Guest writer: Shauna Tysor, company manager
Everyone always asks me if Houston Ballet auditions are like American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance. The answer is yes and no. Do we have a panel of three judges? Yes, but the judges are comprised of members of Houston Ballet’s artistic staff. Do we critique each individual who auditions? Yes, but not verbally, only on paper. Do we do massive cuts shortly into the process? Yes, depending on the turnout for each city, cuts are to be expected.
The audition process for the professional company is long and arduous. It takes months of planning, including securing the venues, sending out audition notices to hundreds of ballet schools across the US and abroad, arranging travel for our staff, and much more. Every year we hold open company auditions in San Francisco, New York and Houston. The attendance varies year to year, but can be anywhere from 300 to 500 auditionees. Now you have to keep in mind that at the point in time the auditions are held we do not know how many spots we will have open for the following season. Some years it could only be two or three spots. Yes, we have an inkling of how many spots we may have open, but nothing concrete. So we have hundreds show up with the mere hope that they stand out.
The day starts off with a two hour class taught by one of our ballet masters for the women and then a two hour class for the men. Those who have not been cut midway through class or after the class portion ends are invited back for the repertory portion of the audition where they will be taught a portion of a ballet (yes, just like So You Think You Can Dance). They are expected to retain it and perform it back as part of a group. During the class and repertory portion the artistic staff members in attendance are jotting down notes about each dancer they feel shows potential. Those who are remaining at the end of the audition are told when they should expect to hear back from us with either a yes or no a few months down the road.
Each audition day is lengthy for both the artistic staff and those who are auditioning. Regardless, each auditionee leaves with high hopes that they will be the one to receive the magical call from Artistic Director Stanton Welch offering them a contract for the following season.
If you’re interested in auditioning for Houston Ballet, visit our website for more information.