Conservatory dancers in studio clapping

What to Expect and How to Stand Out at a Dance Conservatory Audition

Oh, auditions!

Love them or hate them, they are a big part of being a dancer. Whether it’s auditioning for a Broadway show, or auditioning for a spot at your dream dance conservatory, the whole process can be both exciting and a little nerve-racking.

When it comes to auditions, knowing what kind of audition you’re getting yourself into will be key. There are many differences between video applications and in-person auditions, but doing your research and presenting yourself in the best light possible will go a long way in either kind of audition.

That, and staying true to who you are as a dancer and human, of course! At CLI Studios, we always encourage your individuality and passion. Dance is, above all, an art form and way of expression. The crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s part of an audition process is to ensure that nothing gets in the way of the director, choreographer, or casting table being able to see YOU.

While there are many different types of auditions, for today, we are going to focus on a conservatory or dance program application or audition process. Why?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that applications for our very own CLI Conservatory will be opening very soon! 

CLI Conservatory students leaping in ballet class
CLI Conservatory students in ballet class

The Audition: What to Expect

Since a conservatory is a program that is focused on developing skills in one art form (in this case, dance), the training you have had up until that point is very important, and the directors of the program want to see it. The best way to do that? A class.

Many conservatory auditions will take you through a ballet technique class, then through a contemporary or modern class with rep from the school. Cuts are made throughout the class, and can start from after barre, or can happen at the very end.

Depending on the program, you may have to present a solo as well. And, there is always a possibility that you will be asked to improvise, so be prepared for anything!

Online or Video Auditions

If the audition is through video or is online, the setup may be the same, meaning you may have to take a class with periodic cuts throughout. Or, you may be asked to audition with a video and some application questions. The video may be of a specific class combination, or a specific style, or they may ask for a video of you in your best style. There may be a combination of different requests, so be sure to read every material you have available to you on what is being asked.

You might be tired of hearing this after a year of zoom and online-everything, but preparing your space for filming or being on camera is a really important part of an online audition. Show the directors that you care about what you are presenting to them.

Dress the part, even if you are home. If you can rent a studio for filming or to take an audition, you can benefit from better floors and mirrors. But, directors understand the limits of online dancing, so do not feel that it is necessary to do that.   

If your audition is through a video submission, use that to your benefit! You have the advantage of multiple takes, and the ability to get creative with your filming if the program allows it. Make sure to read the guidelines carefully, so you know where you have leeway and where you do not. 

Above all, be YOU.

How To Prepare for a Conservatory Audition: DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Preparation for an audition starts in dance class, but it goes further than that too. The most common advice for auditions is to be yourself, and to do your research. While ‘being yourself’ is sometimes easier said than done, adequate preparation can actually help you to feel more informed. That can lead to higher confidence, and a higher likelihood that you will feel at ease in the audition room when it comes time to showcase your talents.

Here are a few easy things you can be researching prior to your audition:

Where is the Audition?

Do you know exactly where the audition is located? Have you planned your travel time and know how you’re getting there? 

Who are the Faculty?

Do you know who will be in the audition room, and have you researched the faculty of the program? 

On the other hand, are you prepared to talk about your inspirations in the dance world, or the teachers that you have worked with in the past? Getting comfortable with your network, no matter the size, is a really important skill as a dancer.

What are they Asking for?

Get specific— If you have to do a solo, do you need to cut your music or have it in a specific type of digital format? Do you need a headshot and a resume with you, or submitted beforehand? It’s important to fully understand the audition materials that you need prepared, in case you need a few days to get them together.

If there is a written portion to the application, it goes without saying: don’t put it off until the last minute! You can expect some personal questions, and questions about your relationship to dance. Taking time to think about your answers will benefit you in the long run. It’s a good idea to get a trusted mentor to look over your application before you submit it to check for spelling errors or other mistakes. At a conservatory or longer term dance program, the person who you are inside and out will matter more to the director and those looking over your application. Don’t prioritize your dance materials and preparation to the extent that you forget about other parts of the application. ALL parts of the application process are important!

It will also help to fully understand the specific program that you are applying for. How long is the program, and how many students are accepted each year? If there are grades, how does that work? Even things like location, and the amount of time the program has existed for will affect how it operates. Learning more about the program can also help you choose if you end up being accepted to more than one.

When is the Audition?

Are you prepared to arrive early to the audition? The audition starts from the moment you walk in the door, and the saying “early is on time, on time is late” can hold true in scenarios like an audition. Some directors can make cuts on your level of preparedness alone, so don’t overlook this; plan for it instead.

If it’s online, do you have the correct time-zone? If there is a callback date, do you know when it is, and are you prepared to be available then?

Why are YOU the Best Choice?

The ‘why’ question for auditions often applies more to dance company auditions, where the reason for holding auditions can be anything from expanding the company, to a change in direction, or to replace certain members that have left. In a conservatory and annual dance program, there is the expectation that new students are accepted yearly, just like the college admissions process.

In this case, it might be more helpful to flip the question back on yourself: Why do you want to be a part of this program or conservatory? Why are you the right choice? And why do you want to continue dancing? Even if you are never asked these questions out loud, if you have gotten curious about the answers, it will be visible in the way you show up and hold yourself throughout the audition. If you have a minute after reading this, take out some pen and paper and try answering some of them.

Writing everything out can be a helpful way to check if you really know what is being asked of you in the audition, and what will be expected of you once you are accepted into the program. Because some of the above questions may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to overlook important details. 

CLI Conservatory dancers excited in dance studio
Teddy Forance and the CLI Conservatory dancers

When You Get In… Or You Don’t!

Everyone at the “casting table” or behind the screen watching your submissions, they’re all rooting for you to succeed. It is your job to show up and shine to the best of your ability, so they can make the right decision.

Whether you get a “Congrats! We are thrilled to accept you,” or an “Unfortunately we will not be accepting you…” you should be proud of yourself for auditioning and you absolutely should try again. Art is subjective, you aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s awesome! There are also many different ways to train and further your dance career, and a conservatory is just one route. While we encourage you to follow your dreams and re-apply to any program that you really want to be a part of, it’s also healthy to consider that a rejection might push you towards a new path that will better suit you in the long run.

If you are accepted, celebrate and thank everyone who has supported you as an artist to get to this awesome achievement! If you get a rejection, know that even if you have a long and healthy dance career, you are guaranteed to hear “No,” maybe just as often as you hear “Yes!” Whatever response you end up getting, congratulate yourself for putting yourself out there. Believe in yourself through hardship and through success, and you will be a stronger dancer and human for it. 

Oh, and if it wasn’t already obvious—we are definitely rooting for you too!

Auditions for the CLI Conseratory’s 2022-2023 class are open! Head to our auditions page for information and to sign up for updates on the conservatory.

For more information on the CLI Conservatory, check out our CLI Conservatory homepage where you can learn more about our amazing program.

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