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I Bombed My First Summer Program Audition...and Lived to Tell About It

As summer intensive audition season starts up, I've been reminiscing about my own experience as a young dancer—way back in 1993—and how challenging it was to navigate. In fact, I think it's safe to say that my first summer program audition was a complete disaster.

I was almost 16—a little late by some standards—and was still pretty clueless as to how I compared to others outside my hometown. That weighed heavily on my mind as my parents and I made the hour-long drive to Milwaukee. The audition was for a school in Pennsylvania, and as I scanned the big-city studio, my mind slipped into exaggerated teenage self-consciousness. Dancers lined the barres stretching, showing off their flexibility as if doing some sort of war ritual. Many were chatting in groups, wearing trendy warm-up jumpers and donning perfectly shellacked buns. I tried to act like I knew what I was doing, but inside I was a wreck.

The teacher clapped his hands together to begin class. He was fast-paced, no-nonsense and not one for smiles. During pliés, he stopped in front of me with his clipboard as I emerged from a cambré back. He looked me up and down, frowned and kept going. I, of course, freaked out—what did that mean? I still had an entire hour and a half left of class to prove I was still capable, but instead I completely lost my concentration. I just couldn't shake that frown. I forgot combinations and even started with the wrong foot in front a few times in center. By jumps, the adjudicators had stopped watching me altogether. Needless to say, I spent the majority of the ride home trying not to cry.


About two weeks later my mom and I headed to Chicago to try out for a different school. This time, I had an idea of what to expect, and it made a difference. The director was just as intimidating, but I knew I couldn't let my insecurities get the better of me. Whenever the nervous butterflies hit, I made conscious efforts to keep calm by taking deep breaths and giving myself little silent pep talks. And while I still felt invisible among the hundred or so sweaty dancers, I was holding my own. I had no idea if I'd made it afterwards, but I felt a lot better about the overall experience.

By my third summer intensive audition, I was seeing familiar faces from the previous two, which was comforting. My teacher back home had encouraged me to view the audition as a master class, advice that really helped take some of the pressure off. Feeling more relaxed and self-assured allowed me to dance less timidly and smile more freely. Of course, I was still anxious about being evaluated—but it was manageable. And I sensed that this director liked me.

To my great relief, I was accepted to the last two schools. But it probably comes as no surprise that the first one rejected me—and boy, did I feel embarrassed. But here's what that experience taught me: Auditioning takes practice. It forces you out of your comfort zone in the most vulnerable way. I had to learn how to control my anxiety and present myself confidently, even in the face of someone else's doubt. As I grew more acclimated to the process, auditioning became easier (although it never became easy). And rejection, I realized, was something I'd have to learn how to deal with, especially when I became a professional. I'm glad I kept trying, because in the end, that first audition wasn't the be all/end all of my dance career. But it was an excellent education.

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Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

2020 Stars of the Corps: 10 Dancers Making Strides In and Out of the Spotlight

The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!

Dara Holmes, Joffrey Ballet

A male dancer catches a female dancer in his right arm as she wraps her left arm around his shoulder and executes a high arabesque on pointe. Both wear white costumes and dance in front of a blue backdrop onstage.

Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams

Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Wanyue Qiao, American Ballet Theatre

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Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Houston Ballet

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Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Leah McFadden, Colorado Ballet

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Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote

Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Maria Coelho, Tulsa Ballet

Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song

Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Alexander Reneff-Olson, San Francisco Ballet

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Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

India Bradley, New York City Ballet

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India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Bella Ureta, Cincinnati Ballet

Wearing a white dress with pink corset, Bella Ureta does a first arabesque on pointe in front of an onstage stone wall.

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Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Alejándro Gonzales, Oklahoma City Ballet

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Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.

Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet

Nina Fernandes, Miami City Ballet

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Quinn Wharton

BCBG blazer: "It has some shoulder pads and a really cool pattern," says Generosa. "It reminds me of my mom and '80s fashion."

Zara blouse: She incorporate neutrals, like this white satin button-up, to balance bright pops of colors.

Angelica Generosa looks off to her right in front of a glass-windowed building. She wears a blue blazer, white blouse, gray jeans and carries a small green handbag.

Quinn Wharton

Madewell jeans: Comfort is a major factor for Generosa, who gets her fashion inspiration from her mom, friends and people she comes across day to day.

Chloé bag: "I tend to have smaller purses because I'm quite small. Bigger bags overwhelm me sometimes—unless it's my dance bag, of course!"

The Details: Studio

Angleica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool leggings and pink pointe shoes, balances in a lunge on pointe with her left leg in front, facing a wall of windows.

Quinn Wharton

Label Dancewear leotard: "This was designed by my good friend Elizabeth Murphy, a principal dancer here at PNB. Her leotards always fit me really well."

Mirella leggings: "I get cold easily," says Generosa, who wears leggings and vests to stay warm throughout the day.

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool tights and pink pointe shoes, jumps and crosses her right foot over her left shin while lifting her arms up to the right.

Quinn Wharton

Freed of London pointe shoes: "When sewing them, I crisscross my elastics and use an elasticized ribbon from Body Wrappers," which helps alleviate Achilles tendon issues, she says. She then trims the satin off of the tip of the shoe. "Then I bend the shank a bit to loosen it up and cut a bit off where my arch is."

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This New "Nutcracker" Competition Wants Your Dance Studio to be Part of a Virtual Collaboration

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