If you’re a junior or senior, you’re already knee-deep in college prep—whether you’re creating a list of colleges or writing your application essays. On top of that, dancers often have a whole extra step to plan for: the dance department audition. To help you survive the process, DS asked Kate Walker, the dance department coordinator at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, to zero in on four things every dancer should remember while applying for college.
Montclair State University faculty at a dance department audition (Mike Peters, courtesy Montclair State University)
Plan to attend a summer intensive at one of your prospective schools. It’s a great way to get to know the department and faculty—and to get a leg up on your audition competition!
Know Your Audience
Familiarize yourself with each school’s dance department. What do they specialize in? Finding out will help you prepare for whatever might be thrown at you during the audition. And when it comes to your solo, remember that even a winning competition piece might need a few tweaks before a college audition. Rather than showing something super-stylized, demonstrate that you have the solid foundation to tackle a variety of work. “Go for cleanliness over tricks,” Walker says. Ask a teacher to give you a few pointers before you perform for the audition panel.
Start looking at the calendar now, since most college auditions take place between January and March. Seek out regional auditions to save travel time and money. If attending an audition will be difficult, find out early on if you can apply by video. Consider the pros and cons: “A video tends to flatten dynamics,” says Walker. “However, it also lets the dance department refer back to your work each time they review your application.”
Nail Your Paper Audition
If you’re applying to a large university, remember that multiple admissions counselors—who might not have dance knowledge—will read your Common Application before it ever reaches the dance department. However, an essay for a conservatory program is more likely to get an initial read by someone who knows a lot about dance. Tailor your writing accordingly. And hook your readers by linking your dancing to the way you learn in an academic setting. “Connecting artistic experience to academic achievement is always a plus on an application,” Walker says. “Dancers are inherently intelligent, creative thinkers, so flaunt it!”
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Isabella Boylston in "The Bright Stream" (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy American Ballet Theatre)
Beloved by ballet fans for her lucid technique and onstage effervescence, by her Instagram followers for the deftly curated photos and videos she shares of her glamorous life, and by fangirl Jennifer Garner for all of the above, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston is one of the rare ballet stars who's achieved mainstream fame. A native of Sun Valley, ID, Boylston trained at the Academy of Colorado Ballet and the Harid Conservatory before joining the ABT Studio Company in 2005. She entered the main company as an apprentice in 2006, and attained principal status in 2014. In addition to her successes with ABT, where she dances nearly every major ballerina role, Boylston has served as artistic director of the annual Ballet Sun Valley Festival, which brings high-level performances and classes to her hometown. And speaking of famous Jennifers: Boylston recently appeared as Jennifer Lawrence's dance double in the film Red Sparrow. Catch her onstage with ABT as Manon, Odette/Odile, and Princess Aurora during the company's Metropolitan Opera House season this summer in NYC. —Margaret Fuhrer