Before ever trying out for a company, most advanced ballet students already feel like audition pros. Through the summer intensive experience, they learn how to manage nerves, which leotard they look best in and they may even have a lucky number they vie for in line. But professional open calls demand far more than student auditions.

For starters, they’re less predictable, since they’re designed to quickly identify and weed out dancers who aren’t the type the company is looking for. Directors might ask you to learn repertoire on the spot, perform a contemporary variation or improvise. You might be given partnering work with a stranger. Combinations are rarely demonstrated twice so the staff can evaluate your ability to pick up choreography quickly. Most importantly, while a summer program might accept 150 people, a company may only have one available contract. “Company auditions are far more competitive,” says Katherine Minor, a dancer in her first year at The Joffrey Ballet. “The caliber of dance is much higher.”   

Don’t Get Lost
Open auditions aren’t referred to as “cattle calls” for nothing. Many newcomers are startled by how many dancers turn up. Companies might split the crowd into groups and hold multiple auditions consecutively, or give a series of 30-minute barres to one group at a time, then invite the dancers they’re interested in to a callback at the end of the day. Some companies, such as Tulsa Ballet, hold invitation-only auditions, which require dancers to submit a video and resumé before being allowed to audition. Often, dancers are simply piled into the studio with little space to move until a series of cuts creates more room.

Arrive prepared. “After you fill out an application, you have to stand in line for a while to hand it in with your photos and resumé,” says Arielle Espie, a dancer with Kansas City Ballet. “So there’s not a lot of time to warm up, either before you turn it in or after.” For her KCB audition, Espie showed up two hours early to find the registration area already packed. She recommends warming up as much as possible before you get there. 

During crowded summer intensive auditions, schools will ensure they see each dancer by assigning lines for center and having them rotate. You’re unlikely to have such a luxury in a company audition. If you want to be seen, you need to be proactive: Put yourself in a prime space and group, and dance with a strong, confident stage presence.
Don’t Let a Cut Dig Too Deep
The process of cutting dancers is one of the most profound differences. Cuts usually occur in center, but can happen as early as the first few combinations at barre. Try not to take cuts personally. Espie has seen every girl over 5'7" immediately cut, or all of the SAB students cut because the company wanted a Vaganova-trained dancer. Being asked to leave doesn’t mean you lack talent; it just means you don’t fit the parameters that the company is looking for right now.

Dress for Success
“Present yourself to show the longest, leanest, loveliest look possible,” says Judy Jacob, who runs auditions for Richmond Ballet. The worst styling mistake she sees is when dancers visually chop up their body: “They have their tights on the outside of their leotard, they have a skirt, and their tights are rolled up or cut off, so when we look at them from a distance they’re in five sections.” The effect is a wider, shorter line.

Find a leotard in a style that flatters your shape, and wear pink tights (under your leotard and over your feet). While your hair doesn’t necessarily have to be in a classical bun, it should be tight and neat without any flyaways. “Whatever you do, don’t wear your junk!” insists Jacob.  

Be a Dancer, Not a Student
As a dedicated student, you’ve been drilled repeatedly on proper technique. But companies aren’t looking for students to train; they’re looking for artists who can captivate an audience. They want more than technical perfection. “Don’t just take a class in your auditions,” advises Espie. “Perform.” —Kathleen McGuire

Vying For Varna
The list of past prizewinners from the Varna International Ballet Competition reads like a who’s who of ballet today: Ivan Vasiliev, Lauren Cuthbertson and Daniil Simkin, just for starters. But those big names shouldn’t scare you off–the 100 candidates who compete in the first round are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis.
Dates: July 15–30, 2012
Application Deadline: March 31
Held: Every other year
Fee: 125 euros
First Round: One classical pas de deux or two variations from a pre-determined list
Second Round: A different classical pas de deux or two variations choreographed before the year 1900, plus a contemporary piece choreographed after 2006
Third Round: Another classical pas de deux or two variations choreographed before the year 2000, plus a contemporary piece choreographed after 2001
Awards: A first, second and third place are named in the senior (ages 20–26) and junior (ages 15–19) categories for men and women. There is a Varna Grand Prix for seniors, a Special Distinction for juniors and an IBC Laureate for each age group. Prizes come with up to 6,000 euros.
Extra: Varna’s International Summer Ballet Academy offers daily classes in ballet, character, jazz and Afro-Cuban.

