4 Directors on What to Wear to Get the Job

February 14, 2019

4 hiring powers-that-be told DS their “do’s” for dressing to audition.


Photo by Erin Baiano

Terrence Orr, artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

His Top Tip:
“The pointe shoe itself is so important. I can usually tell how professional and careful the dancer is from how she puts the ribbon and elastic on, and how the shoe fits her foot.”

  • Discount Dance Supply leotard:
    “Most sleeveless leotards show a dancer’s port de bras, physique, shoulders, arms, and back. I’m fine with unique strap patterns or decorative details as long as they’re not distracting. It’s good to show a bit of personality with color. I usually find that unitards don’t reveal everything, especially commercially-made ones.”
  • Curtain Call for Class earrings:
    “Stud earrings are fine. Other jewelry is not only distracting but unnecessary and a health risk. Everybody wants to look attractive as a dancer, but you can do that without having diamonds on your nose.”
  • Eurotard Dancewear convertible tights:
    “Tights look tidier under the leotard, but over the leotard doesn’t bother me. I like pink tights rather than black. I want to be able to see the muscularity of the thigh, calf, foot, etc.”
  • No skirt:
    “A skirt is fine in class or rehearsal when I know a dancer, but when I’m looking at you for the first time to join the company, a skirt can cover up things I need to see.”


Photo by Erin Baiano

Andrea Miller, artistic director and choreographer of Gallim

Her Top Tip:
“It helps to have done research so you know the company. If you can, see some rehearsal videos to get a sense of the physicality. What is the appropriate apparel/shoes for the movement you’re going to be facing?”

  • Jo+Jax sweatshirt:
    “If there’s a lot of rolling around on the floor, you’ll want your shoulders covered. Otherwise, you’ll get floor burn.”
  • No jewelry:
    “If it gets in the way of your movement, then no.”
  • Bloch Inc. shorts:
    “I have no issue with patterns or solid colors, bright colors or darker ones. It’s more an issue of functionality, feeling really good in your skin, and making clothing choices connected to the direction of the work.”
  • Sansha kneepads:
    “Is there extreme physicality, such that you might need kneepads?”
  • Bare feet:
    “At certain points, socks are useful. At other points, they’re really not. I’ll ask dancers to take them off, because it can be really dangerous if we’re doing a phrase that requires quick direction changes for which you need the friction of your feet.”


Photo by Erin Baiano

Tanisha Whiting, talent agent at Bloc LA

Her Top Tip: “At open calls—not just for Bloc, for everybody—there are a ton of people. Don’t wear the same trendy tights or track pants that everyone else is wearing. There are so many great brands that aren’t super-expensive and lend themselves better to movement than the same things we see every day. Do something different to distinguish yourself!”

  • Soffe top:
    “We’re looking for people who are comfortable in their own skin and are great movers. We want to see what your body type is and how you move within that. Wearing a jacket, a hoodie, loud patterns, huge necklaces, or earrings that are really big can distract.”
  • Hair and makeup:
    “Hair should be in the style you feel best represents you. If your hair is normally curly, don’t straighten it and vice versa. Same with makeup: If you’re normally a minimalist, it’s better to look natural and like yourself than to go out of your wheelhouse. But if you have a funkier style, show that with a bold lip or other detail. Don’t hide your hair in a ponytail; then we find out later about this cool ombré we didn’t see.”
  • Covet Dance pants: “We’re not going to remember everyone’s names, but we’ll remember the girl in the glittery sequined shoes. I wouldn’t come in with a full sparkling getup, but one item can help draw attention. Try it in class: If a lot of people are complimenting your pants, that might be your ‘thing.’ “
  • Model’s own shoes: “You should always have kneepads, sneakers, and heels. You don’t know what the combo will be—even if you know the choreographer’s usual style—so you might need options.”


Photo by Erin Baiano

Paul Hardt, casting director at Stewart/Whitley

His Top Tip: “If you’re just arriving to NYC and wanting to get the lay of the land, spend an afternoon in the hallways at Ripley-Grier Studios or Pearl Studios NYC to see what the current audition attire is. None of these rooms are truly soundproof, so you can also learn what other dancers are using for singing auditions.”

  • Bloch Inc. unitard:
    “I would never suggest anyone show up in full costume. At the same time, anything you can do to help us imagine you in the show is helpful. For example, in CATS you would wear a unitard, so we want to be aware of what your body would look like in that costume. For Chicago, you should be wearing something that could be part of that costume plot—all black, maybe including fishnets.”
  • Makeup:
    “You should feel comfortable enough going through everyday life in what you have on, makeup-wise. Audition makeup is different from stage makeup (unless the audition is onstage, which doesn’t happen often anymore).”
  • Russian Pointe jazz shoes:
    “Let the show or the casting notice be your guide. For CATS, which we cast for Royal Caribbean, it’s jazz shoes. For The Will Rogers Follies, which I just cast for Goodspeed Opera House, it’s

    a super-high heel. That said, you’re in control of what you wear in the audition room. If you’re used to dancing in a crazy-high heel and you think that makes you stand out and look gorgeous, by all means. But I frequently see dancers walk in the room with crazy heels, and half an hour later they’re in the corner changing. Never try something you’re not already comfortable with in an audition.”

Modeled by Kayla Moniz

Hair and makeup by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.

A version of this story appeared in the February 2019 issue of
Dance Spirit with the title “Director’s Choice.”