by Alex Jones, 1st Year Dancer
To my dearest prospective fellow students……..I never imagined I’d be writing something like this. Not so long ago, it was I sitting at that computer, dreaming, researching frantically, looking up YouTube videos of Juilliard dancers, reading blogs instead of doing homework, quickly changing the window back to Microsoft Word as my mom walked in so as to make her believe that I was actually doing something productive with my life. But now I’m here – exactly where I imagined myself being.
My name is Alex Jones and I’m now wrapping up my first semester as a dance major here. Here………..yeah. I’ve been asked to share my audition experience with you all. Hopefully it will shed some light on the situation you’re about to throw yourself into.
I came pretty close to not even auditioning for Juilliard. Why should I even try? Why waste a 50 dollar application fee on a school I’m not going to get into? Why build my hopes up just to be let down? Why do that to myself? I was pretty set on that idea, especially given that I had another program lined up for me already at home. But, well, you know how moms can be sometimes. And with some convincing from her and a mentor and teacher of mine, I finally gave in and sent my application.
I had a relatively heavy dance schedule at the time. I was dancing at my arts high school, my ballet school, and rehearsing for two “Nutcrackers,” which rounded up to a solid forty hours a week of dancing. I used a solo that I had been familiar with for a year, so I felt quite ready on that front. Due to my heavy schedule and partially due to my own stupidity, I also had a very injury-prone year. I, luckily, was at a brief moment of healthiness at the time of the Juilliard audition – between multiple severe muscular injuries in my left leg and a compression fracture in my upper spine. Call it fate, I guess.
The time leading up to my audition, however, was not nearly as mentally stressful as it was physically. I still had a rather pessimistic attitude going into my audition and was thus, not very nervous at all. I was going for the experience. I expected to get cut the first round, no matter how much preparation I’d done……and I had done a LOT of preparation. Even during the time when I couldn’t rehearse my solo full out, I spent a lot of time with my music – figuring out musicality, intention, and focus. So despite my injuries, I still felt prepared.
I remember my audition day quite vividly, but I’ll keep it brief…
San Francisco, my hometown. San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. I’d never been there before. My mom giving me quick advice before I got out of the car. Me not listening. A lot of people (57), stretching and showing off how flexible they are in a nice big studio. Me in a corner, eating snacks and giving myself a pep-talk. Numbers: 17. A very small studio with no mirrors. Ballet class….simple and not too stressful except for Larry Rhodes , Risa Steinberg and Alphonse Poulin staring at you the whole time. Me falling out of a pique arabesque and swearing right in front of the camera that stands in an obscure corner of the studio. Modern. Again, very simple. Me messing up a very simple rhythm and being out of order in line. First round of cuts – remember how I said I wasn’t nervous? Well I was now. 34 gone. When I heard Katie call “17” I felt like someone had just taken a two ton truck off my back. Solos. They make you stand in front of a camera and say some stuff. I mess that up too. They also flip the studio so you’re now facing the long direction, not the wide way. How am I supposed to travel? My ballet slipper flies off during my solo. Oops. Next cut. Nobody gets cut. Next round: coaching. A simple phrase taught by the lovely Risa Steinberg. That goes pretty well. She gives some corrections and you repeat the phrase a few times. Last Cut. “How am I still here?” There are ten of us left for interviews. Of course, I now have to face the director of the program, Larry Rhodes. First question: How do you think you did?
“Not too good. …..My shoe fell off.”
“Yes,” he says, looking up poignantly from his notes, “We took note of that.”
But aside from that one moment, I felt that the interview went pretty well. It was, perhaps, the best part of the audition for me. I called my mom and told her the news. My acceptance call came about a month later, but that’s a whole other story.
Yet the truth is that not all of you who are reading this will get in. In fact, most of you probably won’t. That’s no big secret, it’s just the truth. You can’t control the outcome of your audition. In my experience, you can’t really even control how well you do either. A lot of it is luck, or fate maybe. All you can do is try your best. Bring the best of you to the table and show it honestly, truthfully, sincerely. Don’t try to change yourself for the sake of the program. They’re not looking for that.
And as far as advice goes…….I guess I’ll just say this. Keep an open mind. Don’t try to do stupid tricks after ballet class. Stay healthy. Listen to your parents and your teachers because they tend to be right, even when you don’t want them to be. Trust yourself, trust your training, trust your artistry. Don’t hope too hard, but also don’t be afraid to dream big – because if you don’t dream big, then there’s no use in dreaming at all….
But most of all, listen to the ads. Imagine yourself here. Because I’ve found that sometimes when you imagine something hard enough, it becomes real.