How to Audition With a Growth Mindset—Not Body Insecurity

February 20, 2024

After years of preparation, you’re finally ready to put yourself out there and take the first steps in your professional dance career. Auditioning for trainee, second company, or full company positions is stressful. You’re in a room with competitive juices flowing, and this is the culmination of all the work you’ve put in since you were a young child.

If you’ve ever struggled with body image, as most dancers have, the audition process is likely to exacerbate those challenges. As a health, nutrition, and lifestyle coach who works with many dancers going through the audition process, I see this frequently. However, there are plenty of ways you can shift your mindset and approach to auditions to show up with more confidence in your body, dancing, and abilities.

Body Image Issues Can Worsen in Auditions

In the audition room, it’s easy to compare yourself to those around you in a superficial way—to look at body shape or how high someone’s leg is in an extension and assume they’re more likely to get hired.

Yes, ballet is an aesthetic art, but the most important thing is how you dance, not how you look. At this moment, you might be feeling skeptical about that, but the truth is many directors are most interested in how you move.

We can’t deny that there are directors out there who prefer a certain body shape or size. That’s a sad reality of this industry. That said, consider if that’s someone you’d even want to work for. These tend to be the same leaders who bring up weight loss in your assessment meeting or who create an environment that is more toxic than supportive.

But many directors take a different approach and focus on the most crucial elements of the art form. They’re looking for movement quality, work ethic, technique, and adaptability. If you think your body shape or size isn’t “desirable,” it’s important to look for ways to find confidence in your ability.

Before the Audition

As humans, we tend to focus on the negative. But the audition process is an opportunity to reconnect to your values and the things you do well.

Instead of fixating on the things you don’t feel strong in, bring your focus to all that you have to offer—not only as a dancer but as a person. I encourage my dancer clients to write a list of 50 things they bring to the table as dancers, artists, technicians, and people. If you turn well, that goes on the list. If you’re supportive to your peers, include that. Really stretch to come up with 50 positives, and then read that list prior to each audition. This will help you remember that you have a lot to offer.

Cropped shot of a man writing in a notebook on his bed at home
Getty Images.

It’s often overlooked, but it’s important to consider the practical decisions you make about leotards and tights when it comes to auditions. It’s likely you have certain preferences for the dancewear you feel most comfortable in. You’ll feel best in your body when you feel good about what you’re wearing, so make sure to test-drive your audition outfit ahead of time and bring a backup option you love equally.

During the Audition

When you’re taking the audition, if you find you’re distracted by your body shape or size, remind yourself to connect more to your movement. Prioritize épaulement and using your gaze over your temptation to sneak a peek at yourself in the mirror. You’ll then be more connected to the dancing and will naturally move with more freedom and joy.

Another smart trick if you find you’re worrying about your body is to focus on how you feel in your body. Notice how your muscles are engaging. Connect to your breath and even say to yourself “in,” “out,” “in,” “out” as you breathe. By focusing on your breath, you can train your thoughts away from self-judgment.

Finally, gratitude is something you can practice throughout the audition process. This will help you focus on opportunity and growth rather than getting stuck in fear and self-judgment. As you go through your audition journey, take a moment each day to say “thank you” to your body and to write a short, body-focused gratitude list.

Final Thoughts

Go into the audition with an open mind. You can’t know for sure what the directors are looking for, and you also aren’t the person who ultimately makes that decision. Lead with the belief that a job offer is possible—rather than with the fear that it is not.

Your body is the instrument that allows you to dance. It’s the vessel through which you’re able to express this art that you love. Therefore, practice finding daily gratitude for all the things you would not even be capable of attempting without your body.

Trust that if dancing is your priority and goal, you’ll come out of this process with a next step on your dance journey. Whether you receive a paid contract, an unpaid trainee position, or a new training opportunity, each of those options will allow you to continue working towards your dancing goals. If none of those opportunities pan out, it’s time to create your own steps forward. Ultimately, taking a healthy, balanced, and mindful approach to the audition process will allow you to emerge as a stronger dancer and person regardless of the outcome.