Get Back Into the Groove of In-Person Summer Program Auditions

January 14, 2022

After last year’s all-digital audition season, some summer-intensive auditions are finally returning to a traditional, in-person format. To help you once again put your best foot forward in a studio packed with fellow eager dancers, we asked Xiomara Reyes, head of the professional training division at The Washington School of Ballet, and Bill Piner, director of the Ballet Austin Academy, for their best 2022-specific live-audition advice.

Expect the Unexpected

By now, we’re all quite comfortable logging on to Zoom just a few minutes before a virtual audition starts. What’s less familiar these days: having to find our way to (and around) an unfamiliar audition venue in real life. Ergo, Piner would urge you to do plenty of advance research, and to allow much more of a buffer than you think you’ll need. “It’s just like when you go to the airport,” Piner says. “Make sure you have enough time to calmly go through whatever processes you need to be organized and ready.” That holds doubly true where COVID protocols are concerned, he notes, since those can vary widely by city, state and organization. Figure out everything you’ll need to do—and bring with you—well in advance, so that you can focus on dancing when the big day actually rolls around.

Get Grounded

Yes, your current level of technique will play a large role in how this audition turns out for you. But according to Reyes, technique shouldn’t really be your top priority in that first live audition back. “The most important part is how you show your technique, and how present you can be in that moment,” she says. “I would highly recommend grounding exercises, like mindfulness, before you go in.”

Reyes points out that staying in the moment kills two birds with one stone: Not only will you pick up combinations and apply corrections faster, you’ll show the panel that you’re an attentive, fully engaged team player who’d be an asset to any repertory rehearsal. Long story short: To have a good live audition, you’ll need to get out of your head and into your body.

Xiomara Reyes, wearing a black, calf-length black skirt and sweater, adjusts the head of a female teenage ballet student as she stands at the barre in fifth position.
Xiomara Reyes works with Washington School of Ballet Level 8 student Jaden Johnson. Photo by xmb photography, Courtesy TWB

Have a Good Class

Auditions are never not a high-pressure situation, but after almost two years of uncertainty, this summer-intensive audition season might feel especially desperate. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to obsessively wonder how many spots are left and who they might go to. As Piner says, “You can’t change the fact that there are this many ballet companies, with this many open positions in their intensives, and this many dancers out there vying for those positions.” As much as possible, release the potential outcomes and instead approach the audition situation as a master class. “You have to decide for yourself that the audition is worth it,” Piner says, “and that you’re still getting something from it”—even if that “something” isn’t an acceptance letter.

Trust Your Training

Take comfort in the knowledge that you’re undoubtedly a stronger and better-prepared auditionee this January than you were last January, says Reyes: “You learned the choreography faster because you couldn’t depend on other people in the room. You kept dancing even as dogs and cats wandered the room. You understand many things about yourself that you might not have learned if life was normal.” And you almost certainly depend less on the mirror for feedback than you did before the pandemic! You’re not “behind” any other dancer in the room—you’re ready.