Last year, Kensington MacMillen auditioned for summer programs away from home for the first time. A longtime Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet student, MacMillen had spent previous summers at her home studio, but now she was ready to branch out. After auditioning for three programs, her first response was a rejection from Miami City Ballet.
"A bunch of people from here had gotten in, and I didn't," she says. "So then you just kind of panic." She was still waiting to hear from the other programs and worried that she'd have nowhere to go.
Think of It as a Class<p>One way to reframe the process is to stop thinking of auditions as tests: They also give a taste of what a summer program will be like and the chance to experience a new teacher.</p><p>"Look at it as a master class," says Margaret Tracey, director of Boston Ballet School. "What did you notice about the teacher? What did you learn from the corrections? What did you notice about the style of the works they are emphasizing?"</p><p>Melissa Bowman, director of Houston Ballet Academy, says the faculty try to make the audition classes representative of what students will get in the program. </p><p>"So, ask yourself what was a little different?" she says. "What could you work on when you get home? Is there a step you maybe struggled with that you feel you should have under your belt?" If you see something you like, think about how you can incorporate it into your training throughout the year.</p>
Margaret Tracey teaching class at Boston Ballet School
Igor Burlak, Courtesy Boston Ballet School
Practice Showing Who You Are<p>Of course, auditions are still not exactly the same as master classes, and you are being evaluated. Kate Lydon, artistic director of summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, points out that auditioning itself is a skill worth practicing, one students'll likely be faced with throughout their career.<br></p><p>But the heightened atmosphere of an audition room provides other lessons, as well. "It's almost like a performance," Lydon says. "Your etiquette and your presentation should be really good, your hair should be neat, and you also want to show your love of dancing. There's a certain energy that is required in an audition. I think that's good practice."</p><p>It's something you'll need as a performer beyond audition season, too.<br></p><p>Tracey adds that she appreciates a certain curiosity and openness in auditioners, and there are different ways to show it. She welcomes questions from students, but even if they're not the most assertive dancer in the room, they can demonstrate enthusiasm through body language—by being attentive, taking corrections or practicing a tricky step on the side when it's not their turn. </p><p>"I hope every student learns that readiness to discover something new because it gives them a sense of participation and agency in their own training," Tracey says. "Regardless of whether they're given a spot in the program, they are taking responsibility for their experience, and that is empowering."</p>
Learn to Self-Evaluate<p>When students are used to getting feedback from your teachers, it's daunting to walk out of an audition with no sense of how they did. </p><p>"One of the hardest things about summer auditions is that they don't tell you why you don't get in," says MacMillen. "You automatically go to the worst-case scenario." </p><p>Because of the number of students auditioning, detailed feedback isn't possible. Bowman says that makes it a good opportunity to practice being self-aware about your own dancing—a skill you'll need as a professional. She recommends doing a self-check at the end of the audition: "How did I do? Where was my weakest moment? What did I think I could work on? Be honest about it, and then work on it and be excited to take that challenge on."</p>
Kate Lydon corrects a développé á la seconde
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT