Auditions For Cruise Ships: The Dance Call
By Katie Hurrey
I remember my 1998 Royal Caribbean audition as though it was yesterday. Hundreds of dancers lining up outside Danceworks in London, all hoping to perform their way to Caribbean beaches. Dancing a couple of combinations taught by a feisty full-of-energy redhead. If you didn’t smile and have fun, you were cut.
Audition days seem never ending as you wait to hear your number called after each round. Even if you make it all the way to the end, fill in paperwork, leave your resume/headshot/contact details and dates of availability, there’s still no certainty there will be a position awaiting. Will you be tall enough/ short enough/ the right kind of dancer…?
Almost nineteen years later it’s me standing at the front of the room. I’m trying to put hopefuls at ease and make the audition process a positive experience, or at least give a good free class!
It is my firm belief that I’m auditioning for everyone in front of me too, it’s my job to make everyone WANT to come and work with us, and I find it a little nerve-wracking. When we arrive at Pineapple Studios to audition dancers and singers for MAMMA MIA! and Blue Planet on board Allure of the Seas, the line wraps all the way around the block on Long Acre. It is full of nervous chatter as dancers greet each other as they recognize familiar faces from the audition circuit.
Every nine months or so we cast a company of highly skilled technical dancers who can also be trained in aerial work for Blue Planet AND who are good actors and singers with a fun personality and funky style for MAMMA MIA! It’s challenging to find actors, dancers and singers with such versatility.
Giving all four hundred dancers a fair opportunity is no easy feat. Sign-in begins at 9:30 am and at 6 pm the studios are always booked for evening classes. As I’m writing comments on application forms, the tables are whisked from under us and we have to clear the room lest we be stuck in the middle of a street dancing throng!
We teach an across-the-floor to everyone to show turn-out, flexibility and musicality, including inside and outside pirouettes in various positions, then make a cut.
Next is a technical dance combination indicative of Blue Planet and anyone we keep then has to sing before dancing a fun, funky combination so we can see some personality for MAMMA MIA!
Generally, the audition process takes two days as we explore the ensemble for the junior principal roles. Principals also perform in both shows and need to sing sixteen bars of contemporary pop then may be called back to sing, dance and read show material.
At the end of four days of auditions in New York, and four in London, we have our shortlist of singers, dancers and actors and the casting debates begin.
Balancing talent with a diverse range of type is the tough part, and the reason why even if a dancer or singer makes it to the end of the audition process there’s no guarantee of a job. There are shows on board Royal Caribbean ships that require a whole cast of tall, leggy dancers, and others that need short, technically trained dancers so there is plenty of opportunity for all types. It’s refreshing to be able to cast our project on talent and personality and not be constrained to a classic dancer body – having said that, velour hot pants are featured in Blue Planet!
On the first day of rehearsal, it’s always exciting to see the company together for the first time and watch them form friendships that will last a lifetime. After two months in rehearsal and a month install on the ship, our team leaves and prepares for another audition tour for the next cast…Here we go again!