Music blared from the Mass Motion Dance studio in Brighton on Sunday as dancers from across New England took classes in ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, and jazz, hoping to impress onlooking choreographers at Boston Dance Alliance’s annual open auditions.
Sunday’s event marked the first in-person auditions since the onset of the pandemic a year and a half ago, and each dancer wore a mask at all times in the studio. The event served not just as an opportunity for freelance dancers to make an impression, but also as a chance to return to dancing and to connect with others in the community.
“It’s huge to be back. It is so gratifying. Dancers have been so constrained by the pandemic,” said the alliance’s executive director, Debra Cash. “We are an embodied art form, and so to be with people physically is just wonderful, and even just warming up has made people happy.”
Boston Dance Alliance is the “glue” of the community, Cash said.
Cash said the organization tries to “aggregate resources for people in whatever kind of dance activity they have and identify gaps and fill it in.”
Meredith Price, 24, who took the contemporary class, said she had difficulty with the transition away from dancing every day during the pandemic. The auditions helped her “get back in that mindset.”
A 22-year-old, Ariana Haddad, also took the contemporary class. She said it was “a little disheartening” to be unable to “dance like this for a year and a half,” making Sunday’s auditions a great opportunity.
“It was just fun to be in a room with everyone who loves the same thing I do,” she said.
During the class, an instructor led the group through various dances as a way to demonstrate their ability to perform different styles within the genre.
“The idea is that companies and artistic directors and choreographers will come watch the class and see who they want to follow up with to participate in their programs for the coming year,” Cash said. “That can be a particular role in Nutcracker. . . . It could be somebody who wants people to be clearly good at improvising to be part of a devised project, or it could be a company that wants new company members.”
Kim Holman, cofounder and artistic director of Luminarium Dance Company in Cambridge, said she had been coming to the auditions “on and off” for 11 years, since she first graduated college. On Sunday, she said she was looking for a “small handful of dancers” who could work with her during the Boston dancemakers residency at the Boston Center for the Arts.
Even though Luminarium holds “plenty” of their own open auditions, she said she attended Sunday’s event because the alliance is the only resource that “spans the whole community.”
“I have access to a huge range of dancers” at the auditions, she said.
Cash stressed that this year’s auditions provided an opportunity for dancers to reconnect with one another after so much time off.
“This is a chance for dancers to come together to have a joyful opportunity to participate in person with great teachers and to really start getting back into the swing of things at the beginning of the season,” she said.
Haddad said part of the appeal of the auditions was the ability to meet other dancers.
“It’s great to be in the community,” she said. “I saw people I haven’t seen in forever [today]. . . . I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to find a community.”