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Tis’ the season to get ready for summer intensive auditions. Who knew that in New York they all fall in January/February and every single school has a variety of DIFFERENT photographs, essays, and badly run web sites to compliment the already stress- filled process? Did I mention its two days before Christmas and if we don’t take photographs THIS morning we will not get it together for the first audition on January 6th, four days after Christmas break?

I know enough to be dangerous. I know that in photo 1 her hands look like claws, in photo 2 her feet look like bricks, and in photo 3 she has her eyes closed. She is harder on herself than me, which if you know any Type A teenager, then you know it is just a joy to be around her at this time of year and you know I really want to do even more for her……insert sarcasm emoticon.

Madeline has done two modern-based summer intensives, Mark Morris and Alvin Ailey. Now that she is ballet focused she wants to have a more serious summer experience. The first step of which is the photography process. My ethical and old school self advises to take many pictures and hope that we get lucky. But Madeline’s dad and I are parents and designers, so we have space in our loft to pull down a seamless, and manipulate the tripod with a pretty good camera. A level of high quality can be had. My question is, am I the only Mom that sees that the advent of digital photography could make gaming the system pretty easy? A little Photoshop here, a little there? She wore medium shank shoes for the shots on pointe since the 2×4’s that I make her buy to save SOME money do not show off one of her best attributes. I played with the camera angle as Madeline has a tall frame and where the camera hits those Ailey trained gams makes a difference. I remember of a local newspaper scandal in which a mom had editorial control over a shot of her son on the soccer field, and well-versed in Photoshop, she changed the child’s foot in the photo to make him look more professional…my criminal mind wanders… can some seasoned dancers weight in here?


But back to the ritual of summer intensive. Mad has had two very light touch, healthy experiences. Mark Morris was reasonably priced, low stress, and a good overall experience for beginners or more recreational dancers. Members of the company taught class without affectation and parts of the repertoire in the afternoon. Coming out of a small town, one dance all year world, it was a great first experience of learning choreography quickly and performing it right away.

Ailey was awesome and humbling—perfect for a first year back in NYC.  There were a lot of kids, but not too many, from all over the country. The variety of classes meant that if Horton was not your thing, the jazz class an hour later will make it a better day. The rep was the most challenging and these dance pieces were rather ambitious. Often the competition dancers got more high profile parts (read tricky). However, Ailey in general has just been a healthy place; a place where tall girls get to dance in the front if they are getting good. Healthy body weight is the mode and eating is encouraged. After many years at recitals in Mississippi, imagine my surprise when Madeline described the two pieces we would see in the show as “a dance about Totalitarianism” and “another about Nurture/Nature”. I appreciated this intellectually-based dance training.

Since I do not hang on the benches at Ailey anymore, I do not quite have the same Dance Mom knowledge that I had a year ago. I have found out about the tall girl circuit, i.e. Miami City Ballet will not be an option for a one tipping out at 5’11” and there is a small Ailey off shoot that is a great bargain and will get her in shape. But my questions remain: what do the photos mean? Will she get cut right away? What are we hoping for this summer if she is 15 and not yet looking for a job, yet not in the SAB orbit (for which we have been told wrong body type)? She wants partnering and variation experience and since that’s not part of her school year training and she feels behind.  How many auditions should she go to? What’s the goal?! There are some good Mom blogs out there that talk about the intensive experience but without professional dancers to back them up. So could ya’ll give a feminist dance mom a break? Please tell all.

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Showing 5 comments
  • candice

    I didn’t go away until I was 16, so my advice is that this is a ‘free’ year. Mad should audition as many places as she can, even Miami City–who knows?!–and go wherever excites her most. Then maybe at 16-17 it is time to start focusing on realistic programs, meaning the ones that are linked to companies where she might like to get a job. I went to Milwaukee Ballet School two summers in a row and it eventually landed me a job even though there was a company director change because the school director and a ballet mistress vouched for me. And now you know that Oct-Nov is the time you want to start taking photographs etc. so that it doesn’t turn into a stressful holiday project.

    As for photoshopping….I don’t recommend it, but I am also certain it is probably happening as we speak 😉

  • stephanie

    As far as photoshopping her pictures, I have to agree with Candice and recommend to not tweak her pictures. Honestly, I think the photos are used more as a reminder to connect a face with a name when they are reviewing notes after the audition. However, the most important aspect of any dance audition is what she brings to the actual audition: i.e. technique, attitude, and professionalism.

    I also think she should go to as many auditions as she pleases. After she gets a few under her belt, she’ll be able to relax more and have fun. (FYI: I think it’s important to remember that it’s just as much an audition for the school as it is for her. She’s testing the waters…does she like the class? Or the teacher? What type of vibe does she get from the attending faculty?) Some great programs that sometimes fly under the radar are Atlanta Ballet, (like Candice said) Milwaukee Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, BalletMet, Richmond Ballet, etc…there’s a whole big world out there of dance and it isn’t limited to the big name companies. She can also stay in town and look at programs with pre-professional companies, since she isn’t necessarily interested in getting a job out of the program, such as Manhattan Youth Ballet and Ballet Academy East. She’ll get pointe and partnering in an enriching environment without the pressure of impressing the staff of a professional company.

  • Annie Coggan

    Thanks for the input guys, we are moving through a lot of emotions and expectations here.. BTW-would have never used photoshop, don’t worry. 🙂

  • Annie Coggan

    Update-Ballet West it is!

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