Auditions for dance schools and for professional dance companies.
An interview with Pavel Kazarian.
By Geovana Peres
The topic of dance auditions has been growing more and more with the awareness of employability in the dance world. For candidates is extremly important to know the difference between auditions for dance schools and institutions. Preparing for an audition in every way possible is invaluable and can make a big difference when it comes to gaining a place in a school or a dance job. We have interviewed Pavel Kazarian, director of the Bolshoi Theater School in Brazil. We asked about how the audition process mainly takes place at the school, but also brings up how auditions work in a professional company, in the case of the Bolshoi School as well as bringing up important topics for employability in dance.
The Bolshoi Theatre School provides training for dance artists, teaching ballet technique according to the Vaganova methodology, contemporary dance and complementary subjects. With students coming from different Brazilian states and abroad, the institution emphasizes its social commitment by granting 100% scholarships and benefits to all students. The school is a private, non-profit organization, supported by the Joinville City Hall by the Santa Catarina State Government and the so-called “Friends of the Bolshoi”.
How to get more access to information about auditions, for schools and for professional companies ?
I think there are three important points to consider in order to evaluate the information and be able to think better about how to deliver this communication to dance. The first is that competitiveness is increasing, which means that the demand for vacancies is decreasing, although we have seen a considerable turnover, even in South America and Brazil, where there is a much smaller range of professional companies than in Europe, for example. The second point, there are plenty of vacancies in dance training schools, because I believe that the motivation of this pandemic of online studies has discouraged the market and the students. The third point comes from the audition process, which I believe could be more transparent, which doesn’t happen most of the time. This point has even greater connectivity with the issue of the importance of information for auditions, and in Brazil we end up confusing the idea of employability with dance festivals, which actually have as their main objective the competition itself and stage experience. Nowadays we are starting to have job opportunities coming out of these Brazilian competitions, but still very little.
How does the audition works at the Bolshoi School and which precautions should be taken during this process?
We have always a lot of applicants, so we care about the clarity of this process and also about publicizing the auditions. That’s the first and most important point. There are several pre-selections throughout Brazil all year round, and the official selections which take place in July at the Joinville Dance Festival and the national selection which is in October. Every selection is very objective, so we are also concerned about transparency in our feedback, especially for young people.
How can you give negative feedback without affecting the dreams of dancers?
Communication is mainly about who listens, and nowadays it’s getting harder and harder to be assertive about it, because it doesn’t just depend on the communicator. I always try to convey what I see and feel, taking into account the context and the person present. But I believe, that above all, I always try to convey the perception that suddenly it’s not just feedback that’s going to make you give up dancing, but that it can serve as motivation to learn something. So certainly whether it’s positive or negative feedback, it’s important to give it, to be detailed and clear, paying due attention, being careful with private opinions and what it actually is so as not to mix it up. I believe it’s important to spread the culture of accepting constructive criticism. In this way young people are more open to listening and learn good lessons from this feedback. During an audition it’s difficult to give very detailed and specific feedback, even I always try to be transparent. When we go into automatic, the feedback doesn’t always come from the director, teacher or rehearser, but it can also come from the student or professional to go after that feedback, to bring awareness and that’s a very important characteristic for a dancer.
What is essential for an audition?
In our School, we evaluate a lot about how much the child can develop, physical ability is also important, musicality too. But if we’re talking about an audition for a dance company, the evaluation and expectations are higher. Except technique and physique that the company’s profile requires, it’s important to evaluate the dancer’s agility, technical maturity, but also behavioral maturity. Another very important point to evaluate in a professional dance company is the dancer’s continuous progress.
Are good communication and networking recommended when auditioning for dance companies?
Referrals save you time, because that person probably trusts you to recommend them, and this happens everywhere, not just in dance. Referrals and networking can’t only be seen in a negative light; if done well and carefully, they can have benefits that make sense and help not only dancers, but directors and choreographers too, for example.
How can you best prepare beyond technique?
Work on your nerves, be self-confident without being overconfident and be quick-thinking.
Could emotions affects when auditioning? Is self-confidence and enhancing skill?
Nervousness is normal, you have to learn to deal with it and sometimes you need to train, rehearse and build up even more self-confidence, which allows you to turn nervousness into something useful. Self-confidence makes a difference in life. It may be the role of institutions to help this dancer along the road to emotional management, but it also comes down to each individual.
What is the main difference between school audition and a professional company?
It’s mainly in the form of assessment and the format of the audition. In a school audition, there are several stages that don’t fit into an audition for a professional company, such as a specific phase of musicality and physical assessment with a focus on the child’s development. When we have a professional audition, the dancer is expected to arrive with the technique and also other behavioral skills, artistic maturity, which cannot be assessed in a child.
What about Employability in Brazil.
The problem is still related to the quantity of dance companies in Brazil. There’s a growing belief that in order to become a professional dancer you have to leave the country because there aren’t enough opportunities here. And here our school is doing an important job of giving so many students the opportunity to study dance in Brazil. The light at the end of the tunnel would come if we changed the way we hire dancers and created new and very good companies in the country, offering opportunities for dancers to make a living and not just survive on their jobs.
With the support of Santa Catarina State Government and City Hall the school offers opportunities for a first job with Cia Jovem Bolshoi after graduating. By improving the curation of auditions in schools or professional companies, we can better understand how this whole process can be better executed. Because we need to create a cultural awareness in society and shows that dance and art are very important. We can increasingly improve the outlook towards the dance profession and the awareness of generating more and more opportunities for studies and jobs, so that we can generate quality education in dance and employability in Brazil.