Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New Website

If you like our new design over at www.musclesformusicians.net, you should contact our designer to get a website of your own!  The site is the incredible I Can Make You Website.  See you over at our new blogging home!:)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dancing Makes You Smarter

Here is yet another article about the benefits that physical exercise, more specifically dance, can have on your brain!

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise.  More recently we've seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Then most recently we've heard of another benefit:  Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.  A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.  There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

            Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia

            Bicycling and swimming - 0%

            Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%

            Playing golf - 0%

            Dancing frequently - 76%. 
That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:
"The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use."

And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed.  If it doesn't need to, then it won't.

            Aging and memory

When brain cells die and synapses weaken with aging, our nouns go first, like names of people, because there's only one neural pathway connecting to that stored information.  If the single neural connection to that name fades, we lose access to it.  So as we age, we learn to parallel process, to come up with synonyms to go around these roadblocks.  (Or maybe we don't learn to do this, and just become a dimmer bulb.)

The key here is Dr. Katzman's emphasis on the complexity of our neuronal synapses.  More is better.  Do whatever you can to create new neural paths.  The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living our lives.

When I was studying the creative process as a grad student at Stanford, I came across the perfect analogy to this:

            The more stepping stones there are across the creek,
            the easier it is to cross in your own style.

The focus of that aphorism was creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution.  But as we age, parallel processing becomes more critical.  Now it's no longer a matter of style, it's a matter of survival — getting across the creek at all.  Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one.  Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed.  But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine study shows that we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal synapses.

            Why dancing?

We immediately ask two questions:
  • Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities?

  • Does this mean all kinds of dancing, or is one kind of dancing better than another?

    That's where this particular study falls short.  It doesn't answer these questions as a stand-alone study.  Fortunately, it isn't a stand-alone study.  It's one of many studies, over decades, which have shown that we increase our mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes.  Intelligence: Use it or lose it.  And it's the other studies which fill in the gaps in this one.  Looking at all of these studies together lets us understand the bigger picture.

    Some of this is discussed here (the page you may have just came from) which looks at intelligence in dancing.  The essence of intelligence is making decisions.  And the concluding advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.

    One way to do that is to learn something new.  Not just dancing, but anything new.  Don't worry about the probability that you'll never use it in the future.  Take a class to challenge your mind.  It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.  Difficult and even frustrating classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.

    Then take a dance class, which can be even better.  Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing your connectivity.  Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes.

                What kind of dancing?

    Let's go back to the study:
                Bicycling, swimming or playing golf - 0% reduced risk of dementia

    But doesn't golf require rapid-fire decision-making?  No, not if you're a long-time player.  You made most of the decisions when you first started playing, years ago.  Now the game is mostly refining your technique.  It can be good physical exercise, but the study showed it led to no improvement in mental acuity.

    Therefore do the kinds of dance where you must make as many split-second decisions as possible.  That's key to maintaining true intelligence.

    Does any kind of dancing lead to increased mental acuity?  No, not all forms of dancing will produce this benefit.  Not dancing which, like golf or swimming, mostly works on style or retracing the same memorized paths.  The key is the decision-making.  Remember (from thispage), Jean Piaget suggested that intelligence is what we use when we don't already know what to do.

    We wish that 25 years ago the Albert Einstein College of Medicine thought of doing side-by-side comparisons of different kinds of dancing, to find out which was better.  But we can figure it out by looking at who they studied: senior citizens 75 and older, beginning in 1980.  Those who danced in that particular population were former Roaring Twenties dancers (back in 1980) and then former Swing Era dancers (today), so the kind of dancing most of them continued to do in retirement was what they began when they were young: freestyle social dancing -- basic foxtrot, swing, waltz and maybe some Latin.

    I've been watching senior citizens dance all of my life, from my parents (who met at a Tommy Dorsey dance), to retirement communities, to the Roseland Ballroom in New York.  I almost never see memorized sequences or patterns on the dance floor.  I mostly see easygoing, fairly simple social dancing — freestyle lead and follow.   But freestyle social dancing isn't that simple!  It requires a lot of split-second decision-making, in both the lead and follow roles.

