Excitement, anxiety, nerves, and even fear are just some of the emotions that dancers experience when embracing the possibility of acceptance or rejection during audition season. Dancers might face a great deal of criticism from not only directors and choreographers, but also, from teachers and parents. But even more apparent is the critique of a dancer’s inner self-talk.
Maintaining confidence, especially in the face of rejection, can be challenging. At this moment, it feels like so much is out of your immediate control: from the fate of a single performance casting to the decision of a summer intensive placement or company position. The subjective nature of dance also stirs overwhelming discomfort for dancers, especially for those with a tendency to desire control. Many dancers seek comfort in identifying objective tools to measure their performance, and unfortunately, this involves behaviors that are known to be trying on a dancer’s relationship with both food and body. Comparative thoughts and a high-pressured environment breed a scenario where dancers commonly attempt to blame the fate of their audition on their body size or body weight.
Food for self-care or self-control?
With diet culture especially prominent in the dance industry, the urge for dancers to regain any semblance of control often translates into unsustainable behaviors like restricting food intake or partaking in excessive cross-training routines. But using food as a tool for self-control, rather than self-care, quickly backfires as restrictive dieting leads to exhaustion, burnout, and even injury. Here are a few additional resources to learn more about the dangers of restrictive eating behaviors:
- The consequences of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport
- Diet Culture in Dance
- The Dangers of Clean Eating
This article will offer 3 actionable tips that dancers can consider when navigating rejection at auditions. Though the reality is that all dancers will face rejection throughout their careers, it’s important to not let this disappointment impede their abilities moving forward.
#1: Validate Your Disappointment
Can we all agree that there’s nothing more frustrating than being told to just “get over it!” You’ve worked so hard to finally get to the audition only to be told that you didn’t make the cut. Let’s face it: rejection is disappointing and sooner than later, it’s important for dancers to come to terms with this disappointment, which is both normal and okay. Make space for these feelings. If it’s feasible, consider doing something enjoyable. This might include a relaxing afternoon and a visit to your favorite childhood ice cream spot (yes, emotional eating can be used as a tool to cope so long you’ve got a few more options to rely on… here’s an article that talks more about this).
#2: Conceptualize Your Experience
Now that you’ve taken some time to sit with your disappointment and even cope with the discomfort, look back at your experience. Was there something, in particular, that may have caused you to perform less optimally? For some auditions, you can ask for feedback. Side note: if that feedback is filled with suggestions to shrink your body, then consider auditioning for an environment that is more supportive of a dancer’s long-term health and performance.
Perhaps you felt that the audition went really well, and there is no one instance to pinpoint a reason why didn’t end as you hoped. Remember: a director’s decision most often reflects way more than your individual dance ability. Many factors are considered like company budgets and repertoire. Bottom line: ballet is subjective and because of this, there will be acceptance and there will be rejection throughout every dancer’s journey. Regardless, your value expands far beyond just one director’s or choreographer’s opinion. There will be a place for you in this industry, and it may even be at this same place, but at just another time!
#3: Strategize Your Next Move
When you’re ready, consider your next steps. When it comes to summer intensives, college, or company auditions, it’s always encouraged that you plan for a few options. Line up several possibilities. Categorize your options into three different scenarios: the first few are those that are hardest to reach. The next few are middle-ground options that could go either way and last are your safeties (or programs that you know you’ll get into). This strategic approach will provide you with a practical framework that not only includes auditions for practice but also, auditions that you can rely on.
If you’re auditioning for a specific role or company promotion, consider what sustainable habits can be done to aim for the same goal next year. Oftentimes, dancers mistake a restrictive diet as a tool to enhance performance or promise audition success. Instead, work with a licensed professional such as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to intervene upon your energy, strength, and stamina. If you’re feeling an overwhelming lack of confidence, then consider consulting with a licensed mental health therapist.
Remember, where you begin doesn’t have to be where you end and a rejection now does not mean a rejection later. For more guidance, I encourage dancers to check out The Healthy Dancer® Survival Guide to Auditions as an economical resource for navigating audition season. And for dancers needing a bit more help, Audition Preparation Coaching is open for registration during audition season. This one-on-one offering is designed for dancers needing to build a sustainable plan that fosters endurance and confidence. You got this!