How to Nail Your Audition Video
Auditioning for summer intensives in person may be the ideal—but for Anna McDowell, a 16-year-old student at Juneau Dance Theatre in Juneau, AK, it's rarely possible. “Living in Alaska, it's difficult to travel to auditions," she says. “It gets way too expensive!" Instead, each year, with help from her teachers and a videographer, she puts together a well-crafted video and submits it to schools around the country. Last year, her high-quality video helped her earn acceptance to nearly every program she applied for. Most summer intensive programs, eager to attract students from far and wide, will accept video auditions from those who can't travel to take class. But major schools look at hundreds of submissions each year, which means video auditioners have just a few minutes—or even seconds—to make a great impression. If you're about to create an audition video, follow these tips from the professionals to put your best digital foot forward.
Before you step in front of a camera, visit each summer intensive's website and make a list of their video requirements. Most ballet programs will specify certain steps they want to see, both at barre and in center. “Some places want to see the entire class on pointe, or a variation at the end," McDowell says. That may mean you have to make multiple versions of your audition video. (One year, McDowell made five different videos to accommodate requests from different schools.)
If you're auditioning for a non-ballet program, the directions might be less specific. “Don't be afraid to ask questions," says Nel Shelby, professional videographer and owner of Nel Shelby Productions, who frequently films audition videos. “Email the school or choreographer and ask what they want to see."
Prep for your video shoot as you would for a live audition: Sleep well the night before, make sure you're warm before you dance and choose an appropriate audition look. “I prefer a simple leotard and pink tights," says Lawrence Rhodes, director of The Juilliard School's dance program. “We should see the body completely, and be able to tell what your proportions are like and what your capabilities are."
If you'll be dancing a variation, make sure you're well rehearsed and at ease with the choreography. “Choose something you feel good about, that shows you at the top of your game," Rhodes says. It's worth practicing the basics, too. “Rehearse everything, even barre exercises, to make sure you're comfortable before you film," says Steven Wistrich, director of City Ballet of San Diego.
Ask your coach or teacher to be there on shoot day. He or she can provide technical feedback, and can also help by giving you combinations that will highlight your strengths.
If you can afford a professional videographer, it's worth it: A pro will help you make sure you look your best. But if that's not in your budget, a high-quality smartphone video will work fine, provided you're strategic about the filming process.
Reserve a studio so that you can film yourself solo, rather than trying to tape a regular class. “When there are other people around, I don't know who I'm supposed to be watching," Wistrich says. Make your video easy to watch by choosing a simple background, like a white wall, and avoid shooting in front of a mirror, since seeing the front and back of you at the same time can be confusing and distracting. “Fluorescent studio lights are tricky on film," Shelby says, “so do a test shot to make sure you don't have shadows on your face."
Nel Shelby filming Pacific Northwest Ballet's Margaret Mullin (photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy Shelby)
Sound levels are also important. Again, do a few tests to ensure your music records at a normal volume. “If it's really loud or soft, people might turn off the video right away," Shelby says. And keep in mind that wearing brand-new pointe shoes that tap the floor noisily might make people think you're not using your feet properly.
There are all kinds of user-friendly editing programs, like iMovie, available to help you compile your footage. But there's no need to get fancy during the editing stage. In fact, the most successful videos are frequently the simplest ones: They're as clear and easily viewable as possible, without a lot of busy graphics, special effects or text. “I don't think it's important that people have a slick reel and fancy cover page," Rhodes says. “We're looking at the dancing. You want to focus on putting something forth that is movement-oriented, musically sound and well coordinated. Those things actually count a lot."
Surprising Video Dos and Don'ts
Videographer Nel Shelby lays out filming rules that might not be intuitive to nonprofessionals.
Shooting from multiple angles might seem sophisticated, but it's actually a DON'T. “It's disorienting to see shots that are high, low, and from the side," Shelby says. “A simple, one-camera angle is best."
DO stabilize your camera. “Even if you're shooting on an iPhone, make sure that it's steady," Shelby says. “Buy a little tripod or mount the phone on the wall."
If you're using a smartphone, DON'T shoot vertically! “We tend to hold our phones vertically, but if you do that, you'll end up with black bars on each side of the finished product, and you'll look smaller in the frame," Shelby says.
DO think about how you're framing your body with the camera.
Be sure not to leave too much room on the top or bottom of the screen.
Yes, they're quite possibly the cutest dance duo since, well, ever. But put Paige Glenn and Artyon Celestine onstage, and it's immediately clear they mean business. That was apparent to millions across the country last summer, when Artyon and Paige's unbelievable extensions, fearless turning, and infectious energy propelled them to the quarterfinals of "America's Got Talent." They've also appeared (together or individually) on "Little Big Shots," "Lip Sync Battle Shorties," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and "Access Hollywood Live"—not to mention the competition titles they've won as a pair.
"Simon Cowell came backstage during 'AGT' and told us, 'Go out there and do your best. They're going to like you.' "—Artyon
Showstopper has been making its impact on the dance world since 1978. Before then, dancers didn't have a stage to perform on, the opportunity to learn from peers, or a competitive outlet like most sports. Debbie Roberts recognized this missing piece in the dance community and that is how America's first and longest running dance competition, Showstopper, was born. Debbie taught dance for over 26 years and owned and operated her own dance studio for 20 years. She is now the owner and National Director of Showstopper, along side her husband, Dave Roberts. Dancer, teacher, business owner, author, and mother, Debbie has made dance her life's career.
As a teenager, contemporary dancer Eveline Kleinjans felt like nothing she did was good enough. Auditioning for university dance programs paralyzed her: “I was so focused on every move I made and what people would think that I wasn't able to be free, to be myself," she says. And her intense perfectionism had real repercussions. “I'd get negative feedback saying, 'We don't see you.' "
Perfectionism is extremely common in the dance world, because dancers hold themselves to terrifically high standards. It's easy to get a little discouraged when you aren't improving as quickly as you want. But there's a difference between healthy self-criticism and an unhealthy obsession with perfection. How can you tell when your drive to be better has crossed the line—and what can you do to get back on track?
To her high school classmates, Sarah Pippin was a regular girl: a good student and a friendly face around campus. But on the weekends—at dance competitions and conventions across the country—Pippin was a bona fide celeb, adored by her fellow competitors and faculty members alike.
By the time she graduated high school, Pippin had racked up major accomplishments, including performances with Janet Jackson and Shaping Sound, a role on Dance Spirit's own reality series “Road to Nationals," titles such as New York City Dance Alliance's National Mini, Junior and Senior Outstanding Dancer, and, most recently, a college scholarship on behalf of Dance Magazine through the NYCDA Foundation.
There's no doubt that Pippin, now a freshman at The Juilliard School, is among a rising generation of competition and convention stars. And while “celebrity" isn't a term they'd give themselves, you know who they are. These dancers are adored by legions of real-life fans hoping to watch and dance alongside them, not to mention the thousands of social media followers ready to double-tap everything they post.
Being so popular on the circuit has its perks—traveling every weekend, internet fame, working with big-name choreographers—but it also comes with its share of struggles. Here's a peek at what it's really like at the top.
Q: "Why do you want to dance?"
A: "Why do you want to LIVE?"
Ahhh, so iconic! If you know those lines (slash, embody them on a daily basis), you're already a fan of the 1948 film The Red Shoes. The second line, as spoken by Red Shoes heroine Victoria Page, just perfectly captures the kind of crazy, all-consuming love so many of us feel for this incredible art form.
The Red Shoes turns 70 (!) this year. And Harper's Bazaar decided to celebrate that birthday in an oh-so-glamorous fashion: They decked out three of today's most beautiful ballerinas—American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston and New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck—in gorgeous couture inspired by the film. (Obviously, Louboutins were involved.)
Winter is drawing to a close and you know what that means -- It's time to really kick this year into gear! Move U has done the research so you can find your best match, look good, and feel great this season with a twist unique to your team! Here are five looks to put your performance on the map in 2018.
With several Shaping Sound tours and TV credits like "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing with the Stars," and "Boardwalk Empire" to her name, you wouldn't expect Kate Harpootlian to be refreshingly down-to-earth. But that's exactly how she is: As soon as you start talking to the gifted dancer and choreographer, it becomes clear that she doesn't take herself too seriously. And she's happy to tell hilarious stories to prove it. (Ask her about the time she did a Mr. Peanut impression when Mia Michaels asked her to improvise, or the time she starred in a Japanese makeup commercial and had to do grand pliés wearing one pointe shoe and one flat shoe.)
That mixture of humor and grace is evident in Harpootlian's growing body of choreographic work. Her one-act show Better Late Than Never, for example, which premiered last summer, has a jazzy, West Side Story vibe, offsetting heavier moments with touches of whimsy. "There's always a balance in my work," Harpootlian says. "I want to use humor to balance out the darker aspects. It's like one of my friends once said: 'You make me laugh, and then you make me feel bad for laughing.' "
Partnering is hard enough as it is: You're trying to untangle technical snafus and synchronize your movements with those of another dancer, not to mention building the delicate trust required to catch and be caught, lift and be lifted. Throw a hostile or uncooperative partner into the mix, and you might wish you could take a pass on pas de deux. But don't give up! We asked the experts for tips on how to solve partnering's "relationship problems" as gracefully as possible.
We already knew Taylor and Reese Hatala can do anything. After all, they're both incredibly versatile dancers capable of serving up some serious face. And now the super siblings can add another title to their resumé: that of fashion magazine cover stars.
Last week Disney Channel star Sofia Wylie released a behind-the-scenes look at the making of her YouTube dance series. Along with some stellar dancing, the video shows the dance community featured in her "4k Dance Series" and the things they've learned from being a part of the dance project. And though the project features dance, we love that it also emphasizes supporting and building up fellow dancers.