Thursday, July 14, 2011

College Dance Auditions 103: Auditioning Live

So you've chosen your schools (maybe with help from my second post!), booked your flights and hotel, and brought your parents up to speed on the whole thing (or maybe they helped you). You should be auditioning live at most of your schools, but some schools offer video auditioning and you may choose this option for a few reasons: your family does not have the means, your audition at this school is at the same time as another live audition, or you feel like you'll be able to get into the program without flying there (it's a "safety" school that you're really sure about).

Now that you know where you're going, you need to know what you're doing. Here's a list of things to do, check, read, or prepare before you leave for your audition and before the audition itself:

This sounds silly. Of course you're going to read whatever material they give you to read, right? But if they don't give it to you, go to the college department's website and look for application/audition information. They will tell you whether your audition is to be classes, solo, or a combination of both. You'll find out whether there will be rounds of cuts during the audition, or whether you'll have to participate in the entire audition.

Most schools have more than one audition. You'll have to choose which one you want to go to (provided that they're all not full yet) and attend that audition. If the audition is only a solo (rare, but it happens at Chapman University), you'll have to make an appointment for a time slot. The audition itself in this case will take less than half an hour (scary), but that half an hour is when you make your impression. For ANY audition, arrive early (at least an hour) because they may be running ahead of schedule or have had cancellations.

Dress Code
If the school doesn't explicitly state what they want you to wear in the audition information (they should), check the department dress code or call in/send an email to ask. If they want you in a black leotard and pink tights and you show up in a neon green romper/unitard with no tights, you'll automatically get on their bad side. If they want a leotard, choose a cut, material, and color (if they allow it) that is flattering to your body and your skin tone. That being said, don't choose anything with too many straps, prints, multiple colors, or too much skin showing: you're showing them your dancing, not your accessorizing. The plainer your leotard is, the easier it is for them to see your placement and line. If you're looking to stand out, concentrate on your dancing, not your clothing. It is, however, a good idea to have some small adornment in your hair: a headband, flower, or pin/clip. Don't go too big - one girl at my audition had a gigantic sequined gold flower in her hair. I looked at her immediately and just as quickly looked away (and the judges may have done the same thing). On the topic of hair, they should tell you whether they just want your hair out of your face or whether they want a bun. A bun is always good - it will give you a more professional, "I'm serious about this audition" look. But ALWAYS make sure your hair is pulled back and maybe use a little hairspray - no wispys that you'll be tucking behind your ear. It's distracting for you and the auditioners.

What they're looking for
Sometimes in the audition information or on the website, they'll include what they're looking for in a dancer. Take NYU's department for example:

"The Department of Dance seeks exceptionally talented students who 
can commit themselves to the rigors of professional study."

That's right on their front page. Take note of it.

Sometimes colleges ask for resumes and/or pictures
So check the audition information and bring them with you if you need to. Pictures don't need to be professional headshots (or body...shots?), they just need to be plain and well lit (no distracting backgrounds/clothes/hair). Dress code is the same as the above for auditioning (if you send in your resume and photo beforehand, it could be smart to wear the same leotard you plan on auditioning in in your photo. That way, they have two methods of identifying you: your face and your clothing). But even if your college does not require a resume and/or picture, it's always a good idea to be prepared and bring them anyway. Typical photos are (always do the shots straight on, not from the diagonal): tendu in 2nd with arms in 2nd, 1st/2nd arabesque, feet in first/arms in bras bra, grand plie in 2nd, or a headshot (for identification only, not position).

Sometimes they want a written statement
They might want a statement. They want to know you, your values, your goals, your ambitions in terms of dance. In this case, they'll definitely give you the question. Make sure you answer honestly and don't suck up too much. Be true to yourself, but be wary of what you say - make sure you're not telling them things that will make you sound negative or immature. Run a spelling and grammar check and have someone read it before you print it out (or print out a rough draft and read it yourself). Bring two copies of the statement and put them in two different places - one might get splashed with coffee, crumpled, or lost. And then you have the other one that wasn't in the same place, so it wouldn't have the same damage!

This usually happens after you've made a round of cuts and/or have performed a solo. In any case, come prepared with the same things I talked about above in the written statement: goals, ambitions, future career ideas, why you love dance, why you're auditioning at this school. Come informed about the program, in any case. Know what you're getting yourself into, know what they want. Anticipate possible questions.

While you're there, take a campus tour
If you've got the time, take a tour. You flew out there for the audition, so make use of the money and time and take advantage of the fact that you're there! Take a guided tour, talk to current students, visit departments you're interested in and/or set up additional interviews, check out the college town, eat at nearby restaurants, and generally get a feel for the place. It's real, it's happening. You could spend the next 4 years of your life here. Do you see yourself living, dancing, eating, going to school here? Afterwards, write about your experience at the school in a journal so that later, when you're making your decision of where to go, you have your own notes and feelings to fall back on and help you decide.

Things to Bring:
  • All possible shoes that you could use (ballet, jazz, foot thongs - no socks, pointe shoes if applicable)
  • No costumes for your solo!
  • Solo music on a CD, a backup CD, and an MP3 Player
  • headphones (so you can listen to your solo music and go over it in your head, or to listen to other music to relax you before you audition)
  • Non-messy snacks (see my previous post for ideas)
  • Jacket, jazz/sweatpants, legwarmers, socks to keep you warm
  • Hair accessory/earrings
  • leotard and tights (or whatever else you might be wearing)
  • shorts (black & color, depending on dress code)
  • hair stuff (bobby pins, hairnet, ponytail holders, hairbands, clips, hairspray)
  • water bottle (or 2)
  • sweat towel
Final words of advice: RELAX, be yourself, things to remember
I cannot tell you how many times I've blown various auditions because I was too nervous. It's frustrating. I'm the kind of person that, if I think I have a good chance and I want it too bad, I get nervous and mess up. Relax. Everyone in the room has an equal opportunity. Be yourself. If it's an audition class: it's just a class with a teacher you've never had before. You've done that before! No sweat. Watch the teacher, don't be afraid to ask questions about the combinations (might even get you noticed more), and be respectful to the dancers around you. Watch them on the floor while you're standing on the side, but don't be sizing up your competition. That'll only make you more tense. Instead, treat it like a learning experience - you're watching them to see what they're doing well and what you can add to your performance of the combination.

Remember that you're auditioning this program as much as they're auditioning you. Is this the environment you want? Are the teachers good? How did they treat you? Are the students who are auditioning with you the kind of people you want to spend 4 years with? How are the facilities? How is the pianist/percussionist? How are the demonstrators (current students in the program)? Did you learn something?

Of course you'll be nervous. But don't let that anxiety overwhelm you. Practice your solo in front of other people in your studio or your parents. Take every chance you can to get feedback and performance time before you walk into the audition with your solo piece. Know what they're looking for and give it to the best of your ability. Appear confident and relaxed, even if you don't feel that way. And after the audition, don't dwell on the mistakes you made. Don't over-analyze each and every question, comment, or eyebrow quirk you got from the judges. Be yourself, have fun!

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