Article appeared in Dance Spirit, February 2000
Get the Most Out of Your Dance Audition
Of course you expect that when you audition for a college dance program you will be judged by the faculty. Did you know that you are also in a position to do some judging and evaluating of your own? Do your homework, be observant, ask the right questions, and use your audition to pick the best school for you.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Learn all you can about the school and about yourself before you audition. Make notes about what you want to learn at your audition. Remember that it's a two-way process. At the University of the Arts, Susan Glazer, head of the dance department, hopes that at the end of a successful audition, both the faculty and the student will agree on whether the school and the student are a good match.
Think about the way you learn best. Do you like to work with students who are more accomplished than you or do you work hardest when you are one of the leaders in your group? Know where your motivation comes from and what type of environment helps you learn. Think about what you want to do with dance and what you need to learn in order to achieve your goals. Then make sure the program meets your needs.
Don't rely on reputation and remember that the most selective school isn't necessarily the best one for you. Understand the philosophy of the department and think about how this will affect your training. Know what the faculty will be looking for at the audition and prepare to present yourself at your very best.
BE OBSERVANT: The audition is your opportunity to observe the faculty as they observe you. Do you feel validated and respected by them as they make corrections? Do you enjoy learning from them? If you are taking a regularly scheduled class at the school be sure to observe the other students. Where do you see yourself fitting in with these dancers? Observe the interaction between the teacher and students. Look for signs that students are supportive of each other and enthusiastic about being in class.
Use your time before and after class to talk with students. Most students love to talk about their school to prospective students and will be very willing to tell you what they like and don't like about their program.
This is also your chance to evaluate the facilities. You will want to know that there is adequate and appropriate studio and performance space.
ASK QUESTIONS: If you audition on campus you will have the opportunity to speak with students and learn what life on campus is like. Arrange an interview with a faculty member and talk about your goals for your work at the school as well as your career plans. Ask for feedback about your audition and how this teacher sees you progressing in the dance world. Find out how much flexibility you will have in your program and how
much of your program will be planned for you. Understand what the structure of the school will allow you to do. If you're hoping to cross register at another school or teach or take class outside of school find out if this is possible. You don't want to begin a program with unrealistic expectations.
CAN'T MAKE IT TO CAMPUS? TRY A VIRTUAL VISIT
Even if you're not able to audition on campus you will want to plan a visit to the school before you make your final decision. Try to take class and speak with students. If that's not possible plan an on-line visit to learn more about the place you're planning on calling "home". In general, colleges and universities have more comprehensive web sites than conservatories, but your virtual visit to any school you're considering will be worth the effort.
Lots of students go to a web site to read the home page but only the clever ones get to the really important places. Go to the online registrar's office. Find out who is teaching the classes you're likely to take. Make sure the teachers you want to study with are actively involved in teaching. See how many classes are taught each semester. Remember that course catalogues list all classes offered, even if they're not offered every year. You may be able to find out how many students are in each class and which classes reach maximum enrollment early and then close. The official student:teacher ratio means little if the classes you're going to take are larger than you had expected.
Be sure to check out the activities page and residential life section. Follow links to areas that interest you. Interested in a student-run theater group or the Young Democrats Club? See if those groups list contact persons. You're likely to find e-mail links to students who are involved in activities you're interested in. E-mail them. Identify yourself as a prospective student and ask them what their experiences have been like. Ask the things you really want to know.
Keep searching and you may find the college newspaper on-line. Check the calendar to find out what's happening on campus. Read about the things that really matter to students. Learn what students care about. Does this sound like a school that will challenge and nurture you artistically, academically and personally? Then go ahead and give it your best shot.