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Best Mom Tips – How to Prepare for a College Dance Audition

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By Becky Dimock / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)

If your dance college audition experience is anything like mine, your dancer will pick about a dozen colleges, some with in-person dance auditions, some with video auditions, some requiring classical ballet variations, some requiring a self-choreographed solos, some requiring written essays, some requiring interviews, and all with different timelines. So how do you prepare for all that???

Becky Dimmock Author for Dance parent 101

Hi, I’m Becky and my senior recently auditioned for several Colleges in the USA to obtain entry as a Dance major or minor. We had a variety of different Audition processes to undergo and being a stickler for spreadsheets and being prepared I am here to share our process with you to successfully survive and thrive through the college application process with your dancer.

In this three-part series, I give you all the tips and tricks that we learned throughout our process.

For tips and advice on preparing a video application process check out my article 9 College Dance Video Audition Tips From a Dance Mom or for information on how to prepare for an in-person college dance audition check Best College Dance Audition Day Tips from a Dance Mom

1. Choose your Colleges

Go through our list of dance colleges in our article Dance Colleges Across All 50 States: The Ultimate List with Links. Do your research through the links on their websites, contact or visit the colleges and make your list of programs you want to apply to.

If your list is long, start with the top colleges on your list and work your way through them as there may not be enough time to prepare for every program on your list or to attend every audition. This ensures that the ones you really want are not missed.

In saying this if your top three choices are the hardest courses to get into, make sure you leave enough time to apply for the others on your list so you give yourself the best chance of being accepted into a graduate program.

After you have worked with your dancer to pick their top colleges from our ultimate list,  your dancer needs to get ready for their audition process.

Every college has slightly different requirements and so getting ready for their auditions takes a lot of work: compiling and organizing a lot of information, and making sure your dancer is physically and mentally prepared.

2. Organize College Application Information in a Spread Sheet

Use some sort of method (I use a spreadsheet that I shared with my dancer) to organize your data. 

For each college record:

  • the audition registration deadline
  • the audition date
  • the link to the audition requirements and audition day schedule
  • dress code
  • how long it will take to get results
  • and anything extra your dancer will need to bring. 

Some examples of other things some colleges expected us to prepare were a headshot or dance resume. 

Many schools also ask the dancer to prepare a solo.  If yours do, note the length and style in your spread sheet.  Your dancer should be able to reuse the solo for multiple schools, but will likely have to choreograph different versions depending on time requirements.

Read all of the information from the college carefully and take notes so your dancer isn’t caught off guard. 

Put all deadlines on your calendar so you don’t miss anything!

3. Deepen your Knowledge about the Course and College Through Zoom

Yes you should have researched the school before adding them to your list in the first place, but now it is time to deepen that research so your dancer goes to their audition and any meetings with knowledge and the ability to answer any question about the course thrown at them.

Research the school by talking to faculty and students.  We all know how to use Zoom now – take advantage of that! 

Every college we’ve investigated has been willing to sit with my daughter and I for an hour and answer questions about their dance program and audition process.  

Come to the meeting prepared. 

Look at the program’s website beforehand and have some specific questions prepared.  

This part was probably the most important for us – After the meeting, I had my dancer write notes and answer the question “Why do you want to dance at xxx program” with specific reasons.  It helped immensely as she was able to prioritize her college wish list, and when she was interviewed, she was able to answer the question when asked easily.

4. Understand what each college is looking for

When you’re talking to the dance faculty, it is important to ask what they’re looking for in the audition.

For example, they might focus on musicality, the ability to pick up on combinations quickly, improvisation, extension, turnout, or pointe work. 

Watch videos of previous performances that they might have on social media or the program website to understand their dance style, then have your dancer talk to their dance teacher and determine what to focus on in the upcoming weeks.

Remember to take notes on your findings and add them to your spreadsheet.

5. The Earlier you start your College Application Process the Better

If your college audition experience is like mine, your dancer will pick about a dozen colleges, some with in-person auditions, some with video auditions, some requiring classical variations, some requiring a self-choreographed solo, some requiring essays, some requiring interviews, and all with different timelines.

This is all on top of schoolwork, dance classes, other college applications, scholarship applications, performances, and about a hundred other things! 

Help your dancer understand how much time this will all take, then work together to come up with a schedule (including time for a couple of practice interviews) so there’s plenty of time to get everything done.  

If you’re not sure how long something will take (such as learning or perfecting a solo), ask your child’s dance teacher.  Keep an eye on that schedule and gently remind your dancer if they’re falling behind.  

6. When to start preparing

Start prepping during the first month back at school so in August/September!

Some colleges won’t have the audition information updated at the beginning of the school year, but all schools should have it posted within the first month. 

If there’s still old information posted when you start planning, email the dance department and ask. 

I recommend that you find the email address for an actual faculty member instead of contacting the info@xxx address, since some of those generic addresses are not well-monitored.

You should be able to have your spreadsheet pretty much filled by the end of the first month of school.

7. Things you can do to get a head start

If you want to get a real jump-start, you can assume that your dancer will need to choreograph a piece for at least one college (over half of the schools we looked at required a 2 or 3 min self-choreographed solo), and have them start working on it during the summer holidays before school starts. Have a look at what the requirements were for the previous year and talk to their dance teacher so the routine has the elements colleges will be looking for.

The second thing you can do is already have your list of colleges ready prior to the start of the school year. This will put you well ahead and set up ready for the whole process!

8. How to get ready for a Video or In Person Auditions?

Most dance programs will require your dancer to audition. Some will require your dancer to perform in person whilst others will prefer or agree to video auditions because of distance for example, not just because of the pandemic.

We had to do both and so I have prepared our top tips for both mediums in the following articles which you should read after finishing this one!

If you are looking for a college that your dancer does not have to audition for, take a look at our list in the article Can You Major in Dance With No Experience? No Audition College List!

9. Prepare for receiving your results.

As a parent, you can only help prepare your child to a certain extent, the rest they will need to do on their own.

But once the auditions are over it is time to start preparing for the results.

If your dancer is anxious, it’s OK for them to write a professional sounding email to the adjudicators, thanking them for the opportunity to audition, but they should not inquire about results until after the period of time specified – which you entered into your spreadsheet so you will know when this day comes!

When your dancer does get their results if they made it in – congratulations!  Celebrate your dancer for all their hard work! 

If they didn’t make it in, they should respond to the school and thank them for their time. 

It would also be fine to ask for corrections, the school may or may not respond to the request – but there is no harm in asking.

Help your dancer understand that it might not be anything they did wrong, but they might have a different style than the school is looking for. 

Don’t worry!  There are so many colleges out there remember our article Dance Colleges Across All 50 States: The Ultimate List with Links that you are sure to find the perfect match! And if not start looking into associate degrees in dance as many of these are run by community colleges and can lead to acceptance at a later stage into a degree course.