As audition season approaches in the coming months, and I get more and more calls for head and body shots from dancers, a common question keeps popping up: what do I wear to look my absolute best? (a paraphrasing of the real question from most female dancers: what leotard/ costume will make me look as thin as possible?)
A little known fact about me is that my mother started a dancewear store while I was a dance student; thus I am supper lucky to have much experience and a unique perspective on what is actually flattering on many different body types. As I was thinking about blogging on this subject to help this year’s dancers, I thought I’d share a few more tips on having a successful audition photoshoot as well.
1. Start by understanding this key point: though it may be unfortunate, the truth is the first and last impression you leave with a director may be the most important.
Marketing research tells us you have about 3 seconds to catch a their attention before they move onto the next candidate. If you take yourself seriously, so will they. This starts with the first thing they see… often, that’s your photograph. It is just so important to do everything you can to have the best pictures possible.
2. Try to not book your session on a day when you have many other things to do. You need to be focused and present for the time you are working with your photog, not thinking about a rehearsal that you have to make by 5:30. Additionally, most dancers will not be aware of just how physically difficult getting good shots is.
A 3 hr session with a good photographer will feel like you spent all day in rehearsal after a tough morning class and a session at the gym.
3. Spend some time researching the photographer you use.
Ask these Important Questions:
a) Is your photog an ex dancer? Will he/she be able to guide you through what you need to be aware of techniqually to get great shots? What looks great in 3D in the studio mirror or on stage doesn’t always translate into a 2D image on paper.
And it always helps when your image maker understands lines, turnout, head angles, what makes a good arabesque etc., etc. No hamburger hands please!!
If you do not have access to an ex-dancer photog, make sure to bring a friend or teacher that you trust to give you a second pair of eyes (although I would limit the number of people you bring, as too many cooks don’t make for a good shoot either)
b) What style do you need? Discuss with your photographer what companies you would like to audition for and and how best you can shoot for that, in a style that might match where you would like to be seen. Is the photographer familiar with what you are looking for and be able to create something appropriate for you?
c) What is the time/what are packages/what is the budget? This of course is straightforward. What do you need, want, hope for? Know this as you shop around. Better to spend more money on less time with a great shooter who you know will take care of all your needs than to spend all day and less money with one that you are not sure of.
d) Am I comfortable and at ease with my photographer? Feeling comfortable and at ease with a photographer is so important. You need to be able to let go, be yourself and perform while working for that perfect shot. We can retouch legs, arms etc. but we can’t add smiles or expressions to your face!
4. What to bring/What to wear? This is so, so important. What you wear depends on the types of companies you are interested in.
Start with the basics for classical companies: leotards/tights and costumes like a tutu or R&J style empire dress for the ladies; tights and T’s and costumes like colored tights or corsaire pants for men.
For more contemporary shots, bare legs/chests are great, as are shorts and alternate tops. This is definitly an area to discuss with your photographer as well as your teacher/mentor. Makeup should be natural plus a little bit more.. For example, avoid heavy lines under the eyes, but extra mascara is a good idea.
Guidelines for Choosing a Leotard:
The neckline on the leo should always flatter, evening out your hips to shoulder line. Where the straps sit on your shoulders should be directly over the line of your hips for the most evening out effect.
Bodysuits with cutout areas, while fun, may sometimes provide more skin area in a shot than you want or is flattering… so ladies, while those Yumiko leo’s are awesome, make sure to bring some others along as well for alternates.
Wider shouldered dancers: long sleeves, v shaped necklines, and wide sitting spagetti straps are the place to start.
Narrow shoulders can often also work with halter shapes and boat or U shaped necklines with wider straps. Capped sleeves are also good to try.
Very high cut or very low cut legs are often distracting from the true lines of your leg. Avoid.
Velvet material in general sucks in light – not slimming in a photograph unless it is in very small amounts or on a teeny tiny person.
Colors are very important. Not only can colors flatter your skin and eyes; they speak to your personality. Spend some time thinking about what colors really represent your style
5. Try not to be too hard on yourself. It often takes 10-20 tries to get the perfect angle with the right head and arm line, then add your facial expression. Good shots take work and very few dancers (with the exception of highly seasoned professionals), get it on the first few go arounds.
It often takes a little bit to find just the right angle and poses to show your body off to its full advantage. Have patience, it will happen!
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