When Every Phrase Counts

Photography by Kyle Froman

 

Pennsylvania Ballet holds only one audition each year. Every spring, hundreds of dancers crowd into a studio at New York’s School of American Ballet to be considered by artistic director Roy Kaiser and his team. Many come from training programs outside the city. This past March, more than 250 dancers auditioned for the company.

Kaiser looks for qualities that reflect the company’s Balanchine focus. “Above all, I want dancers who are interesting musically,” he says. “I watch how they phrase a combination.” The audition follows a standard class format. “Everyone does barre and at least one combination in the center before we start winnowing,” says Kaiser. He cautions that technique alone will not be enough to get dancers to the final round. “Dancers need to be aware of how they present themselves from the moment they show up,” he says. “There’s a brief time to get our attention. The way a dancer does pliés and tendus, her focus on the combinations, all counts. Dancers in a company have to assimilate material quickly. It’s part of the reality of being a professional.”

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