ABT’s Sleeping Beauty Audition

abt (2)

 

On Tuesday 13th, October 2015, I attended an audition at the Kirov Academy, in Washington DC, for American Ballet Theater’s version of Sleeping Beauty. The ballet would be performed at the Kennedy Center, and any children that would get the parts would perform alongside the rest of the company. There were two parts I could potentially be in, the violin pages and the garland waltz. I was auditioning for the violin page. We arrived at the Kirov and went in to an unused studio for registration. Hundreds of bodies soon filled the room. Parents waited in the 40 ft long registration line while the students warmed up around the sides of the room. We stretched, waited, warmed up and chatted. Then we waited some more and finally, they had all the kids for the audition line up in one long line. I peeked around the gaggle of ballerinas in front of me and saw the ABT staff funneling the kids through a door. They took each child that came through and measured them against a measuring tape that was tacked up on the wall.

Apparently, there was a height restriction on the audition and each student that wasn’t tall enough had to wait for the garland waltz audition instead. I held my breath as I stood against the tape and then released it as they shooed me on to the next room.I gave myself a mental high five for getting through. I followed the line into the next room and gathered at the back with everyone else. Yet again, we waited.

A few minutes later three people came into the room. I would come to know them as; Mr. Richard Bowman, a classically trained ballet teacher with one of ABT’s affiliate schools (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis); Mr. Jeremiah Bischoff, ABT’s Assistant Stage Manager; and the lovely Ms. Rhodie Jorgenson, an ABT and SAB trained teacher and whom I would later become a student of at Maryland Youth Ballet.

The audition then commenced, almost immediately after setting things up. There was no barre warm-up; Mr. Bowman went straight to the dance. There were around one hundred of us which he organized into eight neat rows. Each of the eight rows learned a separate spot, but the basic steps were the same just with alternating directions. It was a short combination, just a fraction of the whole dance.  Next, they had one person from each of the eight lines go in the corresponding spot. They rotated through the groups a few times and I tried to perform my best. And then there was the first cut.

They started calling off random numbers on a list ” 17, 84, 35, 102″ and so on. I waited in anticipation for my number, 15, to be called out. I willed them to say it out loud, but still resigning myself to not hearing it to save myself from disappointment.  I waited through an agonizing half of a list, and then:

“15.”

That simple 15 sent me practically into hysterics, even though that was only the first cut. I think I concealed it well though and kept my composure through a small smile. I continued on with the audition and performed it for them a few more times. I noticed the people around me were barely smiling, 70 people and the majority had straight faces. I decided that the smile I wore made me stand out and that I wouldn’t be discouraged by the blank faces around me.

The next cut came. About 55 were left. We all performed again.

Another cut. I still waited and willed while they read out numbers. I was still in. Again, we danced the combination for them. Around 30 still waiting and pushing themselves to be noticed.

Then another cut. Twenty people were left now. They brought us closer to them and had us line up in height order. I figured they were assessing and evaluating heights, trying to figure out what heights and which combination of performers would work.

They had us perform it one more time. I put all the emphasis I could into it. All the corrections and things Mr. Bowman told us to focus on.

After finishing our final run-through of the dance they had us reassemble in height order, one last time. I tried my best to look presentable, but their eyes that were running over our numbers and checking their clipboards made it difficult. I found myself holding my breath in even greater anticipation. Mr. Bowman started listing off numbers, “89, 91, 63….”.

And then finally-

-“15.”

My heart lurched in triumph and the grin plastered on my face grew five times the original size. I was taking it in much more excitement then all the relaxed girls around me, who must have been older.They told us to get our parents so they could listen to the details of rehearsals. Despite my trying to act cool like the other girls, tears came to my eyes. I know how undeniably cheesy that sounds, as some people have been in numerous Kennedy Center performances, yet it was still a enormous step for me. I practically ran to get my mum and tell her the good news. Her face instantly turned to a frown when she saw the tears in my eyes. I rushed forward giddily and stumbled over my words as I said that they wanted to see her. Understanding dawned on her as she realized that I got in, and we walked back to talk to Mr. Bischoff.

