Whether you’re considering an audition for a summer dance intensive, a year round training program, or are simply looking for a new dance studio where you can continue honing your skills, you may be wondering what ballet schools look for when taking on a new dance student.
There is no simple answer to this question as it depends a great deal on the school and the individual artistic director’s preferences. But there are a few physical and mental attributes that AD’s do commonly seek. Here are a few of the things that ballet schools look for when evaluating a potential new student.
Here at Joffrey Ballet School we strive to be accepting of all body types when evaluating students for our summer dance intensives and year round trainee program. However, your “look” can be a significant criteria with many ballet school Artistic Directors. Some do still seek out students and trainees who fit the “long and lean” dancer body type. However, don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t describe you. Especially in modern and contemporary ballet schools, the strong and athletic type is not only appreciated, it’s often preferred.
Even if you naturally do have a slender, elegant “ballerina” body type, it won’t do you much good if you’re not actually strong enough to perform at the level required. In the eyes of most Artistic Directors, strength and stamina trump skinny every time. Ballet schools and dance companies are seeking dancers with the strength and fitness level to perform what are basically Olympian athletic feats: jumps, fouettes, pirouettes, and basically any moves en pointe require an incredible degree of athleticism. So remember that it’s best to put your focus on making your body as strong and flexible as it can be rather than worrying excessively about your weight.
In the eyes of most Artistic Directors, one of the best qualities a dancer can have is “musicality”: a love of music and the ability to “feel” it on the inside while expressing those feelings on the outside. Musicality is a sensitivity to the music that allows you to move in unique ways and make choreography your own. It’s the “je ne sais quois” of dance: the factor that makes you stand out even when performing the same movements as the rest of the class.
The ability to listen and follow instructions is one of the key mental criteria ballet school artistic directors are seeking in a trainee. So when you’re auditioning, make sure to listen carefully to all instructions and do your best to follow them. Most artistic directors will forgive a few mistakes or missteps if they see you are engaged, making eye contact and paying close attention to instructions even if you are unable to reproduce the required steps on your first or even second try.
Despite books and movies featuring diva-like behavior from dancers, a poor attitude isn’t a quality that will endear you to most artistic directors. Nobody wants to spend hours a day working with a dancer whose demeanor is unpleasant. After all, no matter how ridiculously talented, athletic and musical that person may be, their attitude will affect everyone around them. A ready smile and a happy, friendly attitude go a long way toward ingratiating you to most ballet school instructors and artistic directors.
Your mother was right: good manners matter. Ballet school Artistic Directors are extremely observant and they can tell a lot about a dancer by watching how they behave in class. They’re not just watching the lines of your limbs, your footwork or how high you can jump. They are watching to see whether you remember to say thank you to partners, accompanists and instructors at the end of class. They’re watching whether you’re eating or otherwise distracted during class (word to the wise – leave all food, and any drinks other than water outside the audition). And they are also watching to see what you do during downtime in the class – are you working on your combinations, or are you checking your phone?
We’ll give you one guess which one makes the better impression.
It seems like a simple thing but you’d be surprised how often dancers ignore the guidelines for audition attire or send in unprofessional audition headshots. Many ballet schools have dress codes for auditions for a very good reason: so that Artistic Directors can focus on each student’s dancing without being distracted by their choices in clothing. But even if your audition doesn’t have a dress code per se, remember that distracting colors, unruly hair and inappropriate clothing choices all make it more difficult for the dancer underneath to truly shine.
We would also advise you to make sure that your audition headshots are a good quality and accurate representation of you. They don’t have to be shot by a professional, but they should be in focus, well lit, and portray you as you really are: NO photoshopping. And remember to wear your hair in a similar style as you would during an audition, so that Artistic Directors can recognize you.
Lastly, we want to remind you that ballet schools are looking for dancers with something unique to bring to the table, who have the ability to be versatile and who are willing to learn new things. That means that even if you don’t feel that you have the perfect body, or the perfect training background, you should walk into each audition with a smile on your face and a belief in yourself. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be you. If you have a positive attitude, listen well and give it your all, you just may find that what ballet schools are looking for is you!
Register with Joffrey Today!
At Joffrey Ballet School, we are always looking for dancers with the versatility, ability and attitude to be successful in ballet, jazz and contemporary, or any style of dance. Register with us today for an audition with one of our world-class master instructors – you just might be exactly who we’re looking for!