The following advice is mostly in relation to ballet auditions, because that’s the kind of environment I know best. If you’re about to embark on a jazz, musical theatre or commercial dance audition these tips will be useful, however I’d do some further research into your genre.
Without sounding super braggy (I’m pretty sure that’s not a word but let’s go with it) I was accepted for every program and performance I ever auditioned for. So I thought it might be useful to share some of my top tips for successfully auditioning for a summer intensive, course, gala or full-time program.
The biggest tip I could ever give a young dancer is ‘preparation is key’. Yes, you most certainly need talent but a confident dancer is a prepared dancer and if the most talented dancer in the world doesn’t have confidence then they’re useless in the dance world.
So let’s help you get better prepared with these top tips…
This is actually a very important audition element as the way you wear your hair can affect the line of your neck and body. I also suggest wearing your hair in a style that suits your face shape. For example, if you have a heart shaped face a centre part will not suit you. In my experience, very few students can pull off a low bun. I would opt for a french roll, flat bun at the crown of the head or something more interesting (but still classic) like a ‘halo bun’.
In saying that, I also suggest that dancers wear their hair in a style that they’re used to. There’s nothing worse than feeling your bun or french roll falling out mid barre. Go with a style that you’ve practised and tested in class.
Ensure that you have all the shoes you could possibly require. I would pack your ballet shoes, a spare pair of ballet shoes, pointe shoes and your choice of contemporary shoe (you never know!)
In regards to ribbons, I strongly recommend them. Whilst company members may wear elastics on their shoes, ribbons really project a professional and polished look for a ballerina in training. I also recommend canvas over leather because unless you have absolutely stunning feet leather shoes tend to be more difficult to articulate the foot.
Don’t wear black and pick a colour that suits your skin tone. If you have a darker complexion, baby pink or white can look stunning. If you have a lighter complexion, I would recommend a hot pink or deep blue. If you have dark hair, don’t be afraid of a dark red leotard and if you have blonde hair don’t be fearful of a shade of purple or green. Just don’t choose a leotard with a busy pattern on it and I’d steer clear from zips, attached skirts and cap sleeves. A nice cut that elongates the leg line with a nice low back always wins in my opinion!
4. PAY ATTENTION
The teacher running the class will throw little details in to see which students pick up on them. It could be an extra head or an unusual preparation. Soak in EVERY SINGLE WORD during the demonstration and then make sure you follow through with the finer details they’ve expressed an interest in seeing. I can’t stress how important this is.
Also don’t be afraid to ask a question. Not only does this draw the adjudicators attention directly to you, but it also shows your attention to detail and knowledge of ballet terminology. Just ensure you only ask one question as any more can become annoying. Also ensure the question is smart, yet simple. For example, “Would you like the arms in second or third arabesque for the grande jeté?”
5. ON THE BARRE…
Now the following advice only works if you have a choice about where you stand. However if you DO have a choice and you DON’T have 180 degree turnout, do not stand at the back of the room side-on to the adjudicators. The ideal spot is to the left (from the adjudicators view) on the side bar or the centre bar. Don’t stand somewhere they can’t see you either – it’s an audition, you’re there to be seen!
6. IN THE CENTRE…
Again the following advice only applies if you get a choice about where to stand and also favours the left side of the room. Don’t worry too much about what line you’re in (although I’d aim for the second or third line) because they’ll probably rotate lines.
The reason I stress about being on the left side (from the adjudicators view) of the room is because as humans our eyesight gravitates towards the left naturally. I tried to do some research on why our eyes gravitate towards the left of a room, however I didn’t come up with much. I remember an older student telling me about this trick when I first started auditioning for different things. Now as a teacher and examiner I know first-hand that the eyes gravitate in that direction. Especially when I’m examining students or choreographing a new routine, I have to remind myself to look towards the right.
7. IN THE CORNER…
Ideally you don’t want to be in the first group, but you also don’t want to be in the last group. Go in the second or third group. You’re still showing initiative, but it gives you a chance to rehearse the exercise in your head before performing it. However, if no one is putting their hand up to go in the first group, step forward and show initiative and confidence. You’ll stand out and be respected for it. BUT if you’re not 100% confident with the exercise or the timing, stand back and wait to go in the second group because theres no turning back from being remembered as the student who had no idea what they were doing from the corner.
Speaking of corner work, make sure your grande allegro is exceptional. This really seals the deal! Don’t spend all your time training developing beautiful adagio. Whilst high legs that are well placed are beautiful, a large jump is the icing on the cake at the end of an audition.
8. THEY’RE LOOKING FOR POTENTIAL
It’s important to be in the right mindset before your audition. Perhaps this includes a body scan meditation or breath work as part of your warm up. Ensuring you’re in a good mindset is important because you’re going to have challenges thrown at you and you’ll need to pick up exercises quickly so that you can concentrate on HOW you’re doing the steps just as closely as WHAT the steps are.
Especially if you’re going for a full-time school audition, they’re looking for who has potential. They don’t expect you to be perfect and if you get a combination wrong or make a mistake, the worse thing you can do is beat yourself up over it. Nail the exercise the second time around or move onto the next exercise with grace and poise. It’s easy to spot a student with a bad mindset from a mile away and whilst technique can be taught, a good attitude is far more difficult to train.
9. SAY ‘THANK YOU’
From the moment you enter the building you are on display to the teachers and staff who will be deciding on the outcome of your audition. I remember being in a waiting room for a fairly big audition where a fellow auditionee was being an absolute brat. Her Mum was being so sweet, offering assistance and this particular young lady kept telling her Mum to ‘back off’ in an awful tone. What this girl didn’t know was that one of the school directors was standing in a corner that wasn’t visible to her. He was listening to the commotion and shaking his head.
In conjunction with avoiding bad behaviour, it’s important that you say ‘thank you’ to everyone from the receptionist who signed you in, to the teacher taking class. It used to baffle me, how many students would leave without saying thank you. My signature move was to thank the pianist on my way out. Not only did this move show class, but it showed my appreciation for music.
10. DON’T DO ANYTHING SILLY OR OUT OF THE ORDINARY IN THE DAYS LEADING UP
What do I mean by this? Don’t go on a silly diet one week before the audition. But also don’t binge on popcorn and lollies at the movies the night before. Be well rested, sleep at least 8 hours per night in the lead up, drink lots of water and eat fresh, healthy foods that your body reacts well to.
Also, don’t do any activities that are out of the norm (for you!) that could jeopardise your audition. For example, the month before your audition is not the time to give skiing a try or run a half marathon. You need to be in peak physical condition and free of injuries so you can put your best foot forward!
Image Credit: Pointe Magazine