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Dance Bag Essentials

Ask any dancer to empty out their dance bag and you will discover an array of items some of which quite frankly may look torturous. If you then asked them to identify their key dance tools that they have to pack before each class, the list may be fairly extensive.  If the question were asked of me it would be hard for me not to include the following:-

The Bag

‘Vera Bradley’ seems to be the bag of choice among many young dancers.  The large number of pockets on the inside helps with keeping everything organized however, it is made of fabric which makes it very absorbent of liquids.  I had an unfortunate incident on a plane trip home recently.  My bag was stowed underneath the seat in front of me.  Unfortunately the little boy didn’t quite get to the rest room in time and my Vera Bradley bag soaked up everything.  Vera if you are reading this, a waterproof version would be fabulous!!  Little boys on planes – drink less juice. For now however, I have switched to the more resilient option of a simple backpack.

Pointe Shoes & Ballet Slippers

This is a no brainer.  No dance bag should be without dance shoes.  This is number one on my list of dance bag must haves. Currently I am wearing Russian Pointe  Rubins.  My feet are fairly narrow which made finding a shoe that didn’t look bulbous around my toes a little challenging. For ballet slippers, I wear a sturdy pair of canvas So Dancas, and highly recommend them.

Toe Pads

The first toe pads I used were the Bun Heads Ouch Pouch.  They worked really well but there’s a lot of padding and my feet would end up feeling suffocated. The extra bulk also made it difficult to feel if my toes were properly articulating. So, I started wearing a new brand of toe pads called Skinny Dip Toe Savers by Danztech. They are not as bulky as my previous toes pad which makes it easier to fit into my pointe shoe.

Strong Hair Pins

I originally used pins and bobby pins to do my hair.  They would fall out constantly and my bun hardly ever stayed in one shape for the entirety of class. Now, I have switched to Bun Heads strong pins and they are one of my most important must haves. In fact, I’m sure my buns could never properly function without them. 

Hair Nets

Hair nets are pretty much a 100% necessary must-have, and many teachers insist on you having them. On the days when your hair has just been washed or just isn’t cooperating, the hair net helps to keep  all the loose strands neat. It also means you don’t have to slick on a hairspray layer to keep your bun intact.

Theraband

If you are not familiar with therabands, though many dancers are, they are long wide lengths of thin rubber or elastic.  They come in different colors with varying elasticity and are used for strength exercises. There are many different exercises that you can do to help with turnout, foot strength, etc.  They are also portable and in my opinion, well worth your the money.

 Massage ball

 Dancers are constantly in pain of some sort, from tight muscles to cramps or more serious ailments. To combat the typical tightness’ and cramps, I roll out my muscles and feet with a massage ball that is small enough to fit in a typical dance bag. The balls come in various sizes and are easier to transport than the common foam roller or massage stick.

Foot warmers

(Socks, foot booties, mukluk slippers): If any of you are like me, your feet are always freezing and only obtain a decent warmth after a workout, and then they proceed to drop to freezing  two minutes later. To keep my feet warm, ready to dance, and prevent injury I wear any type of foot warmer.

 Corrections Note Book

Finally a corrections book. I try to always keep one of these in my bag and make a note of anything my teacher has specifically said to me.  This helps me to remember what I need to work on and break any bad habits. It’s also good if you are learning something new to put it in your book and then you can go back to your teacher if you have any questions.

Inspirational Quotes & Stuff

If you spend any amount of time on social media it can become overwhelming keeping track of all the inspirational quotes, funny pictures, phrases, sayings, or other (for want of a better word) stuff. This page is dedicated exactly to that sort of ‘stuff’.  Any dance related media will be placed here to inspire, uplift, or provoke thought for the day.

“The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous.”
– Margot Fonteyn

“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.”
– Martha Graham

“The most dangerous animal in the world is a smiling woman sitting silently. ”
– Sylvie Guillem

What To Do With old Pointe Shoes?

