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Auditions for College Programs

Guest Anna

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i just wanted to say hi and say that i am a new user on tyis site but i really like it. i am currently doing my A levels but i am also applying to dance colleges for when i am 18 at the moment. if anyone has any useful tips on getting through auditions i'd be grateful to hear them. i have been dancing for 14 years and do ballet, tap and modern. i have coimpleted my jazz syllabus already. look forward to getting a reply!!!


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Hello Anna, welcome to the Young Dancers' forum on Ballet Alert! Online :)


Auditioning for colleges is pretty much like auditioning for anything else in the ballet world, like summer intensives and ballet companies. You take a class! Sometimes the colleges will also ask for a variation, and you might have to take a class in another dance area like modern as well. You will have to ask each program that you audition for what they will expect for their audition.


When you audition they will look for evidence of a good body for dance, good training, and a strong, healthy dancer with a positive attitude! Don't be afraid to show that you love to dance, and that you welcome corrections.

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Guest achio

I am currently a sophmore at southern methodist university. i am a dance major and an advertising major. i adore it here. dancing in college was the best decision i ever made. i thought dancing in college would be dumb and all most silly. but i was so wrong. i have improved so much here and had some many wonderful oppurtunities. just keep your grades up and dance beautifully and no school would have reason not to take you.

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Thanks for the encouraging words, achio, and welcome to Ballet Alert! Online, and the Young Dancers' forum :)

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  • 1 year later...
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The following post was on Young Dancers, and I have moved it here.

"Dear Ms. Leigh,

Besides being consumed with finding a college program for my DD. I would love to know your thoughts on college auditiions?

What are they like?

What do they expect?

What kinds of variations are advisable to rehearse for these auditions?

When should you start rehearsing?

Should you use private instruction for this?


Has anyone applied to TISH in NYC????


Thank you!



SMS, I am not an expert on college auditions, and it has been a very long time since I taught in a University Dance Dept. I believe that every program is slightly different, however most auditions for anything in ballet involve a class, just like for SI auditions. Some college programs may also want a variation, but that needs to be researched for each college one is auditioning for. If one is a well trained, advanced dancer, then no special rehearsals outside of practicing a variation should be necessary, nor private instruction. Dancers from our program who are auditioning for college programs usually ask one of the teachers to help them select a variation and perhaps coach them a few times before the audition.

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My daughter was accepted to Tisch this year. Besides the regular NYU application, she also had to audition for Tisch. It consisted of a ballet class followed by a modern class. There was a panel of auditioners at both classes. The dancers were sent a letter in the mail in advance of their audition date notifying them that, should they pass the audition classes, they'd have to come prepared to dance a short solo. They were to supply their own music.


Immediately after the classes, roughly half the dancers were told that they could leave. The remaining dancers each performed a solo of their own choice followed by an interview.


They all got to stay and watch each other's solos. Daughter said that most of the dancers in her group (there were two groups of about 10 dancers each in two separate rooms) performed their own modern choreography. My daughter danced the turning variation from Etudes, a piece she had performed the previous summer. About two weeks prior to her audition, she asked for a lesson with the ballet teacher who'd coached her for the role last summer. She worked with her twice before her actual audition date. Her friend (as luck would have it, another dancer from her ballet studio was assigned the exact same audition date and time) performed a modern dance. She also worked for a couple weeks with the choreographer of her dance. Both girls were ultimately accepted to Tisch. Only one other girl in daughter's group danced a classical ballet variation.


Immediately after her solo, daughter was interviewed. She was asked about her dance background- well, actually, the interviewer said that obviously she was a ballet dancer and he asked what experience she had in modern dance.


Daughter was impressed by the student dancers who demonstrated in both classes. She said they were very strong, secure dancers.


She heard within a week from Tisch that she'd been accepted and was told that it wouldn't be official till NYU accepted her into their academic program. That happened in about two more weeks. Daughter isn't going to attend Tisch but her friend did accept and will attend in the fall.


Hope this helps.

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Guest SMSCouture

YES!This this helps. As with the first year of SI auditions not knowing what to expect makes the process more nerve racking then it needs to be.

Thank you for every detail...I so appreciate it.

Did they say how long the solo needed to be?

It sounds like the program may be slanted more towards modern?

Why does it feel like so many college programs are geared towards modern? I wish my DD daughter had time to take other classes, however, you know ballet consumes all of their time not to mention come Sept. the Nutcracker begins and life as we know it ends!

I am sure your DD made a wonderful decision for her future. TISH is very difficult to get into. Congratulations!

May I ask where else you applied and what other experiences you could share.

We are just begining...

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I don't recall Tisch giving an exact time limit other than to say it should be a short solo. My daughter's away till Saturday and I can't reach her by phone to ask. So I'll double-check with her then. But I had read the audition sheet and I don't recall it being specific.


