The most competitive dance departments require an audition and/or a recent DVD of your dancing to assess your ability and your potential. (Some departments will allow you to take dance classes your freshman year and then decide if you may become a major.) The reality is that in your Senior year you are competing with other dancers for a spot in their program. It is not easy to get exact statistics on dance admissions from year-to-year, however I always inquire when talking with department chairs to get an estimate of the audition/acceptance/yield ratio-it is one factor in assessing the caliber of the department on the basis of demand and selectivity.
In researching and preparing your list of dance departments, how do you know if you are competitive and at their level? (Remember you need to be accepted academically-some departments will not allow you to audition until you have submitted an application to the college). The following are the resources you may consider using; the earlier you start this process, preferably in your sophomore year, the more they may help you prepare in the year or so prior to the actual audition:
Your current teacher: If he or she attended and/or is familiar with the college departments you want to audition for, ask him or her for a candid assessment of your ability.
Videotape: Have a videotape of yourself in class or performance made and then watch it. Self-assessment is difficult but it is a start and will give you some idea, though subjective, in comparing yourself to other dancers. Then use this in the following two ways:
Watch any videotapes on the department website and on the internet. Try to compare yourself to them in terms of technique, physical facility and performance quality.
Visit the department prior to auditioning (in your Sophomore or Junior year) and ask if you may watch classes and rehearsals. If possible, visit when they have performances you may attend-this will not only give you a gauge for the level of the dancers, but will give you an opportunity to decide if you like their repertoire and how their dancers dance!
Ask for a professional assessment – seek out a professional dancer, a dancer in that department or a college counselor specializing in dance and find out what they think of your potential to succeed at those auditions and what you need to be working on before those auditions.
Seek out a current dance major at each school to speak with and ask for their information and advice as well as to look at your videotape. Find out what their audition was like and what advice they might offer.
All of this will help you become more familiar with each department and assessing your current competitiveness and how you might spend the remaining time before the auditions to improve and prepare.
–Diane Coburn Bruning
Dance and Performing Arts Consultant, College Match
Diane is a nationally-recognized choreographer working with professional dance, opera and theatre companies throughout the U.S. and abroad. She has been a guest artist at over 25 universities, conservatories and professional schools. She is a graduate of Butler University and NYU in Dance with post-graduate study at Yale School of Drama. If you have questions, you may write her at firstname.lastname@example.org