          I need to digress here:
    I want to point out that I'm not demonizing memorized sequence dancing or style-focused pattern-based ballroom dancing.  I sometimes enjoy sequence dances myself, and there are stress-reduction benefits of any kind of dancing, cardiovascular benefits of physical exercise, and even further benefits of feeling connected to a community of dancers.  So all dancing is good.

    But when it comes to preserving mental acuity, then some forms are significantly better than others.  When we talk of intelligence (use it or lose it) then the more decision-making we can bring into our dancing, the better.

                Who benefits more, women or men?

    In social dancing, the follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next.  As I mentioned on this page, women don't "follow", they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive.  This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same fellow.  With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables.  This is great for staying smarter longer.

    But men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so.  (1) Really notice your partner and what works best for her.  Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which moves are successful with her and what aren't, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations.  That's rapid-fire split-second decision making.   (2) Don't lead the same old patterns the same way each time.  Challenge yourself to try new things.  Make more decisions more often.  Intelligence: use it or lose it.

    And men, the huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion.

                Dance often

    Finally, remember that this study made another suggestion: do it often.  Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week.  If you can't take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can.  More is better.

    And do it now, the sooner the better.  It's essential to start building your cognitive reserve now.  Some day you'll need as many of those stepping stones across the creek as possible.  Don't wait — start building them now.

  • Sunday, January 8, 2012

    The Reason for Recess

    As I was reading this week's edition of TIME magazine, I can across this article by Alice Park called "The Reason for Recess" that briefly touches upon how physical activity may be extremely beneficial for your brain to achieve its top performance.  I thought it might be a good article to share as we start the new year and we are busy making our resolutions.  Perhaps to become the best musicians we can be - we should also get out there and move our bodies!

    Happy New Year!  

    Here is the text to the article which I cut and paste.

    The Reason for Recess: Active Children May Do Better in School by Alice Park.  

    First Lady Michelle Obama is constantly promoting her "let's move" message to Americans, and she may be onto something. Physical activity does the body good, and there's growing evidence that it helps the brain too.
    Researchers in the Netherlands report that children who get more exercise, whether at school or on their own, tend to have higher GPAs and better scores on standardized tests. In a review of 14 studies that looked at physical activity and academic performance, investigators found that the more children moved, the better their grades were in school, particularly in the basic subjects of math, English and reading.
    The data support earlier research that linked exercise with greater productivity and fewer sick days among adults and will certainly fuel the ongoing debate over whether physical-education classes should be cut as schools struggle to survive on smaller budgets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, students need about one hour of physical activity every day to remain healthy; only 18% of high school students met this requirement in the week before a 2009 survey, and 23% had not exercised at all during that period.
    Ironically, the arguments against P.E. have included concerns that gym time may be taking away from study time. With standardized test scores in the U.S. dropping in recent years, some administrators believe students need to spend more time in the classroom instead of on the playground. But as these findings show, exercise and academics may not be mutually exclusive. Physical activity can improve blood flow to the brain, fueling memory, attention and creativity, which are essential to learning. And exercise releases hormones that can improve mood and suppress stress, which can also help learning. So while it may seem as if kids are just exercising their bodies when they're running around, they may actually be exercising their brains as well.

    Sunday, December 4, 2011


    It’s been a while since my last blog post, but I hope you will find this entry well worth the wait!  It will give you valuable insight about dance auditions, swinging, and as promised, it will give you a tiny glimpse of life “behind the table” with the incredible Jordan Grubb.

    I don’t think anyone would begrudge Jordan the title of the hardest working man in the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady.”  We have been very lucky to have had him as our dance captain and off-stage swing for the past three months.  The “off-stage” part of the “off-stage swing” title, however, is a bit misleading.  He was constantly stepping in almost every single week for a different performer, even me for one performance!  On some extra frantic days when we had two performers out, he was also responsible to adjusting the choreography and blocking accordingly and making sure the rest of the cast up to date and rehearsed on the changes.   In addition to being the dance captain and off-stage swing, he also had a heavy hand in casting the production.

