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How to Make a Great Audition Tape

With more summer programs and ballet companies than ever, making it to every audition isn’t always a possibility. Travel expenses and the stress of arriving amidst a bevy of like-minded bun-heads aside, auditioning in person isn’t always the best way to go.

Whether you’re unable to make the audition in person or you want to show your best qualities from a distance, video auditions are a great alternative. However, before you jump into the studio and start filming, check out these simple tips (and pitfalls) that will help you show yourself off to your best advantage.

Read the Requirements Carefully

Before you do anything, read over the requirements for specific programs’ video auditions. Most have several requisite exercises that must be shown at barre and center. Some mandate both sides others request one, and some ditch class work entirely in favor of seeing a variation from prospective dancers. Make sure to be crystal clear on the video requirements before you start planning or filming anything.

In addition to reading the requirements thoroughly, remember that rules both loose and strict serve as a means to test a prospective dancer on how well she listens and responds to the rules. If you put together an audition video that lacks any of the required elements, it shows that you don’t listen or respond to directions well — a definite misstep for the blossoming ballerina.

Dress for Success

How you present yourself in your video is key. As such, dress how you would for an in-person audition; wear a leotard that is a solid color and fits you well. Avoid shiny, patterned, strappy, or overly-complicated looking leotards. These will distract the viewers and pull attention away from your dancing.

Before you film, make sure your hair is absolutely neat and secure. While you can always stop to fix it between takes, you want to have filming structured around your dancing — not the bobby pins flying off of your head during your pirouette exercise.

Additionally, make sure your shoes are clean and tidy. Drop canvas flats in the wash before filming (cold water, air dry to stop shrinking) and gently wipe pointe shoes and leather slippers with a dry microfiber cloth to give a clean, professional appearance. Avoid using pointe shoes that are brand new and not broken in, or shoes that are dead and falling apart. Make sure all drawstrings and ribbons are tucked in and tied properly; few things look more unprofessional than bunny-eared ribbons flopping around a dancer’s ankle.

Establish Combinations

If you’re filming a video audition that requires class exercises to be demonstrated, plan with your teacher ahead of time what combinations to present. You may just want to work with the ones you practice in class and are comfortable with, or your teacher might suggest creating new ones to show your strengths. Either way, make a plan and get the combinations memorized, musically accompanied, and ingrained in your body before you film.

Show Your Strengths

There’s no way to get around doing certain exercises for audition videos if they’re a requirement; however, there are ways to show your best assets and play down your weaknesses. For example, if you have to do an adagio but don’t have a lot of extension, try doing one that has a lot of port de bras and fondus. This will give your extension a nice bump by drawing attention to your arms.

Talk with your instructor about the video requirements, and see what elements he or she considers as your weaknesses and strengths in technique. Always meet the video requirements, but since the structure of a combination is almost always up to you, take advantage of it and add in elements at which you excel.

Show Some Personality

Whether you’re limited solely to class exercises, or have the freedom to choose a variation or two, make sure to really express yourself and show what kind of dancer you are. If you’re stuck doing barre and center with no variations, talk with your teacher and pick music that makes you feel expressive. Are you a feisty virtuosa? Then accentuate your jumps with a bit of flair, just like you would when playing Kitri. A tender lyrical type? Use accompaniment based on Swan Lake and dance the part of Odette, manipulating the combination to show yourself to your best artistic advantage.

If you can perform variations for your video, go over some options with your teacher. Choose variations that showcase both your technical and artistic strengths. If you’re amazing at jumps but have a lyrical nature, choose something like the black swan. Feisty, but no good at turns? Try a brilliant petit allegro from the odalisques in Le Corsaire. Make sure you’re not focusing entirely on technique, but equally on technique and expression. Dancers with decent technique are a dime a dozen, but you want to make yourself stand out by showing some personality.

Hot Tip: Software Struggles

If you’re leaning toward filming your audition video yourself, keep in mind that you’re going to need professional-quality editing software to splice together the best takes of each exercise. This software can easily cost over 200 dollars, not to mention it requires countless hours of interface learning and practice before you can confidently edit your video.

Hire a Professional

It may be easier to get your Aunt Lily to film your audition, but unless you have a friend or family member with experience in professional-quality recordings, you should look into hiring a professional videographer — particularly one who specializes in dance.

A professional videographer knows what equipment is needed and how to get a clear and steady picture. Further, experienced dance videographers can make sure to shoot you at your best angle, and emphasize your features and the cleanest aspects of your technique.

Additionally, professional videographers can ensure that the music used in your audition filming stays in sync with your dancing; many dancers film their audition videos, only to find out later that the audio has turned fuzzy and out of sync. This is a huge frustration for viewers, who will want to see your musicality clearly.

Don’t Separate Sessions

It’s tempting to want to split the filming of your audition video into several sessions to make sure you have the best combined sections, but don’t give in! Viewers can tell when footage has been spliced from several different days and filming sessions, and will not approve. They want to see not just your technique and expression, but your endurance as well. Dancers who can’t handle filming their audition video in one session will probably not be able to survive a class or rehearsal.

Keep Goin’!

Audition videos are never easy to make, and often involve weeks (if not months) of careful planning, practice, and do-overs until they’re successfully completed. But don’t give up! A well made audition video can be used to get you into your dream schools and companies!

Whether you're auditioning for companies, schools, or summer intensives, this guide gives you all the basics on making a great audition video!
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