Audition Advice
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Let's face it: Auditioning is expensive. Between a $100-per-night budget-hotel room, a $300 round-trip plane ticket, $40 for food per day and $25 to $40 in audition fees, you may be out hundreds of dollars for one audition—and potentially thousands before you land a contract.

When planning an audition tour, you have to weigh the travel costs with the probability that your investment will result in a job offer. Plus, doing it all on a tight budget may mean trying to perform your best on travel-stiff limbs, fast-food options and little sleep. To help, we asked three professionals for their best advice on planning successful audition tours that don't break the bank.

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Boston Ballet II associate director Peter Stark takes a picture of the group after class. Stark often observes company class when artistic director Mikko Nissinen is teaching. "He'll take notes and give us feedback on what the artistic staff is looking for," says BBII dancer Caroline Buckheit. Photo by Liza Voll.

For the members of Boston Ballet II, Thursday mornings are a special treat. At 9 am, well before the company arrives, they begin their own class with BBII associate director Peter Stark. It's their chance to talk through corrections and dig into the details of their technique—a welcome break from the fast-paced company environment they're just getting used to. "I really enjoy our Thursday class," says Catherine Livingston, 19, who joined BBII last fall. "It's just the 10 of us, and Peter coaches us all individually."

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Ballet Training
Photo by Katherine Bibilouri, via VKIBC Facebook

Some may consider New York's Symphony Space a smaller theater, but big things were happening inside June 6–10. Just under 200 young dancers from all over the world were testing their luck at the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition in hopes of receiving scholarships, medals and company contracts. Their jury? An international panel of company and school directors, chaired by Andris Liepa, that included State Ballet of Georgia's Nina Ananiashvili, Boston Ballet School's Peter Stark, Dance Theatre of Harlem's Virginia Johnson and Cincinnati Ballet' s Victoria Morgan.

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Kyle Froman for Dance Magazine.

As told to Madeline Schrock and Nancy Wozny.

We asked five frequent judges for their advice, their pet peeves and their approach to the scoring process.


Peter Stark

  • Head of the men's program at Boston Ballet School, associate director of Boston Ballet II
  • Valentina Kozlova IBC, Youth America Grand Prix

Igor Burlak, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

I am an advocate for competitions. I know there are people who are against them, but dancers can learn a lot when they're working one-to-one versus in a classroom setting. My mentor Bruce Marks, who was chair of the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson for many years, said, “the process is the prize." It's true. As a coach, I've had dancers win and lose, but I certainly feel like the process of setting a goal and working on something is valuable.

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Arantxa Ochoa corrects a student. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

Growing up, Houston Ballet soloist Allison Miller often heard teachers compare the feeling you have during pirouettes to a corkscrew. But then her teacher, Diane Partington in Ellenton, Florida, offered up a surprising new analogy. Partington suggested Miller imagine a bank tube—a simple cylinder that uses suction to transport a round canister from a customer's car to the teller. Picturing this straight, narrow tube drawing energy up and into itself struck a chord with Miller. “It worked instantly!" she says. “It clicked in my head and it gave my body the right feeling." Even now, if she needs to refocus her pirouettes, Miller thinks of that image. “If I'm having a bad day, it helps me find my center."

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A Prima’s New Role

 

Coming full circle, Chan Hon Goh recently became director of Goh Ballet Academy, the Vancouver school run by her parents where she trained. The former National Ballet of Canada principal will keep the ballet syllabus intact, but has added Pilates, musical theater and choreographic labs. She plans to increase performance opportunities, bringing in international guest choreographers to work with the new Goh Ballet Youth Company and Academy.

 

In addition, Goh has launched the Chan Hon Goh Scholarship Fund, which will award around $100,000 annually. Scholarships are awarded based on talent, need and dancers’ passion for the art form. See www.gohballet.com —Elizabeth Keniston

 

MFA For Ballet Choreography

 

Most MFA dance programs are modern-based, but Butler University wants to create a place to explore contemporary ballet choreography. The school will offer a new master’s of fine arts in dance next fall. “There was a time when Balanchine was brand-new and everything he did was completely different and exciting,” says department chair Michelle Jarvis. “We need to develop people who are going to do that again, and take ballet into the 21st century.”

 

The emphasis will be on ballet choreography, with secondary study in pedagogy. The two-year program is designed for professional dancers with at least five years of experience. Find out more about Butler on DanceU101.com. —Jennifer Stahl

 

 

Fouetté In Florida  


Tampa, Florida, is about to become a ballet-training powerhouse. The five-year-old Patel Conservatory recently announced that Peter Stark, former director of Orlando Ballet School, will be taking over as chair of its dance department.

Functioning as a satellite of Orlando Ballet School since 2006, Patel’s classical ballet program offers intensive training to young dancers, some of whom have gone on to dance with such companies as ABT, Boston Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Now, the conserva­tory’s ballet program will function as its own entity, with Stark at its head.

 

Stark will be a boon to the rapidly emerging school. During his time at OBS, he increased the budget fivefold and produced several top dancers. He’s hoping to see the Patel Conservatory become “a stepping stone for serious talent,” with plans to add more class options, performance opportunities and a new summer intensive program. According to Stark, the school will teach an American style of ballet, infused with Balanchine flavor and the strength and classicism of Cuban technique. See www.patelconservatory.org. —EK

 

 

Training In Russian

 

Studying at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy is usually no more than a far-off dream for most American ballet students. But for 12-year-old Julian MacKay, it’s a practical step toward realizing his goal of one day dancing with the Russian company.  Although the prestigious academy trains 750 students each year, MacKay is one of only five Americans.

 

What has been the most challenging part so far?
Learning to understand my Russian teacher. Luckily, she uses a lot of pantomime. Russian training is also very hands-on: She physically moves my muscles so I understand how to use them.

 

How is the training different than in the U.S.?

My class is just nine boys, so I get specific training for male dancers. We take technique, character and gymnastics together.

 

Have you gotten to perform yet?


I was one of 50 students chosen to be in our end-of-the-year performance. I got to do the mazurka in Paquita. I was also one of the children of court nobility in La Esmeralda with the Bolshoi company, with Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. It was so amazing to stand backstage next to such awesome dancers!  —JS

TIP: What are college auditioners looking for?
We look for people who seem focused and motivated and—who really like to move! We’re looking to train people. You don’t have to be proficient; you just have to have a motivating spirit, a passion for dancing. That’s hard to resist.
—Lawrence Rhodes, director of Juilliard’s dance division






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