When Lilliana Hagerman auditioned for Orlando Ballet School's summer intensive, she felt overwhelmingly intimidated. “The other dancers were all so beautiful," remembers Hagerman, now a dancer with Kansas City Ballet. “I thought that if I made one mistake it would be over." Hagerman did make a mistake: She slipped and fell during grand allégro. “I got back up and I smiled," she says. To her relief, the teacher smiled back.

Summer intensive auditions give you only a few moments to make a good impression—often while crammed into a crowded room, after traveling distances in the car and with little time or space to warm up. It's hard not to obsess over a small mistake or feel discouraged if you're put on the intensive's waitlist afterwards. But according to school directors, many of your fears are overreactions. Here are a few of the most common audition misconceptions, along with what's really going on inside the teachers' heads.


Every mistake counts against me.

Not so. Ballet Austin Academy director Bill Piner notes that he doesn't judge auditioning students with a simple checklist. (Double pirouette? Check. Leg above 90 degrees? Check.) While he is interested in a dancer's technical abilities, he is also looking at their potential. “We like to see how they approach their classwork," he says. “How thoughtful are they? How quickly are they able to take information and corrections and apply them?"

After Hagerman fell in her audition in Orlando, she was still accepted. She attended the summer program for several years, eventually becoming an Orlando Ballet trainee, second-company member and then a full-company member before accepting her contract with Kansas City Ballet. For her, the smile she exchanged with the teacher as she got up was key. “How you recover from a mistake is very important," she says. “If you get back up and just keep pushing forward, they see that." Even professional dancers at the height of their careers make mistakes. How you handle them is as crucial as good technique and facility.

If I ask a question, I'll look stupid.

“It is always okay to ask a question, as long as it is relevant to the combination that we are doing," says Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School co-director Marjorie Grundvig. “We would rather you ask a question and be secure about what you are going to do than feel insecure." The key here is that your question be applicable, necessary and thoughtful. Make sure that the auditioner is in fact finished setting the combination before you ask, and only ask a question about the specific combination you are working on.

Hagerman points out that in company class she often skips asking a question if she isn't in the first group and easily gets the answer by watching the dancers before her to avoid slowing the class down. In an audition, however, your number may require you to dance in one of the first groups. In that case, it is absolutely better to ask than make a mistake. “You should feel comfortable doing that because if one person has a question about it, then usually others do, too," says Piner. Be specific. Instead of asking the teacher to show the whole combination again, ask for clarification on the specific arm you are confused about.

The teacher wasn't looking at me, so I'm not getting in.

Auditions can have a hundred or more participants depending on the city. The audition staff has the very daunting task of assessing every single one of those dancers. “Sometimes I will go in and see some really strong dancers and I know that they would do well here," says Piner. “So I don't necessarily need to continue watching them. I need to make sure that I am spending more time on the students that are a little more borderline." Don't waste your energy trying to interpret what the teacher is thinking. Focus completely on doing your best work.

Being wait-listed means they don't really want me.

“When someone is wait-listed it means that we can only accept so many people into the program," says Grundvig. “It doesn't mean that we don't like you. It just means that right now we have to wait and see." Piner also explains that who lands on the waitlist varies dramatically from year to year depending on how many other dancers have auditioned and their level of talent. It can be harder to get into a school one year than it was the summer before. Equally important, understand that dancers get into programs off of the waitlist all the time. And once you're in, it really doesn't matter how you got there.

I didn't get in this year, so I'll never get in.

This is absolutely false. “I don't want anyone to ever be discouraged to never audition again," says Piner. When dancers audition, “I look in front of me and I make my judgments based on what I see that day," he says. Hard-working young dancers can improve dramatically over the course of a single year. Piner advises students to enter each audition as if it were the first time they've tried out for that school. What happened last year doesn't matter anymore, even for the people who previously got in. “We don't sit there and reflect back to what we saw before," Grundvig adds.

Don't allow misconceptions to get in the way of a great audition, or deter you from trying again. Focus on what you can control after you pin the number on your leotard—dancing your very best. And if you don't get in, there is always another program, and another year. “Auditioning is a skill like anything else," says Piner. “The more you do it, the better you get at it."

Take Master Classes with Irina Kolpakova

Open World Dance Foundation's five-day winter workshop in New York City is a boot camp in Vaganova technique—and a chance to learn from a student of Agrippina Vaganova herself. The legendary Irina Kolpakova, the former Mariinsky Ballet star who has coached the likes of Maria Kochetkova, Isabella Boylston and Paloma Herrera at American Ballet Theatre, will lead variations classes following two-hour master classes in Vaganova technique and pointework.

“Working with Irina Kolpakova raises your artistry and understanding of classical ballet to a new level," says OWDF co-founder Ekaterina Shchelkanova, citing Kolpakova's focus on musicality and artistic expression in addition to technique. OWDF's midwinter session is a chance to assess your training and reboot your motivation before heading into the spring semester. It takes place February 20–24 and is recommended for students ages 13 and older. All dancers are encouraged to audition, either in person on February 19 or by video submission (deadline February 1) to openworlddancefoundation@gmail.com. For more information visit openworlddancefoundation.com. —Hannah Foster

Technique Tip

“My teacher in Australia, Hilary Kaplan, always said that our feet should look like daggers shooting towards the ground when they leave the floor, especially in allégro. This is a great use of imagery for practicing petit allégro, as the more precise and clean the footwork is, the quicker and clearer the movement will become." —Steven McRae, principal, The Royal Ballet

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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Training
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.

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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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