Let's be honest: We're running out of ways to say that it's been no average school year, especially for high school juniors and seniors. Despite the circumstances, however, you all have barely missed a beat, keeping your technique, training, and love for dance alive in all kinds of online spaces. And New York City Dance Alliance wants to reward your efforts—and help maximize the pay-off—with virtual opportunities to invest in your college education and kickstart your professional dance career.
NYCDA just wrapped up its inaugural Dance Discovery Showcase, which provided the high school graduating senior class of 2020 the unparalleled chance to make connections, hear personalized feedback, and be mentored by some of the biggest names in the industry, from Tiler Peck to Andy Blankenbuehler. Now, NYCDA Foundation's annual college scholarship auditions are right around the corner. And this year, they're entirely virtual, meaning you could potentially receive over $25,000 in scholarship offers without leaving your living room.
NYCDA director Joe Lanteri is excited to keep supporting dancers during this uncertain time. "We want to provide opportunities that help dancers take that next step into the professional world and navigate what their careers could look like," he says.
This year's college scholarship audition process will be held live via Zoom on July 9. Two industry superstars will lead the class portion: former American Ballet Theatre principal Ashley Tuttle will teach a ballet class, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet co-founder and co-artistic director Desmond Richardson will teach contemporary. Representatives from the nation's top arts schools will be observing the entire day, including Pace University in NYC, Point Park University in PA, and Dean College in MA. NYCDA is hosting the audition in conjunction with their 3-Day All-Access Virtual Summer Workshop, so you'll also want to block out July 6–8 to train and prepare for audition day with the help of NYCDA's all-star faculty, including Dana Wilson, Andy Pellick, and Chloe Arnold.
The college scholarship audition presents practically unlimited potential. According to Lanteri, at last year's auditions alone, the total scholarships offered surpassed $10 million. "The colleges that attend are very generous, and genuinely want to recruit dancers with these scholarships," he says. Juniors who attend the auditions are eligible to receive multiple offers from schools. Seniors can be awarded scholarship funds directly from the Foundation, which they may apply to the school of their choice.
There's more than scholarships available for dancers willing to put their best (turned-out) foot forward. Seniors will have the opportunity to start building their professional networks, not to mention make a positive first impression on the school they've already committed to. And the Class of 2021 gets an even higher leg up, according to Lanteri. "Rising high school seniors who audition will be the first students that these colleges are considering for their freshman class entering in the Fall of 2021. They'll have the chance to audition for 11 different colleges in one place."
When it comes to audition day, you'll need to be prepared for a quick turnaround. In both the ballet and the contemporary class, you'll learn a combination that you must film and submit online within 24 hours. After sitting in on the virtual classes, the college representatives will then go through each dancer's video submissions and online application in order to make their scholarship decisions. If you've attended the auditions in the past, this new format may seem a bit strange. But according to Lanteri, "It actually gives dancers an advantage. Colleges get to singularly focus on your submission, as opposed to watching you dance in a group in a crowded ballroom. In a way, they're spending a little extra time on you."
Audition Advice From a College Representative
Dancers in last year's college scholarship auditions (courtesy NYCDA Foundation)
Katie Langan, chair of the Dance Department at Marymount Manhattan College in NYC, has a few tips on how students can stand out to her, and the other representatives from prestigious dance departments who'll be involved in NYCDA's scholarship audition.
Prepare for the platform.
Unsure about Zoom dance class etiquette, especially in a high-pressure setting? Brush up on your skills during NYCDA's All-Access Virtual Summer Workshop. Be respectful onscreen, and treat each class you take during the week as preparation for audition day, Langan advises.
Be ready to go, and ready for anything.
"Preparing at home is just as important as if you were going to the studio," Langan says. That includes looking the part, arriving to the Zoom waiting room on time or early, and handling any technical difficulties in a professional manner. At the same time, Langan and the other representatives empathize with the challenges of Zoom, from poor internet connections to music not syncing up correctly. "We understand that anything can happen, and we won't fault dancers for it, nor will we hold anything against those working in a less-than-ideal dance space," Langan explains.
Listen (really listen) as you take class.
"I'll be closely watching how Ashley and Desmond teach their combinations, and then looking to see the students' execution in their videos, specifically how they interpret and apply both teachers' corrections," Langan says.
Let your love for dance shine.
"Beyond seeing technique, we want to see your potential and who you are," Langan says. "Do what you do best, and don't be nervous. This is all about showing us your love for dance."