    I haven’t even mentioned yet what a fantastic dancer he is!  Every single audience member who saw him perform should count themselves very lucky.  A true triple threat, Jordan also effortlessly switched vocal parts, singing solos ranging from the bass to tenor line and put his own individual acting stamp on each character he played. Not to mention, he is just a really great guy with a heart of gold.  He is a true inspiration!

    So without further ado, I give you Jordan Grubb’s "Muscles for Musicians" interview!

    Can you give us a little bit about your dance background?

    Well, about 20 years ago, I started taking classes at my local studio in Easton, PA. That really gave me my technical foundation. Because I lived so close to New York, my mother used to take me into the city on weekends/summers to take class as well. Those trips were really important in shaping me as a dancer.

    What is your advice for someone who is a singer but has never danced? How should they get started, and how often should they practice?

    I think like anything, you need to start at the very basics. Take a basic ballet/jazz/tap class, and don't be afraid to go in and push yourself. I think how often you take should be related to what you want out of it. If you fancy yourself a singer and you just want to feel more comfortable in movement calls, I think a reasonable commitment is 3 times a week. If you're looking to be a full-on dancer, you need to be in class 6 days a week.

    Do you have any favorite classes in New York City that you would recommend for a singer who moves?

    I think Kat Wildish's ballet class at Alvin Ailey is amazing. Finding a ballet class that can keep my attention can be daunting, but she creates this great low-stress environment. You can be an absolute beginner or a “trina” who needs to brush up on some things, and they both can get something out of it. Kat has a great sense of humor, and really puts forth a great class.

    Jim Cooney's Musical Theatre class at Broadway Dance Center is also a great place to start. He really makes you push yourself to be a better artist.

    For tap, there's no one out there better for a beginner than Ray Hesselink. He's my main tap teacher out here, and he provides such an attentive and easy-going class.  He teaches at both BDC and Steps.

    Do you have any advice for how to quickly pick up combinations during an audition?

    I think the hardest thing for people to pick up is transitions. If you can remember the beginning to any transitional step, I think that at least gives you a road map of the combination. Also, many times everyone is so concerned about picking up the steps that they just tune out what the choreographer is saying. Pay attention to how he breaks everything down. More often than not, he'll help you.  If you can't retain everything, then really hammer down the most important steps. When a choreographer is watching a group of 3 or 4 dance, he can miss lot. Even if you do mess up, he may not have seen it, so you need to fake it 'til you make it.

    Where do you like to stand during auditions?

    I like to go toward the front. Oftentimes, you'll have choreographers change lines, but if they don't and you're stuck in the back, it's so much harder to pick up a combination.

    When everyone is broken down into smaller groups to practice, it's important that if you don't know the combination, stand in the back. The audition starts the moment you walk in the room. Just because you're not broken down into groups of 4 doesn't mean you're not being watched. It's better to learn it and work out the kinks and THEN blow everyone away in small groups than to look slightly lost in the front. So to recap: LEARN in the FRONT. PRACTICE it FRONT or BACK according to your confidence that day.

    What do you typically wear to a dance audition?

    When I first moved here, I was told by a Broadway choreographer that I needed to invest in a good pair of slacks. It makes you look more masculine and professional. I found a black pair that was made of stretchy material, and I also invested in a pair of Lulu Lemon pants. I always wear a belt to make it look clean, and I usually wear a tank or tight t-shirt. Unless the audition calls for it, I would NEVER dress/style myself effeminately. I'm all for having your own individuality, but often times, men type themselves out of things because the choreographer can't see past what they're wearing.

    More importantly, KNOW what you're auditioning for. If it's for “42nd Street,” I'm wearing a nice pair polo shirt with my hair slicked back. If it's “Chicago,” I'm probably wearing something different. You have to be careful about this though. You want to have an allusion to the style, but not audition like you're wearing a costume.

