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Ballet Talk for Dancers

College audition tips?

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Hi! I'm nearly finished with my junior year of high school which means it's time to start my applications and get busy on a solo!


I was a late starter to ballet but I feel as through the past few years I have worked myself up to a decent level for my age, average but not above average, which is pretty good considering I started at 13.


Unfortunately, I've never had any proper audition experience besides my dance studios annual nutcracker due to lack of finances. In fact, I pay for half of my dance tuition! Sad but true.


Anyway, what are some of the things college judges look at? Turnout? Posture? Ability?

Will the fact that my petit allegro is weak affect me?

What type of combinations will I be expected to do?


And in regards to a solo, what type should I do? Should I do a pointe variation? Should I self choreograph? Should I do modern (I'm actually really good at modern, but I prefer ballet hehe)?

The type of solo I was considering is similar to a contemporary ballet kind of piece. I found one on youtube that really peaked my interest (Nikki Jennings- Yellow, a style similar to that I was thinking), but then again I don't necessarily know what college are going to expect of me.



What are some tips you have for college auditions? What can I do to prepare? What are the things I should have perfected? What will I be expected to excel at?



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All college dance programs are different, so the judges of these programs are going to be looking for different things. I'm sure it goes without saying that you'll need to do your research and not go for a program that attracts top ballet students. Although you prefer ballet, you should look for a school that will welcome your abilities in modern, yet allow you to build upon your ballet training.


It's a shame you don't have much audition experience, because you need confidence in what you CAN do FAR more than worrying what you excel at. You need to throw the idea of perfection right out the window because the judges are NOT looking for perfection; they're looking for your ability to perform and to apply corrections. So you'll need to treat the audition class as a performance - where you don't act flustered if you make a mistake and draw attention to it - yet you also welcome corrections.


If you won't take my word for it, here are some quotes from experts I've collected over the years.


From: "Apply Yourself: Prepare a winning application takes reflection, not perfection," Dance Magazine College Guide

“And we don’t need to see students bite off way more than they can chew,” says Carol Shiffman, the dean of the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase. “What we are really looking for is commitment, for full-out movement and the ability to connect completely, viscerally, as a dancer.” The most common mistake of applicants in auditions is overshooting their technical ability.


"Inside the College Audition Game," (Dance Magazine, Sept. 2000)

(Quote from Carol K. Walker)

Purchase's audition panel looks for strong performers.... [snip] "Good training is important, but we want to see what dancers can do with it." On that note, she recommends that in preparing their solos, students choose choreography that's right for their technical level. "Perform something that will allow you to express yourself," she says. "Struggling through a solo Cynthia Gregory worked years to perfect is not a good idea."


(Quote from Dianne Markham, North Carolina School of the Arts)

"We're looking for facility," says Markham, "and I look for eyes that are alive and energized. Some technically raw students are instinctively physical, and you can see that in their solos. A dancer may not have a lot of technique, but if their personality shines through in their choreography, we may want to work with them anyway."


Don't try to copy other dancers, or you may wind up copying their mistakes. Focus on your own connection with your pretend audience. Feel the mood of the music; don't feel the need to smile as though you're at a competition.


Don't do a pointe variation for your solo. Stick to your strengths, even if that means choreographing your own piece. But remember that college dance programs are not "So You Think You Can Dance." Except for those programs that attract competition-style dancers, stick with choreography that would be considered "concert dance."

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