4 Steps to Ace the Dance Call!

I’ve noticed that this topic has come up more often the past few months.  And as a dancer I felt it was important for me to address it.

Before I say anything more, I want to preface that I did not start dancing until I was 13 years old. And I always wish and kick myself for not starting sooner.  But there are so many incredible dancers who started dancing when they were eighteen, twenty two, or even twenty three years old.  So it is never too late to start.  Remember that.

Now, how to ace the dance call: 1. TAKE CLASS. It’s the only way.  The only way to get better at dance calls is by honing your technique and strengthening your body and mind; and the only way to do that is by taking class.  Take class.  Take class. Take class.  In dance class (whether it be ballet, jazz, modern, tap, etc.), not only do you work on your technique, but you also exercise the muscle of learning to pick up choreography quickly.  This is a muscle/a part of your brain that you HAVE to train.  Understanding sequencing and putting choreography into muscle memory very quickly is incredibly hard.  And the only way to get better at it is by practicing it.  And the only way to practice it is by taking class. The dance calls that I have felt awful about were not the ones where I felt like I didn’t know the steps, but the auditions where I could not quickly understand the sequencing.  If you can’t remember the sequencing and how to make the steps live in your body, you are not going to succeed.  But you can succeed with practice.  Practice DOES make perfect.

4 Quick tips for Remembering Choreography and Sequencing

  1. Always know and understand where your weight is and where it needs to go (esp. for tap calls).
  2. As a dancer, you are also an actor. So… immediately create a story for yourself.  I find that acting a dance helps me remember the sequencing… I start approaching the dance like a monologue.  If I know emotionally where the story is going… that emotion will correspond to the movement.  So ACT ACT ACT!  Tell your story.  Even if your story has nothing to do with the show… pick an objective and a person you’re talking to… see that person and use the movement to communicate with them.
  3. ASK QUESTIONS! Know one is going to ask the question(s) for you.  So if you are having a hard time remembering a step or a particular sequence, raise your hand, and ask the choreographer or assistant to go over a certain step or sequencing.  Choreographers LOVE when dancers ask questions.  It means you are smart AND you get to show them more of your personality and that your easy to work with.  So that’s a plus.
  4. If you are having trouble sequencing a certain part of choreography to the next: focus on where your weight needs to be and see how you can emotionally connect those two pieces of choreography together. If you emotionally know what’s happening in the dance your body will follow.
  5. Have Fun!Taking the stress off yourself will alleviate your brain.  If you are just focused on having fun and telling your story you will remember the choreography.  For whatever reason, stressing out about learning the dance actually hinders your body’s ability to retain it.  So don’t stress and HAVE FUN!

So, if you are a beginning dancer with little to no training… my advice to you is to get a friend to go to dance class with you and take a basic or beginning level class.  I always enjoy class so much more if I have friends taking it with me (esp. if it’s my first time taking a brand new class). This friend can also be your accountability partner.  You can keep each other accountable for going to at least one dance class a week.  And do not feel bad about going to a basic or beginner level class.  I take basic/beginner classes (on top of advanced classes) all the time.  I love going back to the basics.  In basic level classes I can really focus on my technique (the minute movements and what muscles need to activate).  I truly believe going back to beginner classes helps your technique tremendously.

(Disclaimer: For my beginning dancers… be careful about taking a professional beginner dance class.  Even though the class says beginner level… the fact that it is a professional level class means there is a knowledge and technique already involved in taking that class.  So if you are beginner-beginner dancer (just starting out/have never danced in your life), take a basic level dance class).

To my musical theatre performers: musical theatre is going in so many directions these days: from pop to rap to folk to rock & roll to everything in between; and so is the choreography.  Recently new Broadway musicals have been featuring choreography that ranges from hip-hop to tap dance to contemporary and modern.  Many of the newest Broadway shows are exhibiting choreography that is in the hip-hop, tap, and contemporary realm.

So the second way to ace the dance call is: 2.TAKE DIFFERENT CLASSES THAT EXPLORE DIFFERENT STYLES OF DANCE.  Take hip-hop, take tap, take ballet, take jazz, and take contemporary.  Take it all!  An excellent dancer is a well versed dancer.

Well what would you recommend taking Collin?  (Especially on a budget).  I’m so glad you asked.  Well, I recommend takingone ballet class, one tap class and one jazz class a week. If financially that is difficult. Just take ballet.  Ballet is the foundation for all forms of dance and it will build up your body’s strength and technique like no other form of dance will. For me personally I will find one jazz dance class and one tap class that I love and will make it a priority for myself to go to that one class every week.  Then if I can financially afford it… I will expand from there.

Which leads me to my third peace of advice. 3. FIND TEACHERS YOU LOVE!  Over the past three years, I have discovered that the dance classes that I make a priority to go to every week are the classes where I LOVE the teacher.  Seeing those teachers and building a relationship with them is one of the greatest parts of my day or week.  I simply love being in their class!  I have a blast!

How do you find teachers that you love and connect with?  First, by trying out different classes and seeing which teachers you connect with. Connection is key.  Second is by asking yourself questions:

  • Do I connect with this teacher’s personality?
  • Does this teacher create a safe place to learn in the dance studio? Do I feel comfortable falling and getting right back up again?
  • Do you understand how this teacher explains the vocabulary of the dance style they are teaching? (i.e. Do I understand how this teacher is explaining how to execute a specific move? Do I feel a positive difference physically when they give me an adjustment?)

And second, talk to friends and ask them what their favorite classes are.  That way you know you are taking a good class.  Getting referrals from friends will ease the narrowing down process of which classes you love and don’t.  The other benefit of getting a referral from a friend is they can join you for class.  Why is this a benefit?  Because said friend can initiate the introduction to the teacher. Networking!!!!  It’s so important to say hi to the teacher before or after the class (especially in New York).  A simple thank you for class is enough.  MAKE the connection.

My last piece of advice to those seeking to ace the dance call is: 4. TAKE CLASS CONSISTENTLY.  I have a lot of colleagues and friends who will only take class (and a lot of it) right before audition season, or a few days before an audition for a dance heavy show. Taking a ton of class right before an audition is not going to help you in a dance call.  But taking class consistently over a long period of time, will. Technique takes time to build and engrain itself in your body.  It’s just like working out.  You are not going to see immediate results within the first week of a rigorous workout plan. But you will see results after three months, six months, a year, and two years of the plan.  The same goes with dance.  You won’t refine your technique in a week.  But a year of consistent dance training and you will be in awe of the progress you’ve made.  I promise you.

Finally, I’ll close with this: since I first started my dance journey at the age of thirteen, I knew I wanted to be a true triple threat.  So I took class all the time in high school and college.  And even two years ago, I never thought I would have the technique and the capability to be in the ensemble of NEWSIES.  But I had a longing to be a better dancer each and every day. So over the next two years I took class consistently (esp. ballet) and my technique grew and improved.  Two years later, I was cast in NEWSIES at The Fireside Theatre performing the original Broadway Choreography.

Never say that you CAN’T dance. Because you CAN!  With the right mindset and attitude you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.  BELIEVE in yourself.  Do not let one botched danced call determine your worth as a dancer.  Trust me, I’ve botched many dance calls over the past three years.  And that’s okay.  Believe in yourself and your talent.  And you too will be able to be in the ensemble of NEWSIES two years from now.


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