    What do you do if you are having trouble picking up a combination or style?

    I put the steps I'm having trouble with on a mental shelf, and learn the combination. Once we have any downtime, I'll practice my trouble spots. Even when we're broken down into larger groups, I'll mark everything on the side. If I can't 100% get a certain step, I just adapt it to look as much of the original step as I can. I'd rather see a clean single turn than someone falling out a sloppy double.

    As far as style goes, look at the people who stand out. What are they doing that's different than everyone else? Why are they standing out? Figure out what that is, and steal it and make it your own. Either way, you must have a semblance of style. Dancers who are just technique and no style don't catch my eye. You need to have both.

    Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?

    It's fine to ask a question, but be sure to limit yourself to 1. You don't want to come across as someone who can't pick up a combination quickly. And make sure it's something you can't figure out later. Oftentimes, if you wait, your question will be answered.

    How has dance captaining/swinging changed how you approach auditions?

    It has helped me pick up choreography better. Right now, I'm covering 12 tracks. It's been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. I've learned so much through this process, and even more than auditioning, I've learned how to approach performance. I now know as an actor how I should take a note and how to approach my dance captain about things. I've also gained so much respect for what a swing does on a daily basis. It can be one of the most random and on-your-toes position in this business.  It requires a TON of work and focus.

    When running a dance audition, are there any specific habits dancers do when they are learning the combination that turn you off?

    I can't stand when dancers continue to practice on the sides after I've broken people down into audition groups. A) It's distracting to me.  B)  It's disrespectful to the people who are auditioning.

    I'd also be very conscious of the attitude you give off. Nothing is more unattractive to me than someone who comes in looking cocky and "over it".

    What qualities do you look for in someone you want to hire (besides technical dance ability)?

    I ask myself: "Would this person be fun to work with?" At some point, there's an even plane of talent. There could be 6 people in the room who could all do the track I'm looking for, but what separates one from the other is how easy they look to work with. Cast chemistry is important. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, so it's important to approach every audition with a positive attitude and to give 100%. Those qualities show.

    What is the best audition advice you've ever received?

    I think it was when a casting director once told me that I shouldn't be so nervous because they WANT us to do well. It makes the people behind the table's jobs easier if the actors they're auditioning are good. They're rooting for us to be the best we can be. I think people get so caught up in fear and worrying about what everyone else things. It was kind of a liberating when I just let it all go and let myself be the best I could be.


    You can learn more about Jordan and his current adventures by visiting his website!

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Megan Mekjian

    I'm am so excited to present Megan Mekjian's audition advice!  Why am I so excited you may ask?  Megan is an extremely strong singer, actor, dancer, AND teacher!  As such, I thought she could provide some particularly insightful audition information.  

    I met Megan at an open theatre dance class at CAP 21.  She was the teaching assistant and I was immediately wowed by her dancing - especially her precision!  The teacher introduced the two of us and we became fast friends.  It has been such a blessing to have her huge heart and upbeat personality in my life.  She is one of those girls who will eagerly do whatever is possible to help her friends reach their goals and is TRULY happy when they succeed.  As such, one can only be overjoyed with Megan's own successes!  She is currently thrilling audiences as Fruma Sarah in the national tour of "Fiddler on the Roof."  She was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to share her audition advice with the Muscles for Musicians blog!  

    So - I am thrilled to present to you - MEGAN MEKJIAN!

    Can you share a little bit of your dance background?
    When I was 4 years old, I saw a children’s theatre production of Annie and turned to my mom and said, I don’t want to sit here, I want to do that! With persistent enthusiasm I began to perform in the school musical and did shows with the children’s theatre that ignited my passion. When I was about 7, I started taking dance classes. Initially, I just took dance to be a well-rounded performer. However, in the process of taking class, I became more and more enamored with dance itself. I have been studying ballet, jazz, and tap all throughout elementary, middle school, high school, college, and beyond! Because of shows or being on the road there have been some gaps in my training time. However, whenever I have the opportunity, I am always eager to get back into class!

