Announcing auditions for our new swing dance troupe in London! Below Sharon Davis answers the various questions that were brought up in the Expressions of Interest form…
Will there be auditions?
Yes, there will be two auditions held in January:
Audition #1, Sunday 22nd January 2017, 12pm-2pm (RSVP here)
@ Somers Town Community Sports Centre, Upstairs Studio, 134 Chalton St, NW1 1RX
Audition #2, Thursday 26th January, 7.30pm—9.30pm (RSVP here)
@ Top Floor Studio, Academy Studios, 15 Pratt Mews, NW1 0AD
The auditions will be fun and casual, and everyone is welcome to attend, even if you’re not sure you are able to join the troupe at this stage. There are two audition dates to allow everyone the chance to attend, but you only need to attend one audition (not both). I will notify successful applicants by the end of January.
*NEW* What will the audition involve?
The audition will involve both Lindy Hop and solo jazz dancing. We will learn some short sequences, and then perform them. We will also do some jamming, in both styles, at a variety of tempos. So expect to dance both improvised and choreographed, and with the group as well as spotlighted on your own. For Lindy Hop, you can dance with your partner if you are auditioning with one, but you will also be expected to rotate partners. If you are attending without a partner, you will be assigned partners to audition with, and likely dance with a few different people. Sharon is looking for how quickly you pick up choreography, your performance skills, and your improvisation skills. You’ll also have the opportunity to let Sharon know about any other relevant skills you have. The auditions have a lot of people in them, so there might be some waiting around and watching others. We’re really going to try to make the audition relaxed, friendly and fun, so don’t be nervous!
Can I get more information?
Yes, we have two Open House dates coming up:
Open House – Thursday 12th January, 7.30pm-9.30pm
Open House – Thursday 19th January, 7.30pm-9.30pm
@ Top Floor Studio, Academy Studios, 15 Pratt Mews, NW1 0AD
Open House is a free JazzMAD practice session, where you come to dance in our studio for free. I play swing music at a variety of tempos for 2 hours, for you to practice or social dance. Everyone of all levels is welcome to attend the Open House. It’s free and you don’t need to book, just show up. This is a great opportunity to come and ask me questions about the troupe, if you have any.
Otherwise, email email@example.com to ask questions about the troupe.
I can’t attend either of the auditions – can I still apply to join the troupe?
Yes, email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an arrangement.
From what date are you planning to start the troupe?
We will start training in February. The first few months of training will focus on technique, getting to know each other, identifying our strengths & weaknesses as a group, building our skills and just having fun. Later in the year we will start to work on specific creative projects.
When will the troupe rehearse?
The weekly troupe training sessions will be:
Thursdays 7.30pm – 9.30pm in our small studio in Camden
Sundays 12.00pm – 2.00pm in a larger studio in Kings Cross
Exactly how the troupe uses these two sessions will emerge over the first few months of training. It will not be compulsory to attend both sessions, but of course the more involved you can be, the better. Later in the year, when we begin to work on our first creative project, there may be additional rehearsals, which we will schedule by group decision.
What will it cost to be a member of the troupe?
Troupe members will make a small contribution towards weekly rehearsal space costs. The cost will be around the same price as taking one swing dance class per week. Members will pay monthly by subscription through the JazzMAD booking system. Thus depending on the number of team members, the cost is likely to be around £50/month.
My ultimate aim with this troupe is to make it self-sustaining and eventually profit-making, so that members do not pay to be involved, but are instead paid for their artistic work. A professional dance theatre company. But since there is no existing industry for our dance style, this process may take time, even years. We will start as an amateur dance group, with professional outlook! So being involved with the troupe from the beginning means all members, including me, will contribute financially to cover costs. As a group we may decide to undertake fundraising activities or seek grants in the future.
What do you see as the mission and goals for this troupe, as compared to other existing London swing dance troupes?
This troupe is going to be a bit different to existing swing dance teams (both in London and all around the world). Most swing dance teams are focussed on creating routines for competitions and swing dance events, and sometimes performing for the public in a corporate setting, at outdoor festivals, private parties or charity functions. These are really great reasons to have a swing team, and important for showing our dance to the public, promoting the school they are attached to, giving amateur dancers a reason to push themselves, and inspiring our own community of dancers. London has plenty of wonderful teams like this, and I think they’re doing a great job.
I want to create a dance theatre company, that will produce our own stand-alone shows and other creative projects, such as short films, photography projects and who knows what. I’m interested in collaborating with jazz bands and artists in other media. I want to try to bring our music and dance to a wider audience, to share its joy and beauty, and spread it far and wide. Exactly what shape that will take, I’m not sure yet. I want to create a talented ensemble that work together joyfully, inspire each other and spark creativity. Then see what happens!
What level of dancers are you looking for? Is this aiming to be a high level dance troupe or a developmental troupe for newer dancers?
In general, yes, I’m looking for high level dancers, in the styles of Lindy Hop, 1920s, Charleston, Jazz Roots, Tap and so on. But I’m trying to create an ensemble, capable of producing self-contained shows, so I’m looking for a variety of talents and unique personalities.
Apart from swing dance skills, I’m looking for performers. People with stage experience and charisma. Entertainers. So if you aren’t a hugely experienced swing/jazz dancer, but you have stage presence, good quality of movement, you can connect to and engage an audience, create characters & tell stories… then we want you. I will work with you to lift up your swing/jazz dance technique to meet your performance skills. Similarly, I will work with the highly skilled dancers on their stage skills, if needed. And we will all help each other as a team.
Will Sharon Davis be leading the troupe rehearsals herself?
Yes! Though I will be absent on occasion. I’m trying to cut down on travelling, but a lot of my work is still teaching and performing overseas. So I will be away sometimes – probably once or twice per month. On those occasions we’ll arrange a different group leader or a guest coach for that rehearsal. But essentially yes, I’ll be leading troupe rehearsals and guiding the direction the group takes.
Who will be doing the choreographies?
I will choreograph some pieces for the group, and other times we might commission choreographies from other artists or members of the team, or create them collaboratively.
Will it be a solo jazz or partnered focus?
Both and more!
I don’t live in London, can I still join?
Doubtful. This group is intended for London-based dancers. If you live outside of London and you’re really devoted and willing to commute in for rehearsals and special projects, then of course I’ll consider it. But honestly it sounds like it wouldn’t be sustainable for you in the long term.
Where would rehearsals be held?
JazzMAD is based in the London borough of Camden, so all rehearsals will be held in or near this area. Weeknight rehearsals will be at our studio at NW1 0AD, and Sunday rehearsals will be near Kings Cross station.
How big will the group be?
That depends on who applies!
What sort of lead-follow balance will the group have?
Again, that depends on who applies. But since I’m interested in a multi-style group (not just Lindy Hop), it’s likely that not everyone will have a partner in the group, there will probably be individuals with different specialties as well.
But if you’re interested in dancing Lindy Hop with the group, you should endeavour to find a permanent dance partner to work with, because this is the most focused way to dance at a high level. It is also necessary for partner acrobatics.
What will be the ratio of working on technique to learning routines?
My plan at the moment is to spend the first 3 months, or maybe more, working on the group’s technique and style, getting to know each other, identifying our strengths and weaknesses, and brainstorming projects. We’ll work on a handful of core choreographies in this time, but this won’t be the focus.
After that, we will start to work on our first performance project, so the focus will shift to choreographies and production, with a deadline.
Essentially, our process will always involve self-improvement and polishing our technique. But this is not a developmental troupe. If you want to improve your dancing, please come to my Lindy Hop classes. If you want to make beautiful performance art, entertain people and spread our joyous dance to the public, then audition for my troupe!
Will there be aerials?
Yes. Airsteps are a traditional part of performance Lindy Hop, so we will definitely incorporate them. To train aerials with us, you will need to have a fixed partner in the group to work with.
Will there be a girl’s troupe?
Chorusline will be a part of this troupe. If you want to do that kind of thing with me, this is the group to join!
Will there be any burlesque elements?
This isn’t our focus for the outset, but a future project might incorporate burlesque elements, yes.
Can I get feedback on my performance after the audition?
Possibly. On the audition day, please remind me that you’d like some feedback, so I can remember to take notes to give you later. But please be mindful that the auditions might be busy, so I might not have the time to devote to your notes.
My jazz experience is limited, but something I’d love to develop. Would this be a problem?
It might be ok. Ideally I’d love to have an ensemble where every member is an expert Lindy Hopper, charleston and jazz dancer, acrobat and actor, who can also tap dance, sing jazz and play an instrument. But even I can’t do all that! That’s unrealistic and it’s rare to find a performer who is the whole package. So troupe members are likely to have their strengths and their weaknesses, or maybe even have zero experience in one particular skill. But everyone will be expected to work on all styles and skills in rehearsals. We will try to round out everyone’s skills and lift our abilities as a group. Then when it comes to performing, we will cast the best people for each role.
I’m not available in January, but would love to join later in the year. Is this possible?
Maybe! If possible come along to the January auditions to say hello and just remind me of your situation, so I can see your dancing now and keep you in mind for a later intake. If you can’t attend in January, then just get in touch later in the year when you are available to commit and we can discuss the possibility of auditioning then.
Will there be the opportunity to be involved with this troupe on a project-by-project basis?
Possibly. Once the troupe gets to the stage of creating our own projects, if we are in need of talent we don’t have, we will put the word out calling for people interested in joining for a particular project. For example, say we decide to do a summer show and we need 3 more Lindy Hop couples, or 5 more jazz dancers, we will advertise for anyone interested to join for a 3-month period working on that project only.
But preference will always be given to the dedicated members training with the group every week. So if you want to be a part of our future projects, please find the time to dedicate to us as a full member – it will be worth it!
Will the troupe be involved in not-for-profit/charity performances?
Maybe, I’m open to all possibilities for the future.
Do I need to be an existing JazzMAD student to join?
No, everyone is welcome to audition.
I’m a member of another troupe in London. Is that ok?
Yes, it’s totally fine with me, as long as you’re transparent with your other troupe and check it’s ok with them too! Also of course, make sure you have enough time and energy in your life to give to these multiple commitments – being on two troupes is a lot!
Are you looking for a particular body type? Will you only be taking on people with a commercial look?
You’ll need good general fitness to join in with our dance rehearsals and shows. As a group we’re going to build our abilities and physical strength together, to become better dancers and push our art. But that has nothing to do with body type.
Jazz music embraces humanity in all its wonderful diversity, and jazz dancing does not discriminate. These are art forms about the human experience, about connection and togetherness. Not intolerance or body shaming.