Mid-Winter Warm-Up
Can’t wait for summer intensive season? You don’t have to. Check out Orlando Ballet School’s two-day winter intensive on February 11 and 12. The weekend includes more than five hours of master classes, an Orlando Ballet performance, plus special summer intensive and Orlando Ballet II audition classes with OBS director Dierdre Miles Burger. The entire program costs $200. There’s no audition required—simply register at

Launch Your Career   
Ready your career for takeoff with Northwest Dance Project’s LAUNCH program. The two-week workshop gives 30 dancers ages 18 and up prime exposure to artistic directors and choreographers, such as Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s Benoit-Swan Pouffer, Washington Ballet’s Septime Webre and Nashville Ballet’s Paul Vasterling. Each director teaches repertoire, improvisation and/or partnering—whatever they’d like to see out of potential recruits. The dancers also learn new work by the two winners of NWDP’s annual Pretty Creatives choreographic competition.

“If you’re looking for a job, LAUNCH is a great way to open your eyes to an array of choreographers and directors,” says Ching Ching Wong, who landed a contract with NWDP after attending LAUNCH in 2010. She wasn’t the only one to walk away with a job that year: A few of her classmates were invited to join Nevada Ballet and others were offered contracts with Nashville Ballet. The 2012 program will take place July 9–21 at NWDP’s studio in Portland, Oregon. See for audition information.

DRA’s Student Competition
Over the past 20 years, Dancers Responding to AIDS has helped thousands of performers living with HIV/AIDS. Now the organization is also supporting aspiring young dancers through Dancin’ Downtown, a performance and choreography competition that doubles as a fundraiser.
Date: April 2, 2012
Application Deadline: February 2
Location: New York City’s Joyce Theater
Selection Process: A panel of dance professionals chooses 20 group pieces from DVD submissions.
Awards: Best Performance and Best Choreography, plus scholarships to Steps on Broadway, Complexions and Ballet Hispanico summer intensives. In addition, two pieces are selected for Central Park SummerStage performances in August.

LADP's Rachelle Rafailedes leading a workout. Photo by Studio 6, Courtesy Sunshine Sachs.

If your usual workouts are feeling stale, Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project might be able to help. The contemporary ballet troupe recently launched an online exercise platform that puts its stars in your living room.

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Video still by Nel Shelby Productions, Courtesy Dancio.

"What if you could learn from the world's best dance teachers in your living room?" This is the question that Dancio poses on their website. Dancio is a new startup that offers full length videos of ballet classes taught by master teachers. As founder Caitlin Trainor puts it, "these superstar teachers can be available to students everywhere for the cost of a cup of coffee."

For Trainor, a choreographer and the artistic director of Trainor Dance, the idea for Dancio came from a sense of frustration relatable to many dancers; feeling like they need to warm up properly before rehearsals, but not always having the time, energy or funds to get to dance class. One day while searching the internet for a quick online class, Trainor was shocked to not be able to find anything that, as she puts it, "hit the mark in terms of relevance and quality. I thought to myself, how does this not exist?" she says. "We have the Daily Burn for Fitness, YogaGlo for yogis, Netflix for entertainment and nothing for dancers! But then I thought, I can make this!" And thus, Dancio (the name is a combination of dance and video), was born.

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New York City Ballet in "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Lincoln Center.

Nutcracker season is upon us, with productions popping up in on stages in big cities and small towns around the country. But this year you can catch New York City Ballet's famous version on the silver screen, too. Lincoln Center at the Movies and Screen Vision Media are presenting a limited engagement of NYCB's George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at select cinemas nationwide starting December 2. It stars Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop and Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz as the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier.

While nothing beats seeing a live performance (the company's theatrical Nutcracker run opens Friday), the big screen will no doubt magnify some of this production's most breathtaking effects: the Christmas tree that grows to an impressive 40 feet, Marie's magical spinning bed, and the stunning, swirling snow scene. Click here to find a participating movie theater near you—then, go grab some popcorn.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet rehearsing for "The Sleeping Beauty" for the 2017/18 season. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

Today the Pennsylvania Ballet's board of trustees announced the appointment of Shelly Power as its new executive director. Having been involved in the five-month international search, company artistic director Angel Corella said in a statement released by PAB that he's "certain Shelly is the best candidate to lead the administrative team that supports the artistic vision of the company." Power's official transition will begin in February. This news comes at the end of a few years of turmoil and turnover at PAB, including the departure of former executive director David Gray in June.

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Pointe Stars
Tiler Peck with Andrew Veyette in "Allegro Brillante." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet.

"I was particularly excited when I saw my name on casting for Allegro Brillante in 2009," remembers principal dancer Tiler Peck. "Balanchine had said Allegro was, 'everything I know about classical ballet in 13 minutes,' and of course that terrified me." To calm her fear, Peck followed her regular process for debuts: begin by going back to the original performers to get an idea of the quality and feeling of the ballet and ballerina. "It is never to imitate, but rather to surround myself with as much knowledge from the past as I can so that I can find my own way," says Peck.

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT has also offered sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast in the past.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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