The schedule at most summer intensive auditions is simple: Show up early, get a number, warm up, take a class and do your best. Merde!
But trying out for a conservatory or Bachelor of Fine Arts program is a different ball game: Ballet class is only the first step of many. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancer Craig Black auditioned for seven college dance programs while finishing high school. With a strong classical background, he was confident in the ballet classes. “But with any modern, I felt in over my head,” he says. “It got better as I kept auditioning, but the first couple were pretty rough.”

The ballet world has changed, and colleges want students who are willing to adapt to its new demands. “Most choreographers these days rely on dancers for creative input, and they’re looking for people who enjoy that collaborative interchange,” says Cherylyn Lavagnino, dance department chair at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Consequently, even the most ballet-focused undergraduate programs now ask dancers to improvise, speak onstage and perform contemporary dance. Although every college is different, they’re all looking for the same thing: smart artists in the making.

Study the School
“The first step is to know what kind of program you’re auditioning for,” says Butler University dance department chair Larry A. Attaway. Is it strictly academic, with dance as an emphasis? Is it conservatory study, mostly in the studio? What kind of shoes will you be wearing?

“Butler’s focus is classical ballet,” he explains, “and we’re a conservatory-type program inside a liberal-arts university.” The audition consists of two ballet classes; the first is only for new applicants, the second is with current Butler students. (Nearly all programs post detailed admissions requirements on their websites, and don’t be afraid to ask questions by phone or email.)

At Tisch, prospective students spend more time away from the barre since the school wants high-level proficiency in both ballet and contemporary techniques. “We’re looking for movement sensibility and command of vocabulary in each,” says Lavagnino. Strong skills in a style such as Cunningham or Graham are useful. After a ballet class and contemporary combinations, selected students are interviewed and asked to perform short solos. Hopefuls must also pass NYU’s common application.

At the University of Utah, ballet department professor Richard Wacko sees a lot of dancers simply looking for great training: “They’re not necessarily thinking about academics. They’re thinking it’s like a ballet academy. Well, that’s problem number one.” To get into Utah’s ballet program, students need at least 860 on their SATs (or an ACT composite 18 or higher), and at least a 2.6 GPA. “Sometimes we’ll want to take a student,” says Wacko, “but no matter how great they are in the studio we just can’t accept them academically.”

The Juilliard School likewise attracts students who just want to dance, dance, dance — and since it’s a conservatory, they do a lot of it. Its audition has five components with four cuts in between. Pointe work isn’t required, but solos are, plus phrasework, an in-person interview with faculty and an essay on one of three subjects.

Black says that learning choreography on the spot was an especially difficult part of his audition for Juilliard, from which he graduated in 2011. “That’s where they see how quickly you learn, how detail-oriented you are, what your musicality is like,” he says. “It’s also scary because you don’t know what they’re going to teach you.”

Tell Your Story
After ballet and modern classes at Purchase College, State University of New York, select students are invited to share a 90-second solo. But, as at many schools, first they’ll have to answer some questions during a brief chat. “We want to see if students are articulate, if they express themselves well verbally,” says Wallie Wolfgruber, director of Purchase’s Conservatory of Dance, which emphasizes both technique and composition. A written statement of intent, less than one page, is also part of the application. “To have a career in dance, you need to be able to talk about your art form,” she emphasizes. “You need to know what’s going on in the field. You can’t ‘just dance’ anymore.”

Even at The Boston Conservatory, where students focus primarily on performance, dance division director Cathy Young confirms that your words are more important than ever before: “What are you thinking about? Why do you want to be in this field? Those things are as important as what’s happening physically.” Young advises auditioners to approach their interviews not solely looking to explain what they’ve already done, but also to show how receptive they are to growing artistically and absorbing new information. An audition is competitive by nature, she admits, “but try not to think about it that way—think of it in terms of how ready you are to develop yourself to the fullest extent that you can.”

Know Yourself—and Don’t Be Afraid to Show It
While Boston applicants are taking a ballet class, a modern class and performing a short solo, Young asks herself two questions: “Is there a spark there? Do we get a sense of who this person is besides someone who’s simply doing the steps? To me, those are what make a great performing artist. We’re not looking for cookie-cutter dancers.”

The more things you’ve tried, even just once, the more evident your unique point of view as a future artist will be. Black offers this advice for ballet dancers considering college: “Prepare as much as you can. Work with different teachers and choreographers. You’ll never know exactly what each college is looking for, but you can be as open and versatile as possible in the way you dance, your training and your mindset.”



Body Boot Camp
This fall, step out of your comfort zone and into a lateral T. Renowned Horton instructor Kat Worthington is offering a Horton technique workshop at the Alonzo King LINES Dance Center in San Francisco. Horton is one of the most technically demanding styles of modern dance—and one of the best for ballet dancers. Its focus on extensions and working in parallel challenges your balance, coordination and strength. Worthington, who has seen Horton advance the technique of many ballet dancers describes it as “boot camp to strengthen your body and stretch it out.”
Dates: November 3­–December 15 (Saturdays from 1:15–2:45 p.m.)
Location: Alonzo King LINES Dance Center, San Francisco, CA
Tuition: $100 special until October 20
Website: dancecenter.linesballet.org/workshops


Southern Gem

Few people would think of Tennessee as a “dance hub.” But each fall, the Tennessee Dance Festival brings in top instructors from around the country for a weekend of master classes. Faculty include Ballet San Jose artistic consultant Wes Chapman, former American Ballet Theatre soloist Shawn Black and former Atlanta Ballet dancer Anne Burton Avery. The program also offers a student choreography showcase and an audition for summer study scholarships of $500 that dancers can put toward the school of their choice.
Dates: October 19–21
Registration Deadline: October 15
Requirements: Dancers must be at least 12 years old and training at an intermediate or advanced level.
Classes: Ballet, modern, jazz, tap, lyrical, hip hop, belly dance, African dance, composition, improvisation, aerial, Pilates, yoga, kinesiology
Location: Chattanooga, TN










































Website: tennesseedance.org/tennessee-dancefestival.html


Ballet Goes Digital
The iTunes store is quickly filling up with great ballet apps (including Pointe’s!). One of the best for students is “Ballet is Fun.” It might have a pretty uninspired name, but don’t be fooled—the app has 325 high-definition videos that are full of tips for both beginner and advanced dancers. Former American Ballet Theatre, Australian Ballet, Houston Ballet and New York City Ballet members offer demonstrations that reveal training secrets and help you work on your technique. You can create custom playlists of videos you like, review tricky steps in slow motion and listen to audio explanations. Download it to your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or Apple TV for $14.99.


Technique Tip
“When I was at the School of American Ballet, Suki Schorer knew I was dating Seth Orza (now my husband). To get the curve that the head should make in écarté, she’d tell me to pretend that Seth was leaning in to kiss my cheek. I would bend my neck, extend my cheek and turn a deep shade of pink. Needless to say, the image has stuck with me all these years!” —Sarah Ricard Orza, Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist










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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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Training
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Early in Carrie Imler's 22-year career with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was excited to be cast in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments. But immediately following dress rehearsal, she was removed from her role in "Melancholic." "My artistic director at the time pulled me aside and said, 'We can't put you out there,' " she remembers. "My weight fluctuated my entire career. Just when I felt like I had figured it out, I would gain it back and have to start all over again." Despite becoming one of PNB's most celebrated principal dancers, Imler never shook the fear of what might happen when a leotard ballet was in the repertoire.

Ballet prides itself on high standards, and the classical ballet physique is not the least of those expectations. Fear of the "fat talk" still lurks in studios, but, as Imler points out, weight is a challenge that many dancers face, while others may struggle with the arches of their feet or turnout. If you are confronted about your weight, know that many talented dancers have been there. Having "the talk" doesn't mean you can't become a professional, but if you take a mindful approach to the conversation, it will show your maturity and ultimately your ability to navigate a career.

Has Something Changed?

If your teacher or director has approached you about your weight, you're likely left feeling emotional, vulnerable and overwhelmed. Once you have a chance to think clearly, ask yourself what factors, like puberty, may be contributing to changes in your body. Nadine Kaslow, resident psychologist at Atlanta Ballet, says, "There is this huge focus on weight and body at a time when even non-dancers are struggling with body issues and everything else that is happening as an adolescent."

External factors often play a role as well. PNB's consulting nutritionist, Peggy Swistak, says that she often sees dancers struggle with weight early in the season as they adjust to living on their own and sharing a kitchen with a roommate. "One may have really bad eating habits and doesn't have to watch her weight at all, and the other is gaining weight. There is a conflict in managing their food together," she says. Ballet Memphis ballet master Brian McSween adds that financial stress can create barriers for eating nutritiously. "The one-dollar piece of pizza costs a lot less than eating organic," he says. "You have to make the best choices possible with what you have." Other changes, like a new schedule, layoffs or even emotional setbacks, will present the need to reevaluate your food habits and exercise routines throughout your career.

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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.

Summer Study Advice
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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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Career
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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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Videos

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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