Getting Accepted: What Are “They” Looking For at SI Auditions?

Summer Intensive auditions are now in full swing, and I’ve gotten tons of great questions from you guys lately about what the SI adjudicators will be looking for! I know you all sometimes feel a lot of pressure about these auditions, but you should know that the adjudicators will make it as positive an experience as possible. Often, your audition fee will be a “master class” fee, and you will have the benefit of instruction and correction from exceptional teachers during the audition class.

I know what you’re really interested in, though, is the nitty-gritty of how your are being judged. Many factors are considered in your evaluation. I like to divide these factors into two categories: physical attributes and performance attributes.\

By physical attributes, I am referring to the body of the dancer. Dancing is a sport (and of course an art), and just like any sport you must have a body that is physically capable of doing the work required. Your adjudicators will be looking for dancers of a healthy weight who have a suitable physical facility for ballet. By facility, I mean dancers with:

  • Good rotation for turn-out
  • Long, flexible limbs
  • Supple muscularity
  • Balanced proportions
  • An overall good “look”

Of particular interest to auditioners might be:

  • Longer limbs combined with a shorter torso
  • A small head
  • High but strong and controlled arches
  • A touch of hyperextension in the knees

Of course, we can’t talk about ballet bodies without getting to the touchy question of weight. I am not going to sit here and tell you that SIs never accept underweight dancers. Sadly, some SIs might overlook an underweight dancer who is able to hobble through an audition, but these dancers generally do not make it far in ballet (or sometimes even that SI) due to their sheer inability to physically keep up. Without a proper muscular structure and proper food intake these dancers inevitably cannot perform as required. One of the saddest things I saw as an SI student was when dancers were sent home from a program for concerns of being underweight or unable to physically keep up. It goes without saying that being overweight will be similarly inhibiting, and that an athleticly slim figure is often preferred. So the most important thing is to be of a healthy athletic weight, and that means being neither over nor underweight.

Physical attributes are secondary to performance attributes, however, and these attributes include movement quality and the dancers ability to … dance! Performance attributes include:

  • Quality training commensurate with age
  • Good basic placement and core strength
  • Coordination
  • Musicality
  • Proper use of plie
  • Good lines
  • Strong and articulated feet
  • Quality port de bras
  • Extension appropriate for age
  • Strength on pointe, if appropriate
  • Ability to understand corrections
  • Ability to apply corrections
  • Ability to pick-up choreography quickly
  • Style and artistic expression
  • Great mental attitude
  • Passion for and enjoyment of dancing

You probably notice that the first ten items on this list are all related to technique. Remember that these adjudicators are not looking for perfection. In fact, up to the age of about 14, they are giving quite a bit of consideration to the dancer’s potential. If you are lacking in technique due to inadequate instruction for example, you can show through your ability to pick up corrections and choreography that you are very teachable and therefore perhaps an excellent candidate. As you get a bit older, however, adjudicators will be looking for a more finished product. By the age of 17 or 18, you will want to present yourself as a dancer who has most of her technique and movement quality at a professional level. They will want someone at that age to be working mostly on artistry with perhaps some technical fine-tuning remaining to be done.

Do not underestimate the importance of the last two items I’ve listed. Showing your love for dance through enthusiasm for learning and enjoyment of movement can and often does cause an adjudicator to give a student a second, third or even fourth look. Avoid the “deer in the headlights” look at all costs! Be present in the moment, attentive, focused mentally and with your eyes, and remember why you are there in the first place … because you love, love, love to dance!

Merde, ballerinas! May you all have an exciting and educational audition season!!

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9 thoughts on “Getting Accepted: What Are “They” Looking For at SI Auditions?

  1. josie says:

    thanks so much for this.This is my first year auditioning for anything. this is my 6th year in ballet, 4 year in tap and jazz, and 1st year in point an d contemporary. I’m on a competitive dance team and have received 3 trios, 2 solos, and i duet in 2 years that have been reccomended by my teachers and received a be discovered scholarship last year to LA . I’m really flexible and have a good arch and turn out. I’m worried about my height. considering I’m only 4’4, I wonder if I might be declined because of it.

    • ClassicalBalletTeacher says:

      Hi dear. It’s rare for schools to consider height a major factor for summer program crriteria. I would be very surprised if any declines in this day and age had anything to do with students being too short. Companies are of course another matter.

  2. Jaelin says:

    Thanks for the article! Even though I’m 15 going on 16, this will be my first year auditioning for any SI’s. Because it’s my first year, I plan on mostly auditioning for programs at local companies. I feel like my basic technique isn’t a problem, however, I do have a bit of trouble with multiple turns and I struggle with picking up choreography quickly. How much will this hurt me at auditions?

    • ClassicalBalletTeacher says:

      Hi Jaelin. Good for you for going out for some auditions this year! You must be very excited. If you can muster the courage, don’t hold yourself back from more well-known auditions. They are great experience and don’t have anything to lose if your other option is to not attend at all. Better to go for it and have the experience when you aren’t expecting to get placed anywhere. You just might get farther than you’d expect and also next year you will be far more comfortable with auditioning with those schools if you want to try again more seriously.

      As for your two issues, just a reminder that EVERY student in the room will have different strengths and weaknesses. No school will expect perfection, otherwise they wouldn’t have a thing to teach you. For both issues though, use your class time to pay special attention to these issues so you can be at your most prepared for the auditions. Take a deep breath before your teacher shows the next combination and focus all of your energy only on what she is showing and saying. In your turns, remember that it’s a rotating balance, so you must have that balance under control first and foremost. Show a clean single to start before going for doubles if you are allowed to choose. That way, you can also set yourself up for a better double.

  3. HTH says:

    I am 14 but will be 15 by this summer, many places say this means i can choose the younger or older audition. Which audition would give m a greater advantage? Thanks:)

    • ClassicalBalletTeacher says:

      Hi there. I’d be super careful if I were you before thinking that you can choose this for yourself! Nearly every school I’ve encountered requires that the student base their category on a specific date, for example, the age you will be on the day of the audition itself. (Most use that standard, actually.)

      If however, you really do have an audition that allows you to choose, I would reflect back on your own experience at your school (are you placed with older dancers often or younger dancers?) and think about whether you would prefer to be challenged as the youngest in the group of older students, or at ease but shouldering the highest expectations in the younger group. Ultimately, any good school will assess you appropriately regardless of which you choose.

      Merde!

  4. Sarah says:

    My name is Sarah and i’m 15 years old. This is my 3rd year of pointe. and 4th year of ballet ( i did 3 years when i wa younger about six years old but i never really count that) I’m going to try out for the tulsa ballet’s summer intensive. this is my first si try out so i’m alittle nevous. I have doubles(en pointe) but left is tricker for me. will they take me even if my left isn’t a good as my right? thanks

    • ClassicalBalletTeacher says:

      Good luck sweetie! Try not to hyper-focus on one sole element. Everyone is there to continue to learn, and you will not be expected to show perfection. I can’t predict whether they will take you or not… but my left doubles were tougher than my right at your age and I did a-okay in auditions when all was said and done. 😉 I would advise you not to put all your eggs in one basket though – get out there and try for at least three schools. You can do it!

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