Audition Season Challenges Aspiring Dancers


Jensen Rasmussen, Staff Writer

Every weekend in January, aspiring dancers across the country pin numbers to their leotards and tie up their pointe shoes as they compete for coveted spots in summer intensive programs. While these auditions provide incredible opportunity for those hoping to someday be professional dancers, they also add immense stress, as teens attempt to juggle the rigors of rehearsals with their academic loads.

The auditions are hosted by major ballet schools in cities nationwide, providing young dancers an opportunity to earn admission to summer ballet programs. These programs are designed to advance students in both their technique and artistry.

Sophomore California Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA) dancer Halley Campo noted the important role summer intensives play for ballet students hoping to dance in college or dance professionally. “There’s a lot more inspiration being in a more professional environment, if you’re not already from one. So it provides a really good opportunity for a lot of dancers to get a feel for what kind of career they want to have,” said Campo. “Also, it’s good to see that you were able to attend that place since colleges are looking at what your experience is. So if you have a pretty reputable intensive listed on [your resume] that definitely helps them to see your potential.”

Sophomore Berkeley City Ballet dancer Samantha Lee said, “My studio does require that we dance over the summer. The summer intensive [at my studio] is more for younger dancers so they would rather have us go away.”

While these summer intensive experiences are enriching as well as enjoyable for dancers, the pressure to attend a program can create additional stress for aspiring professionals.

Freshman Contra Costa Ballet dancer Greta Koslosky said, “I think there’s a lot of pressure. If [they] don’t get into a good school, then people may think that they’re a bad dancer.”

The pressure that accompanies audition season is seemingly inevitable, as having one’s worth as a dancer judged in a mere 1.5 hour class, placed in a vulnerable position to share their abilities with an esteemed teacher, is bound to be anxiety-inducing. Koslosky noted that many dancers feel this way. “I feel like people kind of think that way. They have a mindset of ‘I got into this program and you didn’t,'” she said.

In addition to dealing with this audition anxiety, dancers have to keep up with their schoolwork and manage other stressors that are a quintessential part of high school.

Campo said, “I definitely do think that audition season impacts my schoolwork a lot. Going to the city at 9am in the morning to have an audition at noon, auditioning, and then coming home late just to be completely wiped out definitely puts a limit on how much time you can spend doing homework. Not to mention that it’s pretty much the only thing on your mind the entire month of January.”

Lee noted that it’s often hard for dancers to manage schoolwork even on a day-to-day basis, between rehearsals and long classes each day. She added that auditions create additional work and said, “I’ll try to plan my homework out to make sure I don’t have any weekend homework. I try to do it ahead of time, so that kind of doubles it during the week.”

While the pressure placed on dancers to audition for and earn acceptance into summer programs can be overwhelming, this is not the only strain on these young ballerinas and their families. With the cost of ballet summer intensives being significant, audition season is a time when many families consider the price of ballet training.

“Intensives are thousands of dollars. When you’re putting it into perspective, you’re paying for tuition, you’re paying for housing, pointe shoes, leotards and tights, plane tickets, and it all comes out close to 10 grand. It’s really a lot of pressure on your parents,” said Campo.

Throughout the summer intensive audition season, pressure and stress runs rampant in the lives of aspiring ballet dancers. With the pressure to audition, succeed in earning acceptance into a program, maintain good grades, and pay exceedingly expensive fees, aspiring ballet dancers put in an incredible amount of effort in order to make their dreams come to fruition.