Dance Audition Experience

By: Zack Winokur, First Year Dance Major

The Juilliard Dance audition is an important opportunity to look at yourself in the context of other very good dancers your own age. I think it’s true of almost all high school seniors that we’ve only seen dancers from our relatively immediate communities. I’m from Boston, and before auditioning for college last year I’d met few committed 18-year-old dancers from outside of Massachusetts. So, as I headed to the hallowed halls of the Juilliard building, clad in my most comfortable loafers, I tried to quell my nervousness by getting excited at the prospect of seeing some great dance and great dancers my own age. It was a memorable first glimpse at my generation – the next generation – of dancers and dance-makers.

As soon as I entered the building, I was escorted to the third floor by extremely exuberant and friendly Juilliard dancers. I set my stuff down in a corner in the warm-up studio (there are two studios used: one for waiting and warming and the other for the audition class, solo showing, etc.) and looked around. Everyone, including myself, was eager, anxious and bouncing with nerves. It was pretty early in the morning and I was intimidated by how high people could get their legs up, considering the hour. It’s important not to get too swept up in this sort of intimidation and instead do what is necessary for yourself, whatever this means: sitting quietly for a little, rolling around on the floor, taking a jog around the building, or stretching your leg very high above your head.

The audition is undeniably a pressured situation. This school is rigorous and like any other audition, this one acts as a microcosm of the school environment. Therefore, it is an informative experience for you, and those watching, to see how you’re able to cope with this pressure. Again, it’s important that you simply do what you have to do for yourself. Once I got into the audition studio for the ballet class I felt more comfortable because I could put faces to the previously veiled people who were to be judging me. They looked normal, some were very short, some were very tall, and almost all of them were smiling. I felt supported rather than judged by their watching me. They were my audience and I would perform my best for them.

An audition (particularly in dance) is really different from most other college applications. It can be scary since it’s so public; it’s only about you, not what you put on paper. But remember that it’s public for everybody! Enjoy the fact that you can look at other people as much as they will look at you. Perhaps, the most fun I had at my audition was before we showed our solos. One person at a time was called in to perform their solo as the rest of us waited in the other studio. I should rephrase this however, since no one in the other studio was sitting and waiting. Each person was ripping through the most difficult moments of their solos, the things they looked best in, over and over: multiple pirouettes, high jumps, high legs, high energy. It was admittedly a very weird and kind of silly carnival which was so much fun to watch and be a part of. It felt playful rather than competitive.

I think the key to the audition is exactly that: finding a fragile balance between friendly competition and serious playfulness.