They run two auditions each weekend for two or three months. You send in a dance resume in advance. I don't know if they select from among those or if everyone who sends in a resume is invited to audition. Because there were at least 20 - 25 in her audition, and they asked 10 of them to stay and do their solos (I made a mistake in my previous post-it was 10 dancers in TOTAL that were asked to stay), that's a lot of solos and interviews to do each audition day so they really do want the dances to be short. Daughter's variation can't be more than 2 minutes, if even that.


Yes, Tisch IS slanted more towards modern but they do want the well-trained dancer. Do a search on the NYTimes for a review of their student performance this spring - they were praised for their excellent training.


My daughter had decided that when she goes to college, it'll be for another area of study entirely but she wanted the school to also have a dance major or minor so she could stay in shape. She found out the minors were minor indeed. :) Most of her school choices met her other criteria of having a strong ballet school in the nearby community. She knew she wouldn't be able to get what she needs dance-wise at any of her college possibilities, except for Tisch. And she knew that at Tisch, she wouldn't be able to take on the academic workload she wanted - they were very clear about that.


She didn't apply to any other college dance programs per se. She'd applied to Tisch more as a safety school should she change her mind about what she was looking for in the time between college applications and spring acceptances. She wanted to be sure she'd included one complete dance program in her mix of schools. The hefty price tag ($43,000) of the Tisch program would also have been a factor. While she was given a very decent financial aid package, it wasn't enough. Another school gave her full merit scholarship for 4 years and that settled that. She knew at that point which school she'd be attending if in fact she went to college next year.


I posted on another thread last summer about visiting colleges. There were some excellent posts by other folks about the process and about various schools in particular.


If you're not looking for strictly dance in college but want dance to be a big part of your experience, I suggest you apply my daughter's litmus test for schools: When you arrive at the college for the tour, take a look at where the dance building is. As daughter puts it, "Look for the athletic building. It'll be really big and state-of-the-art, probably new. Then look behind it. Or across the street. See that little shack? That's the dance building." Run, run, as fast as you can, away from those schools :D


But if you find a school where the dance building is front and center, proudly displayed on the campus, you'll know that they mean it when they say dance is a MAJOR at their school. Check to see if there's a Pilates room, with equipment, not just mats. Do they have a dance PT? A Pilates-trained instructor? How many hours are they hired for? That answer, besides whatever actual dance classes they hold, will show you the school's commitment to the dance program. Know that most of the students will be taking modern dance.


As far as auditioning for these sorts of schools, most of them didn't require anything special other than sending a resume. Only one of the schools, besides Duke, on my daughter's list required a dance audition. They accepted a video audition from her. Duke, which has a dance minor-NOT a major, requested a video as well. Daughter didn't get into Duke. Many of you know that it had been her top choice last summer because of the academics. We visited the campus; she loved it. The dance building is, however, not a featured part of the campus and the program IS strictly a minor program. There's no ballet school really close where a dancer could supplement training so in the end, it was probably a good thing that she wasn't accepted there.


Obviously if you're looking at schools with a featured dance program, among them Tisch, Julliard, University of Indiana, Butler, Gaucher, SUNY Purchase, etc.), you will be required to go through an audition process.


Re college programs in general, with the exception of one, my daughter didn't get into the schools she didn't visit in advance or interview for. A couple were considered her "safety schools": they wait-listed her. I'm certain it was because she hadn't made the effort to investigate them and they knew it. Daughter's college guidance counselor had warned her against not visiting for that very reason. He stated that these schools don't want to spend the effort on students who aren't spending the effort on them. Makes sense.


SMSCoutoure, if you would like specific details about what factors went into my daughter's ultimate decision, you can email me (vagansmom@hotmail.com). I don't want to post some of the very personal data on the boards at this stage, if at all.

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Thanks to both SMSCouture and vagansmom for the excellent question and answers on this topic. I am going through exactly the same thing for my rising senior.


I am hoping that others who have experience with this will also comment on their recent experiences. It is so incredibly helpful.


I am quite anxious about how this coming year will play out...just the challenge of arranging auditions, keeping up with a tough course load, and of course, continued intense dance training makes my head spin. I can only imagine how stressful this must be for the dancers themsemselves!

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Guest SMSCouture

BluebirdMom...Dido for me...I would just like to get through this first weekend of SI. There are times when I feel like I cannot breath from all the stress! Three children feels more like six as they get older and I HATE to make mistakes with all these IMPORTANT decisions. Please let's be in touch after the summer to keep up to date on the topic of college.

Just keep your fingers crossed that your family also enjoys good health as factoring in an unexpected ill parent makes the process even harder. Sometimes we lose site of what is really important in life.

I have one graduating from Berklee College of Music and one off to the University of Pennsylvania in Sept. so it can be done...but it is Hard WORK.

The incredible support I have found here has become is my new place of refuge!

Good Luck!

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Guest SMSCouture


Thank you for all of your time.

I will be in touch.

Please tell your daughter I think she sounds incredibly talented and so very smart and Duke missed out.

Very few kids from the top private schools in our area got into Duke this year especially early decision.

Only one into Tish...I am very impressed!

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Guest samba38

I second everything from Vagansmom -- particularly the importance of visiting to assess if this is the right program and lives up to its advertised promises and to impress admissions people.


On your question about what to expect from a DD's dance studio in preparing for college auditions. This varies widely. Where I live there are four strong schools which take 4 different approaches:

-- One has a senior teacher who devotes herself , in addition to teaching, to prepping kids for college and SI auditions (they rehearse interviews and auditions) Each senior has a conference to help them plan their dance-related future. I don't know what they do about selecting and coaching audition pieces.

-- One, an academy which also offers academics, is totally focused on getting their small number of seniors into companies. When asked about college admissions, they sniffed at the quesiton. (If you don't graduate or get hurt or don't get into a company, you're up the creek academically for college)

-- One had a teacher who choreographed original audition pieces, arranged for videos where needed and advised kids on collge scholarship programs but it was all done privately, at extra expense and not through the school which provided no official college counseling. And that ended when this teacher left town. One other top teacher here writes superb reference letters, one senior teacher never writes letters. In general, college -- or even company placement efforts -- were a matter of individual effort by the students.

-- One new school has a tiny group of seniors who each are counseled and coached for their college auditions All landed their first choices but, to be fair, there are only 4 graduates.

My advice:

Start with the teacher who has the best sense of your child's strengths, weaknesses and needs. Find out how much this person will/can/might do for advising, coaching and choreographing. Remember to play on the teacher's strength. he/She isn't a school guidance counselor visiting colleges to see whether they are all they claim to be.

Advice on choosing schools to visit:

1) DD needs to decide if dance is her major or her minor. Some schools don't have it as a major. Some don't allow non-majors to take dance. Sort by primary interest first.


2) Before visiting a school with a dance program, CALL! We schelpped all over a campus 500 miles from home in the rain only to learn after 3 hours that thier dance major (housed in a crappy basment two studios in the school's oldest gym, a clue right there) was losing funding in the next school year. Wasted trip!


3) If you have any doubt about whether she'll get in academically, get that in the bag first before you spend time/money on an audition. Some schools (Marymount Manhattan)have rolling admission -- answering shortly after you apply on the academic side. That way you know there's a shot when you arrive for the audition.


4)Watch their performance videos and look at the notice boards. Do they say they are 50/50 ballet/modern but do a spring show thats 100% contemporary? That's a message that might attract your DD or repell a kiddo devoted to the pure classics. One college dance director practially spit when she said, "We DON"T do Swan Lake" while a week later, at another school, the director boasted, "We do all the classics in full, in costume."


5)Make sure your kiddo understands that 99% of college dance students do not go into pro companies. (Indiana and SUNY Purchase would be the leading exceptions) They teach, they choreograph. they work backstage. They wind up succeeding in other fields altogether after spending their youth graced by the beauty and discipline of ballet.


Next, on audition prep:


1) Don't overlook modern! Very very few colleges are pure ballet in emphasis. (Indiana, Cincinnati) Most have a 50/50 split with modern and kids who are weak on serious technique-based modern skills (not drop-squat-wiggle choreography a la Las Vegas). Unless your DD is Suzanne Farrell redux, she'll need to look good for that half of the audition, too.


2) Prepare a 90 second-2 minute ballet solo that plays to her best talents. If you can't get something original done, don't choose the exact same Aurora/Giselle/Diana/Swan solo that they'll see 1,000 times. My kid's always been a jumper so she leapt like mad in a lesser-known snipped from LaBayadere for one of her successful auditions. If your best teacher/closest to your DD can't/won't do this on school time, ask if he/she will do it privately. You could spend $500 for choroegraphy and coaching, more if you want a pro-video but we've never done one for colleges or SIs.


Lastly -- on college choice and audition prep -- trust DD's instincts! Lots of non-dance factors have a big influence in finding the right place for a DD.


The top dancer at my DD's current school, with top SIs behind her, dropped ballet two months before the spring demonstration and settled on a top university for academics. Some of the top students in her former studio go to Harvard and Princeton. My kiddo never even trekked to Indiana (no matter how much she loves Violette Verdy, this is a city girl) and thought the excellent Purchase program would require her to live on a campus with all the charm, as my husband put it, of East Berlin. Then she walked away from a staggering scholarship at another beautiful campus, a school highly ranked for academics and dance, because the campus was too tiny for her after 4 years in a tiny high school.



We do know that no matter what she does in September (choices are still ont he table) dance will always be in her heart.

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Samba and Vagansmom,

Thanks so much for your detailed and very informative posts. It is so great to hear all about this from those who have just walked this path :cool: .


I wish both of your dancing daughters the very best. It sounds as if they each have many exciting options. Congratulations to you all!:)

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Thank you all for the information you are sharing. As my daughter enters her junior year discussions of college come up more frenquently. This information is really helpful.


Best of luck to your daughters and their futures!

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Guest novamom

I also have a rising high school Jr. and thank you all for sharing your insights. The next two years for my DD will be challenging to say the least, as it will be for all our dancers at this stage in their lives.

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