or eight and run through the sequence twice, sans music, before standing in line for the choreographers to note their numbers. Beyond his curiosity in each dancer's dynamics, Abraham observes their energy in the space, asking himself: "Do they seem like they're being generous with the people they're dancing with? If they hit someone, how are they responding to that? …

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