A New Normal for Auditions: How COVID-19 Changed The Dance Industry
It’s no secret that the pandemic has drastically changed the way people exist in the world and operate in their jobs. Dancers are no exception. For example, when production companies initially attempted to reopen operations around May/June 2020, they ran into two major issues: covid tests and auditions. Since most studios and soundstages were still closed due to lockdown, many production companies couldn’t find space to hold in-person auditions. And even if they could find audition space, organizing and paying for everyone auditioning to get covid tests was another hurdle. Since in-person auditions became a logistical nightmare, what was the next best option for production companies? Self-tapes and footage submissions! As of spring 2022, this type of remote audition is still being relied upon. So, to set you up for success here’s what you need to know.
Before we dive in, please note that there is a difference between self-tapes and footage submissions. Self-tapes are recordings of yourself doing specific choreography, freestyling to a particular artist, or doing whatever else is asked of you for the role for which you are auditioning. After recording this new and specific footage, you would upload your materials to either YouTube or Vimeo so that you can send the footage links to your agent and/or casting directors. On the other hand, for footage submissions, you or your agent would pull footage of you that already lives on your social media accounts. You aren’t required to record anything new or specific. What all of this means is that, more than ever, your social media accounts should be on point and you should have a great self-tape set-up.
What makes a great self-tape set-up? I’m glad you asked. First and foremost, you must have room to dance! If possible, create a recording space in your home (e.g., your living room). There are a few reasons why having a private recording setup is beneficial. First, a private space eliminates disruptive outside factors, such as other people walking into your frame, random background noise, etc. Secondly, recording indoors gives you more control over the lighting. Don’t get me wrong, I have lived that LA hustle lifestyle where, for a year and a half, someone was living in my living room. Small and crowded spaces are often a fact of life. So no, you don’t have to record in your living room if it’s not feasible for you. It’s okay to go outside or to use a parking garage (carefully!). Or if you have access to a dance studio, that’s even better! The important thing is that you find enough space to dance because you don’t want to look cramped while you are in frame. Let’s go back to lighting for a moment. If you don’t have one, please buy a ring light or something that is similar. Good lighting is crucial.
Another important step in setting up your recording space is making sure your recording device is level. Leaning your phone against a book on top of a bunch of stacked boxes is a great way to create poor-quality footage and cause an expensive accident. Invest in a tripod and a tripod adapter that holds your phone (or whatever device you’re using).
As you know, we recently passed the 2-year anniversary of the initial COVID-19-driven “shelter in place” orders. Despite the country seeming to trend, presently, toward a fuller reopening, we’re not quite living pre-pandemic lifestyles. And we probably never will wholly return to pre-pandemic practices. All of this is to say that in-person auditions still exist. In fact, maybe one day, the in-person format will return to the forefront of auditions. But if I had to guess, I would say that remote auditions are here to stay, even in the post-pandemic years to come. Previously, many dancers would sometimes spend hours at an initial audition and then possibly a call-back, and possibly a second call-back. Now, self-tapes and footage submissions can be used to directly book dancers and/or to replace that initial in-person audition. This means that, despite being 2 years into the pandemic, it’s still worth your time and energy to set up a good recording space for yourself.
Since remote auditions are here to stay, then let’s get excited about them and consider all the benefits! What’s so great about self-tapes? First, you can record yourself repeatedly until you nail whatever it is that you’re required to submit to the casting directors. Second, you don’t have to readily live in LA all the time now! Since you don’t have to immediately attend an in-person audition, you can live/work elsewhere and return to LA as needed. Keep in mind, should you book the job or get an in-person call-back, you will be responsible for your own transportation to and accommodations in LA.
The only disclaimer I have about self-tapes is that sometimes the job sets a very short deadline for turning in your video submission. The shortest turnaround time I have ever seen is six hours. Six hours may seem like a long time. But if you aren’t at home when you get the email or the phone call from your agent, you could miss out on the opportunity if you aren’t available. That said, this is no different than pre-pandemic auditions—if you weren’t available for a last-minute in-person audition in 2019, then you missed out on that opportunity as well. Since turnaround times can be short, you don’t want to wait until the last minute. If your agent needs to send your submission package to a casting director by 5:30 pm, then try to send your video links to your agent no later than 5:15 pm.
Finally, as a reminder, while remote auditions are a cool new tool for finding work in the dance industry, the old rules from in-person auditions still apply. You should still be dressing the part, from hair to make-up to your outfit. Your social media accounts should always be professional and showcase all the styles you are trained in (i.e., your accounts should always be ready for choreographers’ and casting directors’ eyes). And as previously mentioned, don’t be late—your self-tapes and footage submissions must always be sent in by the deadline. Remote auditions are part of our “new normal.” So set yourself up for success.