    How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?

    When I first started auditioning in New York, I went to EVERY audition and sang basically the same song every time. As I have discovered myself more as a performer and person, I have been able to target auditions more specifically. I am now willing to sacrifice auditioning for EVERYTHING in order to spend more time preparing for auditions that I know I am right for. This has helped me both in the audition room and for my psyche. It is significantly more fulfilling to look at auditions as an opportunity to explore a role and character. I like to think of it as my chance to play a role that I would love to play.

    Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?
    In dance calls, I like to stand near the front in the beginning, but not directly expose myself to the creative team. This gives me the opportunity to see the choreography clearly without the pressure of being watched while I am trying to pick up the combination.

    What do you wear to auditions?

    I always wear something that I feel really good in! I like to incorporate the style of the show into my outfit as much as possible, but for me the most important thing is feeling confident and fabulous!

    Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly at an audition?
    Ahh!!! Always the challenge!! For me it is absolutely a matter of concentration. With so many possible external distractions (the other dancers, the creative team, hating your outfit, etc…) I am just constantly telling myself to focus back in on the steps and the choreographer. Easier said than done, though!!!!

    What do you do if you are having trouble picking up a combination or style?

    I really try to just pick up whatever I can. When I start getting down on myself, it is just the hardest hole to climb out of. I try to keep it positive and pick up whatever I can, even if it is just one eight count.

    Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?
    When you ask questions in the audition room, it automatically draws attention to you. I try to only ask questions when I am confident I will be able to incorporate the direction into the combination. I think it is better to just get something wrong, then to get something wrong after the choreographer has specifically told YOU how to do it right. However, I think if you have the combination for the most part and are a little confused about something specific, asking questions is wonderful. Also, on the flip side, if you are given a correction and you take it, that is a fantastic opportunity to make a really great impression!

    If you were to recommend one style of dance for a singer who moves to study - which would it be and why?

    I recommend they study ballet because it really is the foundation of most dance styles. It will be the most prolific dance form as far as learning universal terms, positions, and steps.

    Which classes do you take that you feel are most helpful for auditions?
    I like taking any dance class! Picking up different combinations and teaching styles is so helpful for the audition room. For singing auditions, I like working with an audition coach on my material. I love having another pair of eyes to assess my work. It gives me a sense of confidence and also the opportunity to work out any musical kinks before presenting it an audition.

    You are equally strong dancer as a singer - what would you say is the main difference between how your prepare for dance call versus a singing call.

    In a weird way, I guess I prepare similarly for both dance and singing calls! For both, I do as much research on the role I am right for before I enter the room. For a dance call, if possible, I try to familiarize myself with the choreography. I use youtube to look up the show and/or choreographer and if I know anyone involved in the production I try to hire them to teach me the choreography. In a singing call, I also use youtube to research the music and composer. I then try to find a song with a similar message, style, and range as the character I am going in for.

    What is the best audition advice you've ever received?

    You are enough. Tell the story the best way you know how and trust yourself. If you try to be someone else or what you think they want, you are constantly chasing your own tail. They might as well just hire the person you are trying to be. However if you go in as the authentic you, you may or may not be right for the role, but at least you are only competing with yourself!

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Aleksey Igudesman

    I came home this afternoon after ballet class fully expecting to sing through some arias.  Or practice belting.  One of the two.  Instead, I got stuck on youtube watching videos of my favorite musical comedy duo, Igudesman and Joo.  If you haven't checked them out, you certainly should! I discovered a few videos that the violinist of group, Aleksey Igudesman, made where he plays the violin and dances.  Not only does he do this, he TEACHES his viewers how to do the dance steps he is doing while playing the violin, starting very slow and speeding up throughout the course of the video.  It's certainly not meant to be an instructional video - but it is certainly good fun!  Since this blog is MUSCLES for MUSICIANS - I couldn't help but share.  I hope he doesn't mind me uploading his videos into the blog!