Have you ever wondered what to do with your old pointe shoes?  It’s a challenging thought, given how aromatic they tend to be.  Not to mention the huge amount of sentiment that can be attached to them. There’s some thought that every pair should be signed and dated for that eventual day when you become famous.  Then you can become enterprising and sell them online for a small fortune to help pay for the next batch of new shoes.  Looking for my own solutions, my mum came up with the following:-

pointe shoe wreath1

As pointe shoes wear out I will add them to the frame and close up the gap.  If you want to do the same with your old pointe shoes you will need the following items:-

Floral wire wreath frame

michaels frame
Picture courtesy of Michael’s craft store.
Floral wireRibbon (I used pointe shoe ribbon but you could use a color to match room decor).
Wire cutters
Batting for padding empty part of frame.
batting
Picture courtesy of Amazon.com

Get your pointe shoes together and lay them out in a circle, heels towards the center toes pointing outwards.  When you have them laid out you can measure the diameter to work out the size wreath that you want.  Obviously if you want a larger circle you can leave space like I did to add more as necessary.

Pointe shoe ring

Take the floral wreath frame and the floral wire.  Weave the wire in and out across the frame.  You are trying to create a lattice which will stabilize the frame, but will also give you something to tie your pointe shoes to.  Once you have the frame prepared you can start to experiment with your shoes.  You may decide that you want the ribbon tied in big bows.  Perhaps you want to remove the elastics to give a cleaner look.  My mum kept the elastics and tucked the heel inside to keep it out of the way.  Now you need to decide how you want them to look on the frame.  The shoe should lay neatly with the frame giving support to the weight.  Use the ribbon to fasten the shoe to the frame, looping it through the floral wire, then back around to the front, and then tie a neat bow to secure.  All the heels were facing inwards, although I am sure you could have the toes facing in if you wanted

If you have an empty area take some of the padding and wrap the wire to make it look fuller.  Using ribbon, wrap both the frame and the padding to give it a uniform finish. If you have a large amount of pointe shoes, you could take a second, larger ring and do the same, but have the smaller ring centered in the larger ring.

wreath2

Here are some other ideas for those of you who might be more adventurous.

pointe shoe chandelier

ballet_tree

As and when I find more things to do with pointe shoes I will post them here.

Tata,

Lydia x.

 

 

 

Perfect Audition Pictures

December is that time of year when dancers start to think about one of the most important things in their dance calendar.  No, not The Nutcracker, although I am sure the dance of the sugar plum fairy is, by now, repeating over and over in the recesses of your mind like overly worn out elevator music. It’s the start of summer intensive audition season. Dance magazines will be pulling together the list of venues and audition dates. Dance companies will start booking flights and arranging key venues for the audition tour.  If you are a seasoned dancer you will already have a list of your top three or four places you would like to audition for.  Now is the time to start preparing.

  • Step One, visit the websites and see what photos they require for the audition process.  Most will require one or two.  A head shot, an arabesque, or a tendu in second.  Others like the Royal Ballet in the UK will require a few more. If you are in doubt how it should look search on the web.  There are lots or resources for illustrating the perfect pose.
  • Step two, plan where you would like to have you pictures take.  A studio is probably best as long as it has good light and not too many distractions on the back wall.  As you get older and stronger you may decide to have professional pictures taken.  This is a good investment if you want to get into the more professional companies, although it is not necessary.
  • Step three, practice your poses.  Ask your teachers for critique to make sure you have the most perfect lines possible.
  • Step four, workout what you’ll wear.  Remember that this will be used for review after the audition so make sure that everything is clean and free of rips or tears. For more info check out my post on ‘What to Wear to an Audition’.
  • Step Five, if you are going to use a studio make sure to book with enough time to do retakes and sort through all of the pictures.  Deleting and editing pictures can be a lengthy process.
  • Step Six, be organized.  Work out how many copies of your photos you will need for all of your auditions.  If it helps, create a file for each audition, include a map, information on public transport if needed, completed application form, a list of any questions you may have, a check for the application fee, and any local restaurants. Auditions can be long and it would be nice to be able to tell your doting parent where they can go for the next few hours for refreshment.

A final thought.  Unless you are applying through only your photos, don’t fret if they are not as perfect as you want them to be.  The audition will be your opportunity to shine.  The adjudicators are going to use the pictures as a reminder of who you are in addition to the notes they made about you.

Hope this help. Good luck!