How to put together a dance application that shines

dance
by Makeda Easter

You’ve spent countless hours in dance studios. You’ve given up your weekends for dance competitions and dream about getting corrections from your ballet teacher. You’ve dedicated your life to the wonderful feeling of being on stage and performing for an audience.

When it comes to college applications, having a strong background in dance, no matter the style, shows dedication, creativity, time management, and resiliency — all characteristics that make a great college candidate. But having the skills isn’t quite enough: you must be able to effectively showcase your talents to admissions officers.

Whether you’re pursuing a BFA, BA, or planning on submitting an arts supplement, here are some tips for a glowing dance application:

Dance Resume

A dance resume should give readers a clear sense of your training, awards, and the styles of dance you do. It’s important to keep the resume to one page and pay close attention to formatting and spacing, making it easy for readers to parse through quickly. Remember, admissions officers have to read through many, many applications, so you want your resume to appear professional and stand out from first glance.

One way to organize a dance resume is to begin with a short summary explaining (in just two or three sentences) how many years of experience you have, what styles of dance you train in, and any companies you might be involved with.

List your awards and when you received them (use bullet points for this!). Next, dive into your dance education — the styles of dance you’ve trained in and teachers or studios where you’ve trained. Then, list any summer programs, clubs, or performances you feel are great indicators of your skill or dedication. And finally, add any other stand out experiences like TV appearances or works you’ve choreographed.

Dance Reel or Video

Some dance programs require 1-2 minute-long video auditions, and some require video auditions as a pre-screen before the live audition. So needless to say, your video needs to be the best possible representation of who you are as a dancer.

If you’re compiling clips from several performances, pick the standout moments and contrasting solos that showcase your range as a dancer. It’s not wise to include group pieces in your reel, unless you are very easy to pick out from other dancers. To organize your reel, use your absolute favorite, standout choreography first in the video — this should be something that makes people say, “wow, she’s amazing!” You want to capture viewers’ attention in the first 10 seconds.

For 1-2 minute clips, think about dancing a solo that oozes artistry, technique, and performance quality. It’s not important to hire a videographer or have a video professionally made, but your video must be high-quality. These days, even iPhones can capture beautiful video and iPhone tripods are affordable on Amazon. (If using an iPhone, don’t forget to shoot horizontally.) What is important is clear crisp video, good lighting, and sound. Shoot your video in an empty dance studio, or even outside if you believe you can capture video that keeps all the focus on you. Don’t use heavy editing or camera work — admissions officers want to see your dancing, not fancy camera tricks. You can also use free tools like iMovie to overlay songs and make clean edits.

Headshot and Dance Photo

Many dance programs require a headshot and dance photo. Again, it’s not necessary to break the bank with an expensive photoshoot. These photos are also something you can take with an iPhone. The beauty of using your own phone is that you can spend as much time as you want capturing the perfect shot.

Make sure to choose a backdrop that’s not too distracting and take advantage of natural light. Later versions of iPhones are even equipped with Portrait Mode, which can give headshots a professional touch. For a dance photo, unless there are specific instructions — for example, Purchase College’s dance program prefers a photo in first arabesque — pose like you’re dancing your heart out. Show off the style of dance you’re strongest in, and avoid the techniques you’re not familiar with. Most importantly, give admissions officers a sense of your personality.

Audition

So you’ve made it to the big day: the live audition. Treat this audition like you are taking the SAT or ACT. Get plenty of rest the night before, eat a healthy breakfast and bring snacks — it’s going to be a long day. Pay close attention to audition specifications like wardrobe requirements. It may be helpful to create a checklist to make sure you have everything the night before.

Know that the audition starts before you begin warming up. As soon as you walk through the doors, the panel will begin evaluating you for presence and professionalism. It’s important to do your absolute best, but know that the panel isn’t expecting perfection. They want dancers who are willing to learn and are easy to work with, so if you receive a correction, take it graciously and apply it quickly.

And don’t forget to smile…you’ve got this!

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