You made it through the pre-screen; you booked your flight for your on campus audition; you feel prepared and ready to show off your vocal range and dramatic talents; and then you remember…Oh no! The dance call!
For many, the dance call induces the most anxiety during the college audition process. There are so many unknowns as each school runs their dance audition a little differently. Some schools lead you through an entire class with a technical warm-up, across the floor sequences, improvisation exercises, and a combination. Others just jump right into firing the combination at you and putting you into small groups.
This can be overwhelming and daunting, especially if you haven’t had as much training and practice in dance. However, you CAN prepare yourself (just like you would with your songs and monologues) so that you nail that dance call!
Here are 5 ways you can show up to the dance call ready to take on anything they throw your way!
1. Technique Classes – Sign up for a weekly technique class. September is right around the corner and dance studio registrations will be opening for the year. A weekly technique class will support you in building your body awareness and understanding of dance vocabulary over a period of time. Though you will most likely learn dance combinations throughout the year, the focus will be on improving technical skills. Ballet is the foundation of all dance forms. Even though you are not looking to become a ballerina, enrolling in a weekly Ballet class will help you to create a strong foundation and set you up for success. Jazz and Tap classes are also beneficial, especially for learning and enhancing your musical theatre dance vocabulary.
2. Drop-in Classes – Picking up choreography quickly is not a talent, it is a skill. Like any skill we need to practice this. Taking drop-in dance classes allows us to be able to hone this skill while also continuing to develop our technique. Drop-in classes typically are comprised of a set warm-up, a short across the floor, and a combination, with the emphasis being put on the combination more than learning new technical skills. Taking drop-in classes is very similar to going to an audition in that you don’t know what to expect from the class because it is always changing. They tend to move quickly so you are practicing your ability to see things, quickly translate it into your own body, and then execute as strong as you can.
Not all studios offer drop-in classes, but if you are in the Boston area MCA offers a class on Sundays.
3. 1:1 Coaching – For some people, it may be scary to step into your first dance class; it can be very foreign territory. Hiring a private dance coach can ease this fear. With 1:1 coaching, you can go at your own speed, focus on the things that will best support you, and get individualized attention and feedback. 1:1 coaching is also beneficial for those more skilled dancers. Working with a coach can help you get to the next level of your craft. A coach can develop technique sequences, warm-ups, and combinations that are tailored to your specific goals, whether that is nailing that double pirouette, getting your split on both sides, or going deeper into the performance aspect of executing a combination.
1:1 coaching is also a great way to prepare for your pre-screens as almost all programs require a dance component now. You can check out the different dance coaching services offered at MCA.
4. YouTube – Here is a way you can utilize technology in an effective and efficient way. You can teach yourself dances from YouTube videos. This helps continue to build your skill in learning choreography quickly. By watching the videos, you are strengthening your ability to watch something, break it down, integrate into your body, and execute it. You are developing new pathways in your brain. There are so many videos out there for you to try! For example, you can learn some of the musical theatre classics like the Opening from “A Chorus Line.”
This is a great alternative for those who don’t have any access to drop-in classes.
5. Believe in Yourself - Your mindset is everything! If you keep telling yourself that you are not a dancer and you can’t do it, guess what? You won’t ever be a dancer and you won’t do it. The connection between the mind and the body has proven to be a strong one. You can practice and prepare physically for months, but if you show up with the mindset that you are not good enough, that is what will take over. Re-training your mind and getting it to work for you and not against you is a daily practice. There are many tools and techniques you can use to support you in this process including affirmations, visualization, and breath work.
Ready to mentally prepare yourself for dance calls and the entire college audition process? Then feel free to download our webinar, The Mental Art of Performing, here! Learn how to successfully mentally prepare yourself for the college audition process and make sure you aren't letting nerves get the best of you.
The dance call doesn’t have to be the black cloud hanging over your head. Make a plan, reach out for help, and above all remember to find the joy in the process. After all, it is dance and dancing is meant to be fun!
Dance Coach/Mental Training Coach at My College Audition
Stephanie is a NYC based coach, speaker, and director/choreographer/performer. She is a graduate of Emerson College, Smith College, and soon to be Columbia University. You can learn more about her journey as an artist and lover of creativity and curiosity at www.stephanie-simpson.com
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During my initial consultation with a family, after we’ve assembled a college list, talked through the arduous journey that is the college audition process and I’ve revealed the realities of how difficult it is to get into the majority of these programs – I’m almost always met with some variation of the question: “So what is it? What do these programs want?”
Well, obviously, you need to be talented. That’s a given, sure. Some schools are looking for a raw talent that’s hard to quantify and some are looking for a pretty polished, well-trained performer that is ready to hit the ground running. The needs of a program and the personal preferences of a program head are, unsurprisingly, varied in terms of what they are looking for in a performer.
So what is it? To me, there is talent and there is this mysterious it. The “it” factor has little to do with how many years you’ve taken dance or your vocal range or who you know. Before I even see a student perform in a consultation, it’s pretty obvious to me if they have “it.”
It is an undeniable brightness. A warmth, a positivity and an openness. A silliness and the ability to not take themselves so seriously.
It is having the ability to reveal something – about themselves and about their world view. Having something to say. Something you need to share with the world.
It is someone who is kind and empathetic. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is quite literally what theatre is all about, after all. Someone with it isn’t just kind to strangers or people they are trying to impress in an audition room – they are kind to their “competition”, their daily peers, their parents. I learn a lot about a student watching them talk to their parents.
It is someone who shows respect. Respect to people that have taught and influenced them to get to the point at which they are today. If you grow out of a relationship with someone (a vocal coach, for instance), it doesn’t diminish the work and journey you shared together. They helped get you to this point. Someone with it knows this.
It is someone who is hungry, eager and willing to learn. It’s not desirable to work with someone who already knows it all. Asking and wanting help and direction is a sign of strength, not weakness.
It is someone who respects people’s time. They keep promises, deadlines and are committed to doing what they say they will do. They understand that a lack of preparation on their part does not constitute an emergency on someone else’s part.
It is someone who does the work. The kids I see who are the most successful in this process (time and time and time again) are the ones who are putting themselves in the driver’s seat. They are the Captain and their parents and coaches and mentors are there to help them sail smoothly, not steer the ship.
It is someone who is process focused, not product focused. Someone who knows that this life and this career are a journey – and it takes work, dedication and growth to get to any destination.
Finally, it is someone I want to hang out with. Someone who is not only interesting but also interested in others. Someone who doesn’t think they are better, or wiser, or at a higher playing field.
To me, that’s “it.”
Founder/Lead Consultant of My College Audition
Chelsea is a graduate from Emerson College's Acting program and is the Founder of My College Audition.
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by: Gigi Watson, MCA Coach
As you set out on the exciting journey of deciding which college theatre programs are right for you, you’ll quickly find that there are many roads you can take to get to your dream theatre destination. Two of the main highways may seem similar, but they represent different paths in terms of how your time will be spent along the way. These are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Both have their peaks and valleys, beautiful scenery, fun rest stops, and many late nights of rare and blurry Lin-Manuel Miranda throwback videos with your friends over the finest ramen and diet coke in all the land. So, which road is right for you? Let’s break it down!
What type of person are you?
Do you already know that what you want more than anything is to fully immerse yourself in your chosen focus (acting, singing, dance, or otherwise)? If your heart skips a beat at the thought of getting to live and breathe studio-style theatre classes all day, every day, before heading off to rehearsals for a show at night, then a conservatory BFA program (such as Boston Conservatory or Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) might be calling your name. If you’re thinking you would love that level of intensity with a little more breathing room for non-theatrical classes and activities, then a non-conservatory style BFA (such as Emerson College, Syracuse University, or Elon College) might be the ticket. Are you a self-directed type of person? If you’re thinking “woah woah, I’m so interested in a variety of elements of theatre, I don’t want to start off by limiting myself when I could instead design my own path to suit my needs,” then the more open road of the BA is looking good. With a BA, you will often have more room to choose your own adventure in terms of classes and experiences, but that also means more responsibility to map your own journey through four years of a program.
What do you want from your education?
Ask yourself if opportunities like studying abroad, exploring your writing abilities, getting that improv class in, honing your stage combat skills, or giving film acting a try are important to you. Are you excited by directing, playwriting, design, teaching, stage managing, or other elements of theatre? There are absolutely ways to explore these interests in either a BFA or BA program, but there is no getting around the fact that it will be harder to do so in a BFA track, where your schedule is more heavily preconfigured for you with required theatre classes. Sadly, there are only so many hours in a semester. However, every program will be different, and remember that this isn’t a Tesla Model S - you are steering this car! Which leads me to my final and perhaps most important piece of advice…
Do your research!
Each school will have a course credit outline on their website. It’s essentially a general map of how each year would look for you as a student at that school. This is a great way to see how your time would be used in each BFA program, or how much free time you would have to play with in each BA program. Each school has different requirements for credit hours spent inside and outside of the theatre studios. At Emerson, for example, I was able to pursue the BFA track and also take the hardest academic classes offered in other subjects that I was passionate about, like history and literature. But again, this is all school-specific, so use those Googles!
If you aren’t finding all of the answers you’re hoping for on the college’s website, or if you just want a more specific idea of the student experience, call or email the school and ask them! As someone who has worked as the person on the other end of that phone call in the Performing Arts admissions office at Emerson College, trust me when I say that they want to help you. I used to get a lot of calls that started with “well, I saw on College Confidential…” or “I heard from someone else...”. The best way to get answers for many of your BFA vs. BA questions is to go directly to the source. You are auditioning these schools and programs as much as they are auditioning you. Empower yourself with knowledge, and you can’t go wrong. And remember, this is your four years. No matter what you choose, college is what you make it. You’re in the driver's seat, starting now! So buckle up those character shoes, fire up your curiosity engine, and enjoy the ride. It’s going to be great.
Monologue Coach/Acting for the Song Coach @ My College Audition
In addition to coaching with My College Audition, Gigi is a Boston-based actor whose work can be seen and heard on the stages, screens, radios, and dog instagrams of New England and beyond. She has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Emerson College.
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