    Bust out your violins and put on your dancing shoes!  Here is Aleksey Igudesman!

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Michelle Joy

    Michelle Joy IS a bundle of joy!  Every moment she is around you feel as though life is covered with sunshine.  She is also a spectacular dancer!  What really sets her apart aside from her impeccable technique is the emotion she brings to her dancing.  I saw her in Damnation of Faust at the Met Opera and was astounded by her free and passionate movement.  

    It is incredibly exciting to be able to share her audition advice with you!  One thing that has always impressed me about Michelle is her laid back energy at auditions.  It is almost as though she is there just to have fun and go with the flow.  (In her own words: "I just try to perform my best.  I remind myself that everything else is out of my control.  When I was a younger dancer I used to compare myself to other dancers in the room.  Now I just try to stay focused on myself.")  I think that attitude is part of what allows her to be so successful!  

    But enough about my observations of the glorious Michelle Joy - let's let her speak for herself!:)

    Can you give us a little background your dance career?

      I’ve been dancing professionally for ten years nows.  I received my dance training from Houston Ballet Academy on full Scholarship.  After I graduated at age 17 I landed my first paid job with Colorado Ballet as an apprentice.  I later danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, American Repertory Ballet and The The Metropolitan Opera.  I’m currently performing this leading role a workshop of a new show, 49th St and Other Stories.

    How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?
      I find I’m less stressed about auditions, I just try to perform my best.  I remind myself that everything else is out of my control.  When I was a younger dancer I used to compare myself to other dancers in the room.  Now I just try to stay focused on myself. 

    Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?

      I like to stand is where I can see the combination the best and practice the steps.  Sometimes the most space is in the very front, (because some people are scared to stand there) and sometimes it’s in the back row.

    What do you wear to auditions?

      I seem to do the best when I am wearing just a nice leotard and booty shots or something that shows my body.  Directors and choreographers want to see dancers, not their wardrobe.

    Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly at an audition?

      I try not to over analyze any one step and let the entire combination sink it.  Paying close attention to the counts helps memorize the combination faster.

    What do you do if you are having trouble picking up a combination or style?

      If I’m not familiar with the style I try to pay more attention to the counts and make sure that my body is in the right place at the right time.  Hip hop and tap combinations are very difficult for me. 

    Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?

      Yes, but I try to be specific, such as: “what is on count seven?” or “can you repeat the opening section?”

    What was your most challenging audition and how did you conquer it?

      The most challenging audition for me was when I auditioned for American Repertory Ballet.  The audition was six hours long including a class, repertory, partnering and improve.  They kept making cuts after every different combination.  I had no idea I was going to be there all day long.  I ended up signing the only female contract at the end of the day, but I couldn’t walk for a week.

    If you were to recommend one style of dance for a singer who moves to study - which would it be and why?

      I would suggest a musical theatre class such at Richard Pierlon’s class because the first hour you spend in the center working on technique and flexibility and the second half you work on a combination.

    Which classes do you take that you feel are most helpful for auditions?

      Deborah Roshe’s jazz class at Steps on Broadway helped me learn to pick up choreography quickly and to put counts to every move. 

    As a dancer who sings - how do you approach a singing callback? Do you have a different mentality than during a dance call?

      Naturally I’m way more nervous about the singing portion of the audition.  I’ve been taking weekly voice lessons for the past 3 years which has given me more confidence.  My voice teacher and I always prepare a song in advance for an audition which I may or may non get called back to sing.

    Are there any classes you would recommend a non-dancer take to work on audition skills?

      Lisa Lockwood’s class at Steps is a great basic ballet class with lots of begging adults.  I think that taking a ballet one or twice a week will help anyone with the basics for any dance audition no matter what the style is.  

    What is the best audition advice you've ever received?

      You’re not going to get any job sitting in your apartment.  Showing up is the most important thing whether you think you are right for the show or not.