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it's audition season... now what?

I want it strong! Make it sharp. Take it on the downbeat. Ready? And, five, six, seven, eight!

Recognize this? It's the opening lines of A Chorus Line - for many of us, our introduction to audition season.


Welp, it’s that time of year yet again: Audition Season. No matter the type - cattle call, private, invitation only, open company class, freelance gigs, season-long contracts - the stress, anxiety, corrections, rejections, dancers endure all of it in a relatively short period of time. And it’s not for the faint of heart. Dance and technique-wise, you must be confident in knowing you’ll move however is asked of you in the combinations, the repertory presented, or the phrase work given for you to explore. How on earth can you be prepared for whatever the season throws at you?


When it comes to your nutrition, consistency is key here. If you’ve developed a meal + snack routine that works best for you, aim to follow what is working as best for you as best as you’re able the days leading up to and the day of your audition(s). This can become challenging if an audition goes much longer than expected and/or the schedule of your audition day varies greatly from your typical day.


To ensure adequate energy, keep reading for my recommendations for your audition season.



Leading up to audition season:

It’s never too late to begin filling meals + snacks with your balance of Eating the Rainbow and The Big Three concepts. Check out my numerous blog posts on these topics for performance nutrition.


Attempting to make it through audition season on low-carbohydrate consumption can largely affect your upcoming season: During this season of high stress, increases to your circulating levels of cortisol (one of our stress hormones) are normal. If these cortisol levels stay high for a while, you might notice a reduction in muscle efficiency + strength, general decrease in stamina, and even more stress put on your body ON TOP of the stress you’re already enduring. So, how do carbs play into this? Ensuring you’re consuming adequate amounts and a balance of carbohydrates in your diet can help to reduce cortisol levels, reversing those possible negative effects on your performance of low carbohydrate intake.


Do you tend to sleep poorly - whether it’s not restful sleep or just not enough sleep - as audition season approaches? Do you find that your mind and thoughts are racing or you just have trouble falling asleep? This is certainly normal AND there are some practices we can do to help improve our sleep during times of high stress - like those experiences leading up to and before audition season. Many clients have found that addressing lifestyle habits first is immensely helpful. Some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • What are my stress mitigation strategies? (otherwise known as stress management)

  • What does my bedtime routine look like? 

  • Are you watching TV, on your phone, or looking at another screen right up until bedtime?

  • What is your bedroom environment like? Do you need a sleep mask to reduce the interference of light while you’re sleeping? Are you comfortable in bed, temperature-wise?

  • Personally, I’m a big fan of a little bit of a skincare routine before getting into bed. Do you brush your teeth? Wash your face? Apply lotion? It doesn’t have to be a fancy routine, something simple that, while going through the motions, helps to lower your heart rate, slow your breathing, and prepare your body for sleep.

Food + nutrient-wise, ensure you’re consuming adequate amounts of and a balance of protein sources in your diet. 

Aiming to consume a balance of: animal + plant-based protein sources; complete + incomplete protein sources; and fast- and slow-releasing protein sources. I will always find it fascinating that, while we usually think of protein as the muscle building nutrient - which it is! - it’s ALSO beneficial for sleep and rest! Learn more about protein here on the blog.


You guessed it. We have to look at that final macronutrient leading up to audition season: fat. In addition to being delicious and a necessary component of nutrient absorption, consuming adequate amounts and a balance of fat in your diet also boosts aerobic stamina as well as immune + nerve system health. Low-fat is NOT the way to go for dancers - or really anyone for that matter.


Finally, I’m missing just one key for your audition season prep: Water! Ensuring your body is adequately hydrated and able to move smoothly is paramount. Water ensures your joints are lubricated, acts as a shock absorber as well (I’m looking at your petit + grande allegro landings), and plays a role in your energy levels. In addition to plain water, keep in mind that we get water from MANY parts of our diet: fruits, vegetables, juices, other beverages (maybe not coffee or alcohol, though). Something else for dancers to be aware of, especially pre-audition season, if your electrolyte balance. Enjoying a wide-range of colorful foods can help here and you may find the occasional homemade electrolyte beverage, coconut water, or Gatorade beneficial as well.




Day of auditions:

Ok! You’ve made it to the morning of your audition.  You’ve found your nutritional foundation by eating a nutrient balanced and delicious diet for a few weeks now… now what!?

In addition to eating as normally as possible on audition day, I recommend prioritizing some additional snacks throughout your day. Before your audition, a simple carbohydrate snack that includes a protein or fat about 20-30-min before your audition can be helpful. This combo of carb + protein/fat can give you that extra boost of energy needed for your audition. Be prepared by having a second simple carb snack in your dance bag - in case the waiting period is longer than expected. I have been surprised a few times with an unplanned break during my cattle call auditions. Normally it’s because the group needed to be further divided and the audition went way longer than originally scheduled.

They might be crumbly, but I’m a fan of Nature Valley bars in this instance - quick and easy for on-the-go snacking. Other yummy options: trail mix, crackers/pretzels + hummus, cheese + crackers, avocado toast, etc.


Hydration is important on audition day, too! Plain water is always beneficial. On audition days, you might exert yourself a bit more than an average day. If this happens, recovering with a sports drink or electrolyte drink can be helpful. This helps to ensure you’re retaining the fluids you’re drinking and can help reduce the effects of muscle cramps, soreness, and inflammation afterwards!




Post-auditions:

Refuel! Continue enjoying the foods you love. It can be so easy to fall into the “Oh, I shouldn’t have that” mindset, and I cannot stress enough how detrimental this can be for you. It’s not even that you “deserve” yummy foods after an audition, it’s that these foods are a part of your eMpower performance nutrition and help you dance your best!


In addition to drinking water and obtaining electrolytes for the reasons I’ve listed above, you’ll probably find an epsom salt bath to be helpful as well! There are some nutrients we’re able to absorb via our skin - think Vitamin D from the sun - and salts, specifically magnesium, are one of them. This can also be a more direct way to address sore muscles and reduce your chances of inflammation (the kind where your pointe shoes don’t fit the next day).




Additional considerations for audition season:
  • Aim for your balance of fiber during the week! Regular bowel movements ensure your digestive system is functioning well and prevent any unwanted emergency trips to the bathroom.

  • Stick as closely as possible to your typical bedtime and morning wake routines. Consistent sleep will be helpful - even if the night before your audition isn’t your best sleep.

  • Move in ways that best support your dancing! Maybe it’s a light yoga session or morning muscle wake up movement before your audition, cross training on non-audition days, foam rolling to recover post-audition - whatever your movement routine looks like, ensure it supports rather than tires you!


And there you have it, my recommendations as we embark on this year’s audition season.


Have you found any of these to be most helpful? 👇 comment below what works best for you! And if you’re looking for some personalized support this season, you know what to do (drop me an email and/or schedule your strategy session today)!




Sources

Soltani H, Keim NL, Laugero KD. Increasing Dietary Carbohydrate as Part of a Healthy Whole Food Diet Intervention Dampens Eight Week Changes in Salivary Cortisol and Cortisol Responsiveness. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 24;11(11):2563. doi: 10.3390/nu11112563. PMID: 31652899; PMCID: PMC6893582. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893582


Pendergast DR, Horvath PJ, Leddy JJ, Venkatraman JT. The role of dietary fat on performance, metabolism, and health. Am J Sports Med. 1996;24(6 Suppl):S53-8. PMID: 8947430. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8947430/.




This post was originally shared January 17, 2023 and was updated and re-published on January 1, 2024.

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I'm a Nutrition Educator & Wellness Coach based in and serving Washington, DC and the DMV region. My lifestyle-focused method has successfully helped clients achieve personal results and enhance athletic ability, eMpowering performance in class, rehearsals, and on-stage. As professional dancer myself, I have gained nutritional balance and improved my own relationship with food through many years of practice and a Masters of Science in Nutrition from University of Bridgeport. I bring this depth of personal and academic experience to a variety of clients, particularly performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In my spare time, I teach yoga and manage Ballet Embody, a professional contemporary ballet company.
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