By Teresa Nelson / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)
Many dance schools offer their students the chance to participate in dance competitions. But a requirement at most studios to be on the dance competition or company team is to attend a tryout or audition for team selection.
You should expect your dance studio competition team tryout to be set up like an audition with a panel or teacher watching and writing notes, as an assistant or choreographer teaches students a short routine that the dancers will need to memorize and perform in groups or even solo.
Most hardworking and committed students are invited into their dance studios competition team after the audition but it can still be a nerve-wracking experience for both dancers and their parents. So to help calm those nerves I thought I would write about my experience and knowledge of the auditions my daughter has attended so that you have an idea of what to expect. Please note all schools run their auditions differently, but at the end of the day a dance audition is a dance audition and you will find they are all run fairly similarly!
- What Happens at Tryouts?
- What Happens in the Audition Room?
- What Can I Do as a Dance Parent After the Tryout?
- When Do I Find Out if My Dancer Has Made a Team?
- How are Team Placements Determined?
- What Happens after Team Placement?
- Will There Be a Contract?
- When Do I Start Rehearsals?
- Celebrate the Achievements
What Happens at Tryouts?
Our studio holds tryouts for competition teams at the studio itself. Your dancer should be prepared to spend at least 3 hours at the audition. You should arrive 15-20 minutes before your audition time. Always better to be early than late.
Sometimes, a studio may provide audition name tags and numbers but at our studio, the teachers already know which dancers will be attending. The studio will typically have a designated area for your dancer to get ready and to warm up and stretch. Groups are brought into the room based on age and grade with the younger dancers starting first. This keeps traffic at the studio low and helps to avoid distractions.
Usually, dance parents are allowed to stay and watch through the glass or drop the dancer off. Most dance parents stay through the whole process either watching or waiting with other parents in the lobby or their cars.
What Happens in the Audition Room?
PART 1: CHOREOGRAPHY
When your dancer is called to the audition room they should walk quickly and quietly to find a place they are comfortable in the room. My dancer has found that during auditions she prefers to be the middle center at least during the choreography stage of the audition. From this advantage, she can see the instructor and not have the additional stress of learning choreography front and center.
For the next hour, your dancer will learn the audition choreography. In the past, audition choreography has been the first part of the new season’s competition team choreography. So, if the studio’s competition level lll team is doing a contemporary dance number for the year, they will learn part of the routine on audition day.
PART 2: GROUP ASSIGNMENT
After learning the choreography, the teacher will assign groups. We typically have 5 groups and about 22 dancers audition in the level lll group. Then all groups are asked to leave the room and return to the warmup studio. The dance studio teachers and guest observers which are typically alumni students or other local studio owners are asked to enter the audition room and take their place in chairs at the front of the room.
PART 3: EVALUATION
Each group is then asked to enter the audition room. The teacher takes the time to arrange the group if necessary. Sometimes, the more experienced dancers are placed in the front. The group then performs the audition choreography at least once.
Once the audition choreography has been evaluated, the teachers may line the dancers up to perform or showcase individual skills such as leaps, turns, or acrobatics. For the duration of the audition, your dancer needs to maintain dancers’ etiquette by staying attentive and quiet ending each performance or skill with the first position facing the audition observers.
PART 4: DISMISSAL
When the observers are satisfied and have taken their notes the groups are asked to return to the warmup studio and the rest of the groups will audition accordingly. The teacher may also dismiss the dancer after the group audition. It is more likely the dancer will stay available in the warmup studio in case a teacher or observer would like to see them again. After all, groups have had a chance to audition then the dancers will be dismissed.
What Can I Do as a Dance Parent After the Tryout?
This can be a stressful time for dance parents as well. After all, you are very invested in the preparation and outcome. It is important to remain focused on your dancer and to provide encouragement and positive affirmations. Perhaps your dancer did not audition well or fell out of a turn. Perhaps they even forgot some of the choreography and are embarrassed or fearful regarding team placement.
This is the time for reassurance and positive thinking. Reassure your child that you are proud of them no matter what and remind them that this audition is more likely a formality and the teachers already know which team they will be placed on based on the previous year(s)of training and their age and grade.
Reassure them of the purpose and benefits of taking part in the audition. Staying busy and active the rest of the weekend or days following an audition can be helpful. Plan a day trip or a sleepover with your child. Avoid staying at home watching and waiting for the big email.
When Do I Find Out if My Dancer Has Made a Team?
Most studios do not give immediate feedback to dancers and usually wait a few days to send out the team placement announcements. This is typically done to give a realistic expectation to dancers and families as it would take a few days to make final decisions and establish balanced teams.
I think it adds to the sense of anticipation and excitement. However, almost all dancers who try out for the competition team, make a team.
How are Team Placements Determined?
I believe that team placement involves quite a bit of negotiating and planning. Decisions are usually based on how many dancers, skill levels, as well as a bit of studio politics. To keep things simple our studio owner keeps teams aligned with age and grade level but if the group is too big then it may be necessary to make two teams of the same age and grade and I do not envy the studio owner at this point.
Balancing two teams of the same age group would take a lot more time and may cause some hurt feelings. This is real-life expectation and reality. Learning how to deal with setbacks and disappointment is a part of life and learning how to handle them is an important life skill.
If by chance or circumstance your dancer is placed on a lower skilled team it may be an opportunity for them to work harder on a certain skill or to practice leadership. Trusting the studio owner and teachers during this process is very important. Recognizing as a dance parent it is not your job to organize teams or make these decisions. More importantly, it is your job to keep your child encouraged and reassured.
What Happens after Team Placement?
Studio owners will typically notify dancers with a congratulatory email that announces which team they are on and who their teammates are. Attached to this email is a welcome packet that formally outlines requirements and expectations including important information and dates.
Will There Be a Contract?
There will likely be an official contract to sign that your dancer is committed to participating exclusively with the studio competition team and that they will follow and abide by all the rules and policies set forth by the studio. To read more about contracts check out our article about them here.
When Do I Start Rehearsals?
The studio will notify you of important dates for learning the remaining choreography for the competition team and typically there are additional rehearsal nights at the studio exclusive to competition team performance numbers. You will be required to purchase team practice wear, jackets, and duffel bags with the studio insignia and logos. You may be asked to participate in fundraising. Team photos and headshots are usually scheduled, and team bonding events are encouraged.
Celebrate the Achievements
As the excitement and anticipation of the tryouts begin to fade, take time to celebrate accomplishments and achievements with your dancer. Encourage your dancer to show gratitude and to stay humble no matter the outcome. This is the new competition year and it’s important to start positive and confident and always be prepared to learn new things.
Be patient and opened minded as new choreography is introduced and team formations develop. The teachers and studio want to have a successful competitive season. Being a part of a competition team is very special and not to be taken for granted. Encourage your dancer to be an awesome teammate and leader and they are most assuredly going to have a wonderful experience in the years to come.
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