Auditions happen all year round, but with the new school year starting soon, new opportunities are probably going to come your way. From my experience, the worst thing that can happen at an audition is that you come unprepared. If you know you have an audition coming up, not matter how big it is, it's important to start preparing ASAP so you can be ready to do your best in the short amount of time you're given to show off your lifetime of work. After a year and a half of important auditions (3 of which I received great opportunities), here is my best advice I can give to anyone getting ready for their big break!
Plan out your audition day in advance. Don't wait till the last second to figure out your travel arrangements, and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get there, check in, and warm up. You don't want to come in flustered and have to jump right in to a barre exercise. You'll need time to warm up, stretch, and get in the zone to do the best you can.
...this includes your outfit
Plan what you're going to wear to the audition ahead of time. I am guilty of showing up late to various events because it takes me forever to figure out what I want to wear (and once I do figure it out, digging through piles of laundry and praying it's clean enough to wear). You don't want to get stuck wearing your spare leotard to the audition; you want to wear something you know you look your best in and feel comfortable in.
Treat Every Audition Like a Class
Most auditions are set up similar to a class. As far as the ballet auditions I've been to have gone, we've started with barre then moved into center and corner exercises. Whoever is leading the class might even give you corrections. The best way to calm your nerves is to get in the mindset that this is just a class. Take the corrections as if it were your own ballet teacher giving them to you. Work on your technique and show them how hard you would work if you are cast or accepted into the program. The more you focus on learning from the audition and treating it like a class, the more comfortable you will feel in that environment and it will be easier to showcase what you can really do.
...and if you mess up
JUST KEEP GOING! They won't be impressed with you if you get frustrated because you forgot a combination or fell out of a turn. If you messed up in class or on stage, you would just keep going and brush it off. Do the same in an audition.
Don't wear fifty pounds of makeup if you don't normally wear that much makeup to class just because you think it'll make you look better. Don't do a turn sequence during an improv section just because you see other dancers doing it. Don't try and land a triple turn when you know your double looks better. Wear that lucky scrunchie that you never dance without. Don't try and be something you're not because the judges will be able to tell and you will come across as fake. Plus, they'll miss out on the best parts of you!
...but if there's something you've never done before...
This is when you fake it till you make it. For example, my biggest weakness at auditions is that I am not trained in modern dance, and there's almost always a modern portion. However, judges know that many primarily ballet dancers have little to no experience in modern. All they expect of you is that you try your best and can adapt to new challenges. Don't be afraid to ask questions to clarify movements or counts. Pretend like you've been doing modern (or whatever the task may be) since you came out of the womb.
BE NICE TO THE COMPETITION!
I can't stress this one enough. DO NOT BRAND YOURSELF AS A BALLET BITCH. Don't try and show off your flexibility or how many turns or flips you can do while warming up. Don't give other dancers dirty looks. DON'T TRY TO SABOTAGE THE COMPETITION. Don't snap anyone's pointe shoes or steal someone's CD or cut holes in their tights or lock them in a broom closet. DON'T BE FAKE NICE TO THEM EITHER. Introduce yourself, ask them where they dance, follow them on Instagram...they are just as nervous as you are, so wouldn't it be nice for both of you to have someone friendly in the room to look at while you go through this grueling process? If they do something nice, tell them, and be sincere about it. Cheer them off if you saw them do their solo. Say good luck to them beforehand. Who knows, maybe you'll both get in and you'll become dance partners or room mates! The bottom line is, JOIN ME IN THE MOVEMENT TO GET CATTINESS OUT OF THE BALLET WORLD. Ballet is an art form that makes us look like beautiful, regal, and poised individuals. Act like one in every dance scenario you find yourself in. If the judges want you, they'll pick you, regardless of who else is there. Don't risk making yourself look bad or ruining someone else's chances just because you're too insecure to realize you have what it takes to make it on your own regardless of the competition.
Have audition materials in your back pocket
This includes a go to headshot, body shot, and solo. It's good to keep a supply of head shots and dance photos on hand in case you ever find out about an audition at the last minute or don't have time to plan another photo shoot. It's also a good idea to have a dance resume saved in your documents in case an audition or application ever called for one. Many auditions also require you to have a solo prepared, so keep the song on your phone (and bring a backup CD) and have a back pocket solo in case you were ever asked to perform one. My back pocket solo is The Lilac Fairy from Sleeping Beauty.
Performance over technique
While your ballet technique is an important factor in an audition, don't underestimate the power of a smile and watching your arms while you dance. Technique is something that can be worked on, but the judges and teachers of the program or show aren't going to spend their time teaching you how to dance with your heart and perform on stage. At an audition, it is your job to show the panel that you are a performer first and a technician second. Yes, try and point your feet and turn out from the hips etc. etc. But what's really going to sell you to the judges is how well you can tell a story to an audience or how confident you will be when you step out on stage.
Don't put all of your eggs in one basket
Through the entire audition process, remember that this audition is not going to make or break your life. Have faith that if this is your destiny, your time will come. Out of the five big auditions I've went to in past year and a half of my life, I got cut from two and received great opportunities from the other three. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had made it through the ones I didn't, but it's important to remember that as a dancer, you are going to go through many auditions and not make all of them. Your path will become clear to you as you get older and go through more experiences in the dance world. It's okay to be heartbroken about not making it through, especially when it was for something you really wanted, but remember there are so many other opportunities out there. Don't let your whole career ride on one audition. For me, my next big audition is coming up on September 18 when I audition for Northeast Dance Center's production of The Nutcracker. If anyone in the Massachusetts/New Hampshire area is interested in auditioning with me, leave a comment or click the CONTACT page to ask me any questions! Oh, and wish me luck!!
Photo Credits Kayla Pacenka Photography
Don't get me wrong, I am not against competitive dance. I think dance competitions can teach dance students a great deal about team work and dedication and prepare dancers for the professional dance world. In fact, I always wanted to do dance competitions as a kid. I would see my friends at other studios with their jackets and trophies and wish I was a part of it. The studio I grew up dancing with did not have a team until I was about to graduate high school, so I never had the opportunity to dance competitively. As a dance major, I was pretty much the only one in my class that had never been to a dance competition. It almost felt like I was an outsider because I came from a completely different background. It's taken me a long to time realize that the dance experiences that I have are just as valuable as theirs.
There is so much more to the world of youth dance than competitions. My dance experience growing up is proof of that. For example, I was cast in various ballets from the time I was 6 years old and was exposed to dance theatre from a young age. I've danced countless roles in The Nutcracker- everything from a toy soldier to Clara to a candy cane. I was also exposed to classical ballets that many dancers aren't as familiar with, like Coppelia. Performing different roles and learning how to portray a character through dance has helped me in all different styles of dance and theatre. Because I wasn't competing, I had plenty of time to focus on my ballet technique, which has also benefited me in all areas of dance. I have many fond memories of bonding with my cast mates during rehearsals and backstage (shoutout to "broccoli"), which are equivalent to those made at dance competitions. I may not be able to do thirty-two turns in second or a side aerial (common competition moves), but I can execute a beautiful double pirouette and pantomime any scenario. I learned about stagecraft and acting and I have danced in beautiful theaters. I've studied ballet terminology and learned how to take care of my body through different dance camps and intensives. At the end of the day, I have memories and a dance education that has prepared me to study dance in college. I may not have a trophy to prove that I've achieved something or can say I've beaten whatshername- the incredible dancer with long legs and great feet-, but I've danced duets en pointe and helped tell magical stories to audiences.
While competitive dance is not a bad thing, I do think it should be done in moderation if you are going to incorporate it into your dance education. While it may be fun to get that medal put around your neck and help lead your team to victory, it is important to remember that dance is an art first and a sport second, so make sure you save some time (and money) for other opportunities to learn, such as ballet productions, musical theatre, master classes, dance camps, and intensives (maybe even go support the arts and see a ballet sometime soon!). While sometimes it would be nice to have a shelf full of crowns and plaques and other awards, I wouldn't trade my positive dance experiences from my grade school days for any of it. The things I learned and experienced in a non-competitive studio are my accomplishments in themselves.
me with some dance friends before going on stage for our annual recital circa 2012
Me and my older sister, Leah, at home before leaving for my very first dance lesson circa 1999
One thing that you have to get used to when you're a dance major is the stereotypes that come along with it. I can't tell you how many times in the past year I've told people my major and they've given one of these responses:
"That's a thing?"
"You must be really good! Are you gonna be a professional dancer?"
"How are you going to make any money with that degree?"
While I understand that dance isn't a traditional major (and isn't offered at most schools), it is very important for me to study dance because I want to teach it. I could go on for hours about how valuable a degree in dance is, but I think it's more important to talk about why I'm putting myself through the countless hours I spend in the studio...and the ones in the classroom (because, believe it or not, dance is also an ACADEMIC subject!).
Dance teachers fall into their jobs for many different reasons. Many dance teachers were professional dancers who have reached their peak and have decided to teach for the rest of the career. Some might balance both a professional and teaching career in dance, and some dance teachers are former dance students who go back to their studio and teach on the side just because it's fun and they love it. But there are some dance teachers who have known they want to teach (and do nothing else) all along. One of the many questions I get asked is if I want to be a professional dancer, and if not why. While being a professional ballet dancer was probably never in the cards for me, I think I have a calling to teach regardless. I have always found it more rewarding to help others. From a young age I was the "mom" of my group of dance friends and I'd always pack for shows keeping everyone's need in mind (Did I need hairspray, nail polish remover, extra tights, or Q-tips? Probably not, but someone always did). I was also recently given the opportunity to choreograph a number with the musical theatre group I used to perform with, and I honestly felt it was more rewarding to sit in the audience and watch how far my dancers had come instead of choreograph numbers for myself to perform in. Performing will always give me a rush and I have no intention of giving it up anytime soon, but I realize that my life will be more fulfilling if I dedicate it to giving others the gift of a dance education. Dance has taught me so many important life lessons, given me my best memories, and has consistently been the most beautiful thing in my life, and it would be an honor to pass all of that on to someone else. I want to create my owner little corner of the dance world where students can turn into stars, achieve their dreams, and find their own passion for dance. The art of dance (especially ballet) is often overlooked, so I think it's important to pass on this art form so others can experience it and let it be the most beautiful thing in their lives. Dance is a great form of self expression and I don't know where I'd be without it. When people tell me that I'm not going to make any money, I usually just laugh and say that I'd rather be broke and living out my purpose in life than have a "more stable" job and sit behind a desk all day and not do what I always wanted to. I would see people succeeding in the career that I always wanted to wonder why I was too scared to do it. I think life has a way of working itself out if you're really doing what you're supposed to be. I have faith that if I embark on this journey I'll somehow end up in a good place. If anyone can pull this off, it sure as hell is me. Am I probably going to work multiple jobs and struggle to stay afloat and sacrifice a lot of things? Of course I am. But all I want is to see my future students shine and know that I helped them become the best dancers they can be and- more importantly- helped them find the love of the art form that I have been in love with since I was a child. This is what I want, this is what I have always wanted, and this is what I am going to work for until I've made it happen.
In the age of social media, people everywhere are constantly updating their Instagram pages to showcase their passions, artwork, and lives. As a dancer, I'm always stalking my own Instagram and thinking I don't have enough dance photos posted. Something almost all dancers are guilty of is taking dance pics in random places, anywhere from a field to a castle to Disney World. My friend Lex and I danced together for about two years and last week we decided to go to the beach and ended up trying to be artsy and take dance pictures. After each one she'd take, I would check my technique and see if I could do every little thing better, from my turn out, to my extension, etc. Self correction is a good tool for ballet dancers; this is exactly why we have mirrors in dance studios. While I was going through the photos I noticed little things that I'd gotten corrected on in class, so I'd retake the photo and try to fix them. Having a dance photo shoot is a great way to self correct, practice your technique, and have fun.
You do need to be cautious with dance photo shoots, however, especially ones where you're running the show. Technique is a very important element of dance, but it's important to not be too self critical. It's more important to be holding your head up high and smiling in a photo then it is to have a 180 degree turnout. It's hard not to compare yourself to the dancers in photos you find online than you use as inspiration for your own photo shoot, but just remember those are probably professional dancers that have many more years of training than you do. What makes a good photo are the ones where you look happy to be dancing, not the ones where you look exhausted from trying to get that leap just right. You should also never be ashamed to post your photos just because they aren't technically perfect. Perfect technique is the dream of every ballet dancer, but when you go on stage, the audience is going to care more about your performance quality than your technical quality. Apply this concept to your photos. Don't be discouraged to post your pics! There's no harm in documenting the process of improving; someday when you're a prima ballerina you can put the photos side by side and show the world that hard work pays off.
Here's an example of how my first arabesque has improved over the past year
Check out some of Lex's and my photos from our impromptu photo shoot at Seabrook Beach!
...for the sake of comedy and to show that not every picture will come out perfect (and that's okay!), here are some of our bloopers
August 2015 Photo Credits Kayla Pacenka Photography
All other photos are original content
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News & Events
9/18 Follow my new Instagram just for my dance things!
12/23 I was one of NDEO's Guest Bloggers this year! Read "Teaching is a Vocation. Not a Fallback" on their Behind the Curtain Blog!
9/27 I will be presenting my research at the National Dance Education Organization National Conference next week! See my research project by clicking the button below!
4/15 While working on PMA's production of The Addams Family, I got to combine my two favorite styles of dance (ballet and musical theatre) for "The Moon and Me"! Watch my talented students dance by clicking the button below!
2/20 I am choreographing PMA Theatre Guild's Production of The Addams Family! Come see these amazing high school students perform at Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen, MA April 13 & 14! Tickets available at the door.
2/20 I am stage managing BSU's Dance Kaleidoscope this year! Show dates are March 29-31 at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. Come see this student choreography showcase!
11/5 I will once again be dancing in a BSUDC concert! Tickets to WinterDance are now available!
8/24 NDEO's National Honor Society for Dance Arts has published one of my articles in their newsletter! Read an updated version of "Audition Advice" here:
5/16 Interested in learning about movement concepts? Visit Becca's new Educational Dance website!
5/8 BSU Dance Company's Dance Kaleidoscope 2017 is now on Youtube! You can watch my performances by visiting the VIDEOS page!
4/23 I recently performed for the residents of Allerton House in Hingham, MA! You can watch part of my performance here!
Amesbury Children's Theatre presents...James and the Giant Peach Jr, featuring choreography by me! Click for tickets!
2/8 My piece "Barefoot" is now available to watch online! Click to watch!
2/5 Happy to say I have been cast in BSU Dance Company's Spring concert Dance Kaleidoscope! I will be dancing in 3 faculty choreographed pieces, including excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty in which I will be dancing the role of Lilac Fairy! Show dates are March 31-April 1 at Bridgewater State University.
Click the button for more info!
1/15 Ballet with Becca is now on Facebook! Click to visit the page, and be sure to like it while you're there!
1/14 I am happy to say I will be attending artEmotion's summer intensive in June! I will be dancing in the one week artEmotion Adult Program. If anyone would like to join or audition for any other artEmotion program, visit their website!