DVD Auditions for the Distance Dancer – Part 2

Now that you know what you will perform for your video audition, it’s time to think logistics. When will you record you DVD? How? Who can help you? What if you don’t have a video recorder? What should you wear? What do you do once you have the footage? What should you include in the package with your disk? What else should you know about DVD auditions?

Ok, let’s start at the top…

All schools want to see recent footage taken at or perhaps soon after the time of their audition tour. Check their sites for deadlines. Make sure to record your footage no more than two months prior to the date that you mail your DVDs. Do not splice taping sessions from different days onto one audition DVD, and never try to make edits within a single exercise or splice two versions of an exercise together! I have seen some very embarrassing videos from young dancers who try to fool adjudicators into thinking that they finished an exercise as strongly as they finished it by editing two different tapings of a single exercise together.  It is always completely obvious.

A lot of families own a DVD recorder. If your family has one that you are allowed to use, you are a lucky duck. If not, you still have a few options. Check with classmates to see if you can borrow one, or look online for local videographers to see what they charge to make a professional DVD. Even if you do own a DVD recorder, a professional DVD can be easier (since you don’t have to deal with editing) and cleaner looking (since they have excellent editing software and high-resolution recorders) than a do-it-yourself DVD, if you can afford it. Alternatively, and perhaps best, ask your teacher if she has a recorder. Whether she does or doesn’t, ask if she would consider recording you and, as I mentioned in my last post, helping you choreograph and rehearse your audition exercises.

Often, the format of the DVD files are not important, so that an mpeg file from your iPod Nano, for example, might be perfectly sufficient. Resolution is important though – the footage needs to be clear and good quality. If you can play the files on a DVD player or on a computer with basic software, so can they. Just let them know what program or device to use if they will not be able to play it on a DVD player. You can always call ahead to work this out with the school.

You will be expected to dress properly for your video audition. That means you should follow the regular audition dress code guidelines for each school. They will tell you in their video requirements if there are any further attire rules specific to DVD auditions. You can’t really go wrong by wearing your best outfit of black leo, pink tights and pink shoes. Some schools will require you to pin an audition number card to your leotard, and they will tell you how to acquire or print it. [If a printed card is required, print it on the thickest paper you have, cut it down to a proper size (about 6”x7”) and pin it to the front of your leo below your bust with a safety pin at the top and at the bottom.] Wear your hair in a bun or French twist and apply full makeup – just make it a little less dramatic than stage makeup. Do not wear a costume, even if you are performing a variation. Do not include any performance footage for your audition video unless specifically and unmistakably requested by the school.

Most schools receive many DVD auditions, plus they have to review all the live auditionees. Respect your auditioners time by staying safely within the time limit for your DVD audition. If the specs say no more than 10 minutes, don’t decide that your introduction shouldn’t count just so you can fit in an extra 15 seconds of piqué turns. Ten minutes maximum is the most common request by the way, though Ballet Austin Academy, for example, asks for about 15 minutes of material.

Speaking of the introduction, you should either use a short portion of the DVD for a recording zoomed to your face where you state your name, age and city/state, or you should have a text page of this info inserted on a plain background to have up on the screen for a few seconds before your exercises begin. Either way, deduct the time that these items play on the screen from the total time allotted for your DVD so that you won’t go over the time limit.

Also on the subject of taping technique, make sure that a) your full body is visible at all times, b) each individual exercise is recorded in one “take” with no cuts or splices and c) the camera is held very steady so the footage is not shaky. For barre, stay with one perspective (record from directly side or straight on from the front) for each exercise. For center, it’s ok to pan and take a diagonal perspective if necessary as long as your whole body is in the frame at all times. For jumps, be sure that you are zoomed out enough that they can easily see your jump height in relation to the floor. Use a similar zoom setting for exercises that travel across the studio and variations, perhaps starting with a tight full-body zoom and zooming out gradually as you travel across the floor. A good videographer or teacher can help with these decisions. Record a performance of each exercise at least twice to the left and right.

Let me reiterate from Part 1: make sure you read the requirements of each school. Most of them just want a short barre and center and will give you a lot of leeway on the exercises, but there are some outliers. For example, the American Academy of Ballet does not want any barrework on video auditions. Also make sure you look for caveats to video audition acceptance. You don’t want to send in a video to San Francisco Ballet School only to have it rejected because you actually live within a 200 mile radius of one of their audition tour locations, their minimum distance for video audition eligibility.

Once you have your footage all done – including a spoken introduction if you want that instead of text – you’ll need to decide which side (left or right) to show for each of the barre exercises. You want to show your best execution of each one, but you also want some consistency with the format of your video, so you’ll have to decide which grouping of exercises looks best: all to the right, all to the left or alternating right and left evenly. Depending on the requirements of each school, you may have to do the same for the center exercises. Your videographer or teacher can help you select which exercises to include and splice them together in the right order using editing software. If you are sending videos to multiple schools, you might need to make different versions of the video for each one.

Once you DVD is finalized, burn a copy for yourself, a copy for whomever helped you and a copy for the school. Label each disk with your name, the date, your age, you city/state and your phone number. Some schools have a video audition card that you need to print out, complete and attach to the DVD or slip into the disk case. The properly labeled and encased DVD is the first item for your audition package.

The second item for your audition package is your audition fee. Video auditions are often $50 payable by check or money order, considerably more than live auditions.

Third is your paperwork. A video application form needs to be printed and completed for most schools. A few schools require a dance résumé instead of a form. Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education has what they call an Absentee Audition Form – but they ask for a résumé also. I would also recommend a brief cover letter (on a business letter format) introducing yourself, explaining your interest in the school and thanking the adjudicators for reviewing your video audition application package. Once you have your paperwork together, make a complete copy to keep for your own record.

Fourth, you will need to include a few photos. Unfortunately, the schools can vary widely on what they need, more so than when it comes to live auditions. You may have to have quite a few poses photographed. You’ll just have to – you guessed it – refer to each school’s guidelines.

Finally, include an SASE (that’s a self-addressed and stamped envelope, kiddos!) that has enough postage for the weight of your video, unless the school does not wish to return videos.

You are now ready to mail your audition package! Check and double check that you have the proper mailing address for video audition packages, the properly labeled and correctly compiled DVD, the appropriate enclosures. Then, take your package to the local USPS, UPS or FedEx/Kinko’s to have it weighed, stamped, and sent on to its destination by trackable service. Now breathe a sigh of relief and begin your patient wait… Before you know it, you’ll be holding a response envelope in your hands!

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Ballet in Print: Girl in Motion (with a sneak peek!)

Miriam Wenger-Landis, former professional dancer with Miami City Ballet, published a lovely novel this year for young dancers called Girl in Motion. This book chronicles the experiences of small-town girl Anna, a very talented young dancer who has been accepted to the year-round program at the fictional School of Ballet New York after attending their summer intensive.

Miriam Wenger-Landis trained at SAB as a young dancer and is able to use those experiences to write believably and compellingly about Anna’s world. Thanks to Dance Spirit Magazine, you can read two excerpts of Girl in Motion online – Part 1 was published on their site in September, and part 2 will be available next month!

Teacher Summer Intensives & Workshops

Student dancers, this post is not for you, but I will be completing my tips on DVD auditioning very soon!

I was recently asked if I know of any good teacher workshops. I compiled a list this past summer for my own use, and I am happy to share that, though I can’t guarantee that it’s exhaustive.

Some of these require auditions, some require a paper application process and others will accept anyone who registers and pays. Gelsey Kirkland’s school and Royal Winnepeg are linked to year-round programs. ABT and perhaps one or two others offer a certification after completion of their program. I went ahead and left my old notes on estimated costs on this list, though I don’t know if they are still accurate. The last three I have heard of by word of mouth, but could not find information on them at the time.

I am personally most interested in John White’s (author of the great teachers’ books “Teaching Classical Ballet” and “Advanced Principles in Teaching Classical Ballet”) program, and Ruth Petrinovic’s (teacher of master teacher David Howard) program. Ruth was trained to teach by JoAnna Kneeland, who is famous for popularizing the therapeutic barre. (JoAnna, Ruth and David are all Harkness people, I believe.) John recently completed a few years of running his elementary to intermediate program and is now running his intermediate to advanced program. I am told that the program really does build, so that you need to take the former before the latter. I’m not sure how long it will be before he goes back to running lower level program.

In addition to my list here, Dance Teacher magazine keeps a long list of schools that supposedly run teacher programs, but somehow a lot of them don’t really seem to do so. I think many schools consider teachers eligible to attend their student SI, but that doesn’t qualify at all as continuing education if you ask me. So here’s my list of programs:

Gelsey Kirkland Academy Teacher Training
http://www.gelseykirklandballet.org/academyteachers.html

Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Teacher Program (course/room/board $1450)
http://www.rwbschool.com/pro/Programs/Teac…narProgram.aspx

Ballet Magnificat Teacher’s Workshop (course/room/board $943)
http://www.balletmagnificat.com/E_teacher.html

Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet with John White (course/room/board $925)
http://www.paacademyofballet.com/vaganova11.htm

American Ballet Theater Teacher Certification Programs
Primary-Level 3 Training (course only $1650)
Level 4-5 (course only $1350)
Level 6-Partnering (course only $1325)
http://www.abt.org/education/teachercertification.asp

Tampa Ballet Center Ruth – Petrinovic’s Teacher Training (course only $900)
http://tampaballetcenter.org/Ruth%20Brochure.pdf

CPYB Teacher Workshop (course only $675)
http://www.cpyb.org/summer-programs/teachers-program

Dance Teacher Summit (course only $550)
http://danceteachersummit.com/

Dance Masters of America (course/room/board $850)
http://www.dma-national.org/xftraining.htm

Dance Educators of America
Level 1 (course only $1000)
Level 2 (course only $1000)
Level 3 (course only $1000)
http://www.deadance.com/dea/menu2/program.htm

National Dance Education Organization
http://www.ndeo.org/content.aspx?page_id=2…module_id=66988

Vaganova Summer School with Mansur Kalametnidov
http://www.russianballet.net/teachers.html

Pacific Northwest Ballet Teacher Seminar (no info found)

Vail International Dance Festival Ballet Teacher’s Seminar (no info found)

National Ballet of Canada (no info found)

So that’s it. Hope this helps! If you know of any others, just put them in the comments, and I’ll add them to this list.

Dancewear en l’air: The Sunray Pleat Leotard

Mirella’s artists are at it again with super pretty options in their Holiday Fashion 2010 and Fall Fashion 2010 collections, which feature fabric knots, belts, corset lacing and pleating. While all the styles are very creative, their are a few definite standouts, including M2013L.

The signature of this leo is diagonal pleating which forms beautiful arrays across the bust. (If you can’t see it on the pic at left, click it once to see a large view.) The blackberry shade shown looks simply lush and accentuates the dimension of the pleating perfectly. This leo is also available in a dynamic garnet red which is bright but at the same time deep.

Two modern fabric options are available: a Diablo/Nylon/Lycra and a Meryl/Spandex combo. So lux, I would pair the blackberry leo with cashmere-feel thigh-high black legwarmers over theatrical pink tights.

DVD Auditions for the Distance Dancer – Part 1

Uh-oh! One of your top summer intensive choices isn’t auditioning anywhere near you this year, and you can’t travel to them. No worries – DVD auditions are accepted by many national and regional ballet schools. (Though some, like SAB, only accept videos from foreign students.) And with a few tips, you’ll be well on your way to an audition-worthy disk.

This post is in two parts because there are so many tips on this that I’d like to give you. Today, I’ll focus on the content – what you are going to perform for your video audition. In Part 2, we’ll talk logistics, filming style, how-to and putting together the audition packet.

Just as with live auditions, most schools devote at least one page on their website to video auditions: what to wear, what steps to include, what papers to include and how long it should be. Find this for each of your video audition schools and print out the pages for easy reference and comparison. In order to prevent yourself from having to make more than one audition video, read through the requirements of all your schools of interest to see if you can make one DVD to satisfy all of them. Usually, the only time this won’t work is when one school requires a you to send a variation – many schools will not want variations on your video, so you will need to make a separate disks for the two types.

Most schools will simply want a short barre and center class, but with special modifications. If you read all requirements carefully, you will find that most modifications can be combined and do not conflict with each other, so that you can make one class DVD to use for all your auditions. If you can’t however, don’t try to buck the rules. If you need to make different tapes, just go ahead and make different tapes. Run a single taping session and use editing to pick and choose what portions should be included for each school. Then, make darn sure not to mix up those different DVDs.

While some of us (ahem, moi) might make perfectly successful SI DVD auditions without rehearsing, that is not the recommended protocol! I only made my tapes with no rehearsal as a young dancer because I didn’t know any better, and that’s the very reason I created this blog – So other dancers won’t be as clueless as I once was!

You want to decide ahead of time exactly what exercises you will perform, which side you will perform for each, what music you will use for each, etc, and then practice, practice, clean, clean. Make yourself a list so you don’t accidentally forget to perform one during your taping. If you forget to perform a step, it will be impossible to tape a new session and splice it into your DVD without the details of your hair, makeup and background giving away your cheat.

One of your teachers can help you put together exercises that conform with the audition requirements. Make sure to provide them with the requirements well in advance. If all it says is to include barre and center, here are some sample (Vaganova) exercises you might include for the barre:

Pliés – Just do something straightforward like demi, demi, grand, and a port de bras or port de corp in first, second, fourth and fifth.

Tendu – Three battement tendus (from fifth, first, and then fifth again) ending the third one in demi plié. Instead of en croix, perhaps go front, side, back, and then balance in fifth or rétiré before your reversal. I would also recommend using a full port de bras in each direction to show your understanding of the lines involved there.

Jeté – Two quick battement jetés and one pas de cheval, perhaps with the arm in second and ending with a relevé rétiré balance with arms in first or, if you are advanced enough, with a single pirouette from fifth. Perform this devant, a lá seconde, and devant with your inside leg to jazz it up before reversing, but realize how that will change the pirouette directions.

Rond de Jambe – To a waltz: two slow ronds par terre, two quick ronds, degagé to 90 degrees, demi rond at 90 to a lá seconde, one rond de jambe en l’air, demi rond to derrière 90, close fifth. Reverse. Since this is an audition, I would save time and not include a port de corp if you have already included one with your plié exercise.

Frappé – Two (Cecchetti) frappés devant, one relevé, repeat a lá seconde, repeat derrière, then frappé a lá seconde into relevé and petit battements. Reverse and balance in relevé sur le coup de pied before closing fifth.

Adagio/Fondu – Developpé devant, battement fondu simple to 90 degrees en relevé, hold or balance for a moment and close fifth. Repeat a lá seconde. Repeat derrière/arabesque. Instead of repeating to the side, hold the balance in arabesque for the final counts. Do not reverse.

Grand Battement – Keep it simple with two grand battements en croix with arm in third for devant and derrière.

You’ll note that this is a very short barre with few balances and port de corps. Remember that your adjudicators need only a snapshot of a class.

Center should include an adage, pirouettes, petit allegro, grand allegro and pointework for ladies so advanced. Some sample exercises:

Adagio – Beginning croisé, developpé croisé devant, passé through rétiré to attitude éffacé, stretch to second arabesque, relevé to pas de bourée into demi plié fifth, developpé écarté devant, promenade to écarté derrière, relevé and tombé into balancé to the right, devellopé the left leg through sur le coup de pied to chassé croisé en avant on the left and close the right leg back. Repeat left.

Tours – On the diagonal in fifth croisé with right foot front, chasse croisé en avant to prepare. Tombé pas de bourée to the right, piqué to first arabesque, land in fourth position with left leg front, single pirouette en dehors to fourth, double pirouette en dehors to fourth. (Or balance in retiré and then a single pirouette if that better suits your level.) Perform once right and once left, preferably without a break – Just rond the right leg around at the end of right side.

Petit allegro – From fifth en face, right foot behind: Glissade, jeté right, glissade, jeté left, balloté devant éffacé, balloté derrière éffacé, coupé and brush to assémblé side with the left leg, closing back. Peform right and left, with battu on the jetés and assemblé if you are advanced enough.

Grand allegro – Same preparation as pirouette exercise. Sauté first arabesque, glissade, pas de chat, sauté first arabesque, glissade, grand jeté, pas couru and piqué into third arabesque, chasse into grand jeté en tournant entrelacé landing in fourth arabesque, small devellopé through to devant and chassé into chainés, chassé out and into first arabesque a térre.

If you are over 13, you may be required to perform the whole video en pointe in addition to the next section.

Pointework 1 – En face: two echappés changée to second, one to fourth, and one passé through retire; repeat that phrase to the left; pique with the right leg into pas de bourée suivi traveling right, continue into a small circle around yourself, changée fifth in sous-sous, chassé an avant croisé on the left foot and close right foot behind to fifth. Repeat to the left.

Pointework 2 – En diagonale: pique first arabesque, tombé over, coupe under to renversé, pas de bourée en tournant, coupé over on the left foot into piqué pas de bourée closing in fifth position demi plié, and chassé en arriére to croisé devant in prep for left. Repeat to the left.

Pointework 3 –  Piqué turns en diagonale.

Pointework 4 – If you have enough room on your tape, show off any pointe strengths that you would like in a set of 16 or 32 counts. I always added hops on pointe to my audition videos. Fouetté rond de jambes en tournant (foutté turns) are rarely requested, but do include them if they are a specialty of yours.

Remember to finish each exercise cleanly. And check those requirements – San Fransisco and Miami City have very specific DVD choreography specifications that would not be satisfied by the above sample.

If a variation is requested, make sure you don’t include something so long that you can’t also fit your barre and center while accommodating the time limit. Two of my favorite short variations for pre-pro dancers are Bluebird from Sleeping Beauty and Kitri’s (second) first act variation from Don Quixote. Each one is only about a minute, and both feature jumps, turns and pointework.

See? This won’t be so bad. Videos let you a) audition in the comfort of your home-field-advantage studio, b) create exercises that present you at your very best, c) practice the exercises ahead of time and d) take multiple recordings from which to choose your best execution. In the next post, I’ll help you get this awesome DVD made and help you put together your best video application packet.

Preparing Your SI Audition Season

You have reviewed the summer intensive audition tours for this season and know what schools are visiting your area… You have been taking classes for a few years at least and are excited to see what the student audition circuit will be like… Visions of acceptance letters are dancing in your head! But wait – how do you get from sitting in front of your computer to opening one of those promising envelopes?

Preparing an optimal audition season for yourself takes thoughtfulness and preparation. You are going to have to be very proactive and responsible. There are a lot of to-dos, but it’s all very straightforward. And wouldn’t you know, I’ve got it all laid out for you in a nice checklist!

_____ 1. Get organized! Open a Word document and start a numbered list of the auditions you want to attend. Include all of the auditions that you are interested in, even if you’re not sure you can make it. Note the date, time and location (studio and city) for each one.

_____ 2. Rearrange your list by date, placing the earliest audition at the top. Look for conflicts. Inevitably, two good schools will overlap on one date, and you will have to choose between the two. If this happens, take a good look at the schools and talk to your teachers to decide which one you prefer.

_____ 3. Go down your list and ask yourself – What auditions are coming within easy traveling distance of your hometown? Which ones would require significant travel? Are those auditions worth a road trip? Can you get together a group of other dancers for a carpool to some of the auditions that are farther away? Make notes about this for each audition.

_____ 4. Share the list with your parents. Talk to them about your desired audition schedule and which auditions they will drive you to or that you will be allowed to drive to. Mark all of those auditions on your calendar and on your family calendar.

_____ 5. For those auditions that your parents either cannot drive you to (or that you are not allowed to drive to), ask if you would be permitted to go with a friend or with another dance parent. Contact dance friends that might be interested in carpooling and see if they (or their parents) can take you together or with a group, and then put these auditions on your calendar and your family calendar. (If you are unable to get to an audition that you really wanted to attend, don’t worry – a DVD audition is a good alternative. I’ll talk about those in a later post.)

_____ 6. You should now have your final schedule! It’s time to preregister. Quite a few schools have made preregistration available on their websites. Carefully check each school’s site to see if this option is available. Some schools have made online preregistration mandatory! It would be very embarrassing to get turned away for overlooking this step.

_____ 7. It’s time to get prepare your audition materials. Most schools have a page on their website describing the audition requirements in detail. Print out this out for each of your auditions.

_____ 8. Let’s talk about photos first. Each school has unique photo requests that are usually listed on their website, but you will be pretty much set for anything if you take the following shots in pink tights and a black leo (no skirt) with full stage hair and makeup and in pointe shoes (if you are that advanced): 1) a close-up headshot from the collarbone up, 2) full body first arabesque, 3) full body tendu a lá seconde with arms in second, 4) full body favorite pose. Professional photos are not necessary and are not the norm for students, but a teacher may be able to better than a parent for taking photos that show you to your best advantage. A size of 5×7″ is usually preferred. Write your full name and age on the back of each print.

_____ 9. Next is money, honey. SI auditions usually cost between $30 and $35 payable in cash, check or money order. You will have to check the audition information for each SI to find out which payment methods are preferred for each. Be up front with your parents from the get-go about this if you are relying on them to cough up these fees. If they cannot or will not subsidize your auditions (or any other aspect of your training for that matter), you are going to have to decide how important this is to you and, if it is truly important, how you can earn the money you need perhaps by becoming an assistant teacher or offering to clean the studio for your directors.

____ 10. Finally, there’s always random stuff that schools will want. (For example, SAB requires proof of birth at the audition.) You need to carefully read the websites and maybe even make a few phone calls to make sure you collect what you need to have.

You’ll notice that as a student, résumés, professional photos and recommendation letters are not a part of most auditions. Not only that, such materials will often be turned away by schools that do not specifically ask for them.

Now that you have your materials, go back to your list and create an audition packet for each school. Pay special attention to photo size and type specifications, payment preferences and preregistration. If you have read each school’s website carefully, you will be a-okay.

You have now prepared an excellent SI audition season for yourself – Well done! In my next post, I’ll let you know what to do on the day of an audition – and what to expect.

Inspiration: Carla Körbes

Carla Körbes is a principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. Carla was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she began her training with local teachers. Famed NYCB dancer Peter Boal encouraged her to go to the School of American Ballet after dancing with her at Ballet Vera Bublitz as a guest artist. Carla did so and for the 1997-1998 term was under the sponsorship of the legendary Alexandra Danilova.

Carla accepted an apprenticeship with NYCB in 1999, joined the corps de ballet in 2000 and was promoted to soloist in 2005.  Later that same year, she joined PNB as a soloist and was promoted to principal in 2006.

Carla has performed countless leading roles and received many high awards and honors. You might enjoy reading blog posts authored by Carla (at The Winger), which include loads of amazing photographs of her in rehearsal.