Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

What Do School Directors Look For At A Summer Intensive Audition?

We sat down with James K. Payne, School Director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet, to hear his thoughts about students auditioning for summer intensives this winter. We think you'll be very interested in what he has to say.



Q: Auditions can be packed with students…what catches your eye during an audition?

A: When you have a large audition, something as simple as a colored bow around a lady's bun, or a different colored belt around a gentleman's waist, can catch my attention. Otherwise, audition attire should be very basic. For ladies, this means hair in a clean bun, tights, and a solid color leotard -- and for men, I would simply recommend solid color tights and a solid color t-shirt. The audition panel wants to see your facility, line, and how you work - not be guessing what's happening underneath a bunch of warmups. A smile doesn't hurt either! Students who seem to enjoy dancing tend to draw my attention before anything else.


Q: So, we've talked about what makes students stand out in a positive way, but is there anything a student can do to catch your eye in a negative way?

A: Yes, definitely. Students who come to an audition wearing a lot of "junk" (like warm-ups, skirts, and leotards with too many embellishments to name a few), make me wonder a couple of things: what are they trying to hide and are they really a serious student? In my eyes, you always want to be honest and put your best foot forward, and by covering yourself up neither one of these is achieved.


Q: What traits make you want to invite a dancer to SPB's Summer Intensive?

A: Good question. Attentiveness and positivity are key. I look for students who are happy, eager to take class, are present in each moment, and come to the audition organized and put together. Students must know the combinations given throughout class, and properly execute them while showing enjoyment in doing so. Honestly, I don't want to see you on your best day or your worst day. I want to see how you are on a normal day – how you work all the time. Part of choosing a student is not just about how good they are technically or artistically, but that they fit our program. We want to know we can help students during our five-week program, which means the students attending need to show a willingness to work with us and not feel as though they are done learning. One last note. Auditions should be treated as a normal class, with proper classroom etiquette displayed throughout.


Q: How do you go about awarding scholarships?

A: Scholarships are awarded based on potential. If I see potential in a student, technically and artistically, I'll want to work with them. Having said this, the student must also demonstrate that they want to work with me. Being attentive, respectful, and having an open mind are wonderful ways to show me you care and are eager to put in the hard work required of a dancer.


Q: You can tell a lot about a student's character during an audition. What types of students are you looking for at SPB?

A: Students with a strong work ethic first and foremost! We want dancers who want to continue growing, learning, and working. No matter how old you are, how many classes you have taken, or how many performances you have done, a dancer is never what I call "finished". There is always more room to grow. I also want to emphasize how important it is to be open to new ideas. It is vital that students selected to join The School are open-minded, willing to make changes, apply corrections, and above all, be respectful of others while doing so. Whether a correction is being given to you, or a dancer across the room, you must always be listening and engaged in what the teacher is saying. If students are not showing respect for each other during an audition, they will not be invited to the summer or year-round program at SPB.


Q: If a student cannot make an open audition, and must send a video instead, what should be included?

A: Each school will have their own individual requirements. I highly recommend that if it is at all possible to make an open audition, make every effort to be there. There is no better way to show a school that you want to attend their program then by being there in person. We'll of course look at every video that comes our way, as we know it is difficult to attend if there is not an audition close to you, however it carries a great deal of weight when you make the effort to attend in person!


A note from Mr. Payne:

Students, I hope this has been helpful for you! One last thought I would like to share with you, is that when you are going to be spending the summer away from your friends and family, you not only need to look at the training you will be receiving, but also the city you will be living in. If you are happy outside the studio, you'll be much more willing to work hard when you are in the studio. Good luck with audition season; I hope to meet many of you this winter!


See more at: http://paballet.org/school/summer-programs/

Related Articles From Your Site
Related Articles Around the Web

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

The Anatomy of Arabesque: Why Placement and Turnout Are Key to Achieving This Crucial Position

Audition for any school or company, and they'll likely ask for a photo in arabesque. The position not only reveals a great deal about a dancer's ability, but it is also a fundamental building block for more advanced movements, like penché or arabesque turn. Beyond technique, it can be the epitome of grace and elegance onstage, creating unforgettable images—just try to imagine Swan Lake or Balanchine's Serenade without an arabesque.

Yet many dancers are unsatisfied with their arabesque lines, and students frequently ask how to improve their extensions. (Social media posts of dancers with extreme flexibility don't help!) In an attempt to lift the back leg higher, dancers may sacrifice placement and unknowingly distort their position in the process. How can you improve the height of your back leg while maintaining proper placement and turnout? We talked to a few experts to better understand the science behind this step.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Coppélia" (1976)

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov share the unique experience of having danced at both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet during their careers. The two overlapped at ABT in the mid-'70s, where they developed one of the best-known partnerships in ballet. They were both celebrated for their dynamism onstage; however, in this 1976 clip of the pas de deux from Coppélia, Kirkland and Baryshnikov prove they are also masters of control.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks