HELP, I Have to Freestyle!
Donatelli, Jen Jones, Dance Spirit
HOW TO DANCE ON THE SPOT AT AUDITIONS
It was the audition of a lifetime.
I'd always dreamed of being a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. Though 1 knew the odds were probably against me- I'm a little older and curvier than the average NFL cheerleaderthis year I decided to go for it. With more than a decade of dance experience under my belt, 1 figured I could survive the audition. Plus, the first-round format seemed simple enough: We'd freestyle for about two minutes in groups of five, and those who caught the judges' attention would progress to the next round. Piece of cake, right?
Not so much. Once I found myself under the bright lights of Cowboys Stadium, reality set in. As "Call Me Maybe" blasted over the speakers, 1 completely froze. I started doing the same four eight-counts over and over- along with an unflattering squat move that came out of nowhere. It was humbling, to say the least.
Whether you're a dance teamer or a ballerina, freestyling can be intimidating. "Suddenly you have all this freedom, and you don't know what to do with it," says Caroline Rocher, a dancer with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But if you want to dance professionally- or audition for a college dance program- improvisation is a must-have skill. Directors in all styles and environments "want to see your personality and how you move," says Rocher, whose audition for LINES required dancers to improvise after learning a series of combinations. "You need to be prepared." DS talked to the experts about how to master freestyling.
FEEL THE BEAT.
Shaping Sound co-founder Teddy Foranee recommends listening to music as much as possible to get into the freestyle groove. "Being able to dance to any music is huge," says Foranee, "because odds are every audition will play something wildly different." Take time to play around on Pandora, familiarizing yourself with different styles of music.
In her Beginning Improvisation for Dance Majors class at The University of Arizona, instructor Ariella Brown plays everything from jazz to lyrical to get dancers flexing their freestyle muscles. "I constantly switch up the music and ask them to adapt to and embody it," Brown says. While dancers tend to match their movement to the music's tempo and vibe, Brown also challenges them to push against it: "If it's an upbeat piece, I ask them to dance slow and liquid-y. It's about being unpredictable."
PULL OUT YOUR BAG OF TRICKS.
Though freestyling shouldn't mean doing one trick after another - particularly those old standbys, fouettés - Foranee says showing off can work at certain auditions. "If it's a commercial audition and they need one or two seconds of a dancer doing something really striking, that's when you throw in your power moves," he advises. He adds that music video auditions are another place for trick-oriented freestyling, as video directors often want "a half-second clip of dancers doing spectacular things."
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