Here’s a scary thought: levels auditions. You’re at the start of a dance workshop. It’s 10am. Instructors are milling around a giant mob of social dancers. And they are judging you.
This process can shred your nerves.
If you’re reading this post, chances are you care about your placement at an audition. We all want to get placed into the appropriate level, and it hurts to be judged as a lower level than you see yourself.
Lucky for me, I’ve always done well at auditions. Below I’ve spelled out 6 action steps you can take to prepare for your auditions.
But first, let’s take a closer look at what workshop levels mean.
Levels often mean drastically different things from one event to the next. Intermediate class material can be too easy for you at one event, too hard for you at the next.
The instructor-judges try to break students into groups of roughly the same skill level, relative to the student group as a whole. Workshop or track levels may as well be called M, Q, C, and R for all the relevance they have to your actual dance level.
Hence, it’s nearly impossible to figure out beforehand with absolute certainty which level will be best for you. And although you know that, if you feel like you’re advanced, of course you still want to be in the level called advanced!
Whether you ‘deserve’ to be there is not the point. You want to be in that level, so focus on doing everything you can to get there.
Levels Auditioning in Lindy Hop: Best Practices
#1 Nail your basics.
Time and again, judges will tell you this is what they look for in level auditions. In lindy hop, this means swing outs, tuck turns, and the like. Leave out the super fancy moves. Dance with the music, on beat, rocking your basics.
For followers, swivels are pretty important. However, great swivels don’t mean a lot if your other basic skills are lacking.
If you’re unsure what you need to work on, take a private lesson a few months before the audition.
#2 Practice your lines.
At most auditions, the judges will be watching you rather than dancing with you. Having good lines shows that your whole body can dance!
First of all, figure out what to do with your free arm. Dead arms or tense arms are quite obvious and make you look like a poorer dancer than you are.
“Lines” also refer to other shapes your body makes. For example:
- Is your head pushed forward or cocked at a funny angle? Not so pretty.
- Do you scrunch your shoulders and pull your arms in when you turn? Not so pretty.
- Do you push your pelvis forward or arch your back? Not so pretty.
#3 Dress for the occasion.
You want to give a good first impression before you even start dancing. Don’t get all glammed up (overcompensating) or roll up looking shabby (overconfident or clueless).
Wear something that flatters you. If you want to go the extra mile, choose an outfit that also stands out from the crowd. As long as it looks good on you, a bold print, bright color, or an eye-catching accessory are all good ideas.
#4 Match your partner.
If you’re not matching and working together, it makes at least one of you look bad. Probably both.
This advice goes for both leads and follows. Don’t fling your follow around if she’s dancing with a lighter connection. And follows, don’t dance around your lead, inconsiderate of his role in the dance.
There are many more ways to work with and respond to your partner. When you’re nervous this can be really hard! Remember to make eye contact with your partner as a first step.
#5 Look happy, dangit!
That look of sheer terror isn’t doing much for you. Humans are attracted to happy faces. The more they look at you, the better chance both you and your partner have.
A great smile exudes confidence, outwardly and inwardly. The judges might even unconsciously assume you are more capable.
And most importantly…
#6 Mentally prepare for the worst case scenario.
Think. What’s the lowest level you could conceivably end up in?
Say you’re shooting for advanced. You may well end up in intermediate if there are a lot of other great dancers at the event. There are 2 good ways to mentally prepare for this outcome:
- Remind yourself that the label of the level you end up in is not equivalent to your actual dance level. This can help you to stay positive and not take the placement personally.
- Come up with a plan for what to do if/when you get placed in a different level than you wanted. Will you go through the appeals process, if there is one? How will you get the most out classes? Will you take a private lesson? Do you need to ask more questions or look for nuance in the material so you have enough to work on?
By preparing mentally, you can lessen the disappointment and shock that comes with an unexpected level placement.
One more thing:
Befriend the judges if you can. While I feel it shouldn’t negatively affect your placement, it can certainly have a positive effect.
If you’re not too outgoing, this might be a tall order. In that case, follow this advice:
Don’t be an asshole.
No pouting, