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Click here to send it to Suzanne Farrell Ballet dancer Amy Brandt.

What is most important to concentrate on in an audition? I get so nervous and end up thinking about a million things at once. Help! —Jalnessa
Auditions are nerve-racking. They require a keen internal focus—but that’s hard to come by when you’re worrying about what the director is looking for, whether you wore the right leotard, if your turnout is good enough. Keep it simple: Concentrate on learning the combinations. Pay close attention to any details that the director mentions, such as a certain musicality or port de bras. Then, add your own extra oomph (épaulement, presence, a warm smile) to get noticed. You want to exude confidence no matter how nervous you feel.

Try not to get distracted by the other dancers—comparing yourself to Number 54 and her 185-degree penchée will only rattle your self-assurance. In fact, I make it a point to review the combination while other groups are dancing for this very reason. And while directors may seem intimidating, don’t take it personally. They’re looking for something very specific and only have a few hours to evaluate hundreds of dancers. Don’t torture yourself by trying to figure out who they’re interested in—just concentrate on your own performance.

Lately I’ve been almost too tired to dance. I feel like I need a break every other week. How can I get over this slump? —Sarah

Several factors could be contributing to your fatigue. First, look at your lifestyle. Our bodies are our instruments, so taking care of them needs to be a priority. This means getting a full night’s sleep and making sure you have at least one day off each week to rest. Evaluate your eating habits as well. Because we exercise so much, we need to refuel our bodies every two to three hours—otherwise they go into starvation mode and start breaking down muscle tissue. Dehydration also causes fatigue. Some experts, such as Emily C. Harrison, MS, RD, LD, a dietitian at the Centre for Dance Nutrition in Atlanta, recommend drinking 100 oz. (13 cups) of water a day. Try not to perk yourself up by guzzling caffeinated beverages or energy shots. “Those dehydrate you over time and only make you more tired down the road,” Harrison says.

Take an honest look at your schedule, too. Are you overtraining, or taking on too many responsibilities (dance, school, a part-time job)? Consider cutting back. I recently took a break from college because I was too overwhelmed. It made a huge difference, and now I’m recharged and ready to go back. Sometimes we want to do it all—but we’re human, not superhuman.

Fatigue can also be a symptom of deeper health problems such as anemia, thyroid conditions, even depression. If you make healthy lifestyle changes and still feel exhausted, talk to your doctor.

I have a tendency to tuck my pelvis during développé and grand battement to the front. Can you help me break this habit? —Lauren
I’m sometimes guilty of this, too. If you’re like me, you’re tucking under to gain a few more inches of leg height—but squashing your torso as a result. Although high legs are great, it’s more important to be properly placed.

For starters, you need a rock-solid supporting leg. Make sure that leg is boring into the ground and your external rotator muscles (where the hamstrings meet the buttocks) are engaged so that you don’t sit back in the working hip. That way you’ll have less wiggle room to distort your pelvis.

As for your working leg, when you reach the height where you normally want to tuck, think of lengthening your back—even leaning back a smidge—instead. If you start tucking, lower your leg to a level where you can maintain a long back. This is your starting point. Your extension will improve over time as you gain strength while holding the proper position.

I find it’s easier to feel the correct placement in attitude devant—after all, we go through attitude before extending our leg to développé. Take passé and try to maintain a lengthened back as you open to attitude. With that feeling still fresh in your memory, try a full développé at 90 degrees. Then, go for higher—but only to the point where you can do so without tucking.

You can also try practicing développé and grand battement while lying on the floor. Maintain a neutral pelvis—you should feel space under your lower back while keeping your rib cage connected to the ground. You’ll know if you’re tucking if you feel your lower back flatten into the floor as you lift your leg.

Want more Amy?
Read her February/March web exclusive here.

Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.


Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Lopez in Circus Polka. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."

But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

Keep reading at dancemagazine.com.


Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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