For a new professional dancer, the concept of a summer layoff—when ballet companies go on an unpaid hiatus for several weeks (or months)—can be a welcome change of pace, an anxiety-riddled uncertainty or a bit of both. While it should feel rejuvenating to take a break after an intense season, fear of financial instability or getting out of shape can overshadow the good. Here, six dancers share how they leverage their summer layoffs to be both productive and restorative.
Dancers know that practice makes...room for more practice. We spend our entire lives working to refine our technique, and what non-dancers see as perfection we see as a work in progress. But with dedication and discipline, that work-in-progress starts to change and grow, and that's the beauty of our art form: constant opportunity to push ourselves further.
I'm often cut from the final round of auditions. Is there a polite way to follow up with directors and ask them for feedback? —Megan
When it comes to seeking feedback from directors, I think it depends on the situation and the method of communication. If it's a large cattle call and you've been cut before the final round, sticking around to ask why isn't a good idea. “I don't think there is much a dancer can do to 'hang in there' till the end of the audition if the director is not interested," says Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini, who says he receives more than 1,200 audition requests a year. It's one reason why he and many other directors request videos ahead of time. “If a dancer doesn't fit the look, the taste, the movement quality and technical or versatility requirements of the company, I urge them not to audition. I'd rather they spend their hard-earned funds on a place that's interested in them."
Are you hoping to get a contract this year? These top-tier companies are hiring!
Company: Miami City Ballet
MCB is holding open auditions in New York City for the 2017-18 season. Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez is seeking classically trained male and female dancers with at least 10 years of professional experience to join the Company at all ranks. Training in the Balanchine technique is a plus.
Date: March 26, 2017 3-8 pm
Location: School of American Ballet 165 W. 65 Street, New York (W. 65th St. between Amsterdam and Broadway)
Specific audition class times to be announced via miamicityballet.org
- Current headshot
- 2-3 full-body dance photographs
- Recent video (link) to a classical work, variation
Send to: Michael Sebesto – Msebesto@miamicityballet.org You will receive an email confirming receipt of pre-registration materials. No phone calls please.
Bring: Hard copies of resume, headshot and dance photos with you to the audition.
If you cannot make it to the New York audition, please submit the required materials, and you will be notified by email if you are invited to attend an audition class in Miami.
Tulsa Ballet is seeking dancers with strong classical technique for its 2017/18 Season. All auditions are by invitation only. Please send your resume and a video link of your dancing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sarasota Ballet
Sarasota Ballet is seeking strong classically trained male dancers for the 2017 – 2018 Season. Click here for more information.
American Contemporary Ballet
American Contemporary Ballet is currently hiring dancers for the 2017-18 season. Contracts are available for the full season (May–February) and summer only (May–August). Flexibility on contract start date (into May and June) is sometimes available. Click here for more information.
Date: Sunday, March 12, 2017
Location: School of American Ballet
Bring: A headshot, dance photos and resume/CV.
Pre-registration: Send the following materials to email@example.com
- C.V. (include full name, phone number, email address, citizenship, training and performance experience)
- Photos (one head shot and one full body dance photo)
- Video (high quality stage or studio video that display a range of repertoire, no more than ten minutes; a link to online material will be accepted)
Date: Saturday, March 11, 2017
Location: Joffrey Ballet School 434 6th Ave, New York, NY
Registration: 2:00 pm–3:00pm, $10 registration fee
Audition: 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The Accademia Teatro alla Scala Ballet School in Milan, Italy, is now accepting applications for 2017.
Duration: The complete path of the ballet school lasts 8 years, each one from September to June. An exam is given at the end of each year. If admitted, all pupils are admitted for one academic year only and must reapply for following years.
Attendance: Mandatory. Lessons are held Monday through Friday for levels 1-5 and Monday through Saturday for higher-level courses. Courses 1-3 meet in the afternoon, courses 4-7 are full-day.
Prerequisites for admission:
- Candidates who are in the 5th year of elementary school during the 2016/2017 school year may apply for the Level 1 course.
- For higher courses (Levels 2-7), the candidates must show that they are prepared to be admitted to the courses corresponding to their middle school or high school level.
- Candidates for Level 7 must be under 18 years of age on Friday, March 24, 2017.
Selection: In order to be admitted to the courses, the candidate must pass a screening test, as described into the official Announcement (Point 7, 8 and 9). Please, download it and read it carefully. The admission tests will take place in late April at the Ballet School in Milan (Italy), according to the calendar specified at the point 9 of the Announcement. No other exam sessions are scheduled for the year.
Venue: Ballet School of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala – Milan | Accademia Teatro alla Scala – Milan.
Fees: registration fee to the selection of € 85 + attendance fees to be paid with a Bank SDD (SEPA Direct Debit) in installments. Please, read carefully the official Announcement for all the details about fees and tuitions, as for scolarships and exemptions available for admitted pupils. Download here the document to apply for scolarships/exemptions .
Application 2017/18: applications must be completed and submitted online, by clicking on the “Apply now” button, NO LATER THAN FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017.
The following documents (scanned) must be included with the application, as detailed into the official Announcement, point 6:
- valid identification for both parents or legal guardian (identity card or passport)
- receipt for payment of €85.00 (eighty-five euros)
- candidate’s codice fiscale (Italian national identification number) or statement declaring that the candidate does not have an Italian “codice fiscale”
- a professional quality photograph, passport format of the candidate’s face
- account’s holder codice fiscale (Italian national identification number) or statement declaring that the candidate does not have an Italian “codice fiscale”
Each document must not exceed 1 MB. Documents must be in doc, docx, pdf, jpeg, jpg, png format only.
Be sure to check our Auditions Page regularly!
I felt shattered. Cut from the audition at barre. I was 24 years old and had been dancing professionally for eight years already. I'd been very fortunate in my career so far, and although I was no stranger to rejections, this was a first. I thought: I must not be a good dancer anymore. I'm a has-been. Maybe it's time to rethink my career path.
As I waited for my friend, who came to the audition with me and was asked to stay, I realized which sort of dancers were let go early and which ones were kept. Everyone around me packing up their things was a seasoned dancer. A couple I knew from other companies, all beautiful and capable. The ones that were kept were young and aspiring; they had lots of potential, but no professional experience.
Don't expect to catch Simone Messmer wearing a leotard—at least, not for company class. “Ballet class is for me," she says. “It happens every day, so it turns into a major part of how you set yourself up for the day and how you're feeling. I think it's really important to take control of that." In class, the Miami City Ballet principal prefers comfortable separates with clean lines and long sleeves. When it's time for rehearsal, she'll bring out her leotards and tights. “And I tend to bring the skirt or tutu that's appropriate for the role. I try to start right away, to get a feeling for it," she says.
Photographed by Kathryn Rummel for Pointe.
Courtney Henry knew she wanted to dance for Alonzo King LINES Ballet while she was still a student in the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program. “I saw LINES perform at The Joyce Theater, and I was blown away, particularly by the women," she remembers. “They were commanding and strong, even scary in how powerful they were. I was like, 'I want to dance like that.' "
She did a 2009 summer program with LINES in San Francisco, then auditioned in 2011. In Henry, King saw an ideal artist for his contemporary ballet company. A lithe six feet tall, the 27-year-old dancer brings the intense physicality and sky-high extensions that King's abstract choreography requires, but also the musicality and technical mastery that make his ballets so mesmerizing.
While New York City Ballet was off last August, corps member Sasonah Huttenbach was hard at work at the Danish Ballet Masters program, a two-week Bournonville workshop in New York City led by former Royal Danish Ballet dancers Mogens Boesen and Linda Hindberg. While they have always offered a student intensive, last summer Boesen and Hindberg added a program for working dancers. “A lot of professionals just lean toward open classes or giving themselves class during layoffs, but sometimes you need the basics because you're rehearsing and performing so much," says Huttenbach, who attended the student intensive twice before joining NYCB. “It was great to spend time off perfecting my alignment and technique."
Wondering about how to spend your summer layoff weeks this year? While teaching or performance gigs are good ways to stay busy, off-time can also be perfect for brushing up your technique, exploring another style and networking with a broader range of dance professionals. From big cities to the beach, programs geared towards professionals can help reinvigorate your career and remind you that you can always go back to summer camp.
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Today, she's a confident Miami City Ballet soloist, but Emily Bromberg wasn't always so self-assured. As a teenager, she withered under the weight of self-doubt. Even being cast as Kitri in her first professional production of Don Quixote, at Festival Ballet Providence, didn't bolster her confidence—instead, she convinced herself she was too immature for the role and nearly melted in tears midway through her debut. “I was constantly double- and triple-checking myself, wondering what other people thought, wondering if I was good enough," she recalls. “It's the nature of the dance world, but there were moments when I was really at the edge of giving up."
These kinds of self-confidence issues, fueled by endless criticism, high pressure to succeed and a flood of intimidating images on social media, can plague dancers for years. It's easy to start questioning your worthiness in comparison to the latest Instagram star, but in the competitive and uncertain dance world, belief in yourself is crucial to reaching your goals—and your full potential.
A Healthy Sense of Self
The basis of innate self-confidence is recognizing that you're a human being with imperfections like anyone else, while understanding that your shortcomings don't define you as a person or as a dancer. “Self-confidence is having an accurate view of yourself and feeling good about it," says Dr. Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with Atlanta Ballet. But being pleased with yourself does not necessarily mean that you have an overblown ego. “It's not arrogance or narcissism. You know you're not perfect—but you feel good about yourself."
Getting ready to audition for intensives? Click here to find the best summer study options for you!
By the time Washington Ballet dancer Andile Ndlovu was finishing his training in South Africa, he faced a risky decision. After attending a ballet competition in 2008, he received summer-intensive scholarship offers from The Washington School of Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem. But choosing between schools would determine more than his summer plans. The right intensive might lead to acceptance into a professional-level training program at summer's end, whereas walking away empty-handed would mean going back home, to begin again.
Many dancers on the cusp of graduation can relate. Summer intensives often serve as a lengthy audition process for year-round opportunities, a gateway to traineeships or second-company contracts that bridge the gap between student and professional. But choosing a summer program essentially means committing to a company school—before it's committed to you. If you're researching summer programs and know you want to move into a more professional sphere by summer's end, here's how to ensure that you're making a smart, career-minded decision.
Andile Ndlovu with Avana Kimura. Photo by Dean Alexander, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.
Assess Your Options
When prioritizing which intensives to audition for, start with schools affiliated with dream companies. But it's also important to investigate other options and to be very realistic about where you'd be happy day to day. “You have to take away the name brand and take a really close look at the company, at the people, at the repertoire," says San Francisco Ballet corps de ballet dancer Isabella DeVivo, who received a traineeship through SFB's summer program in 2012. “I liked how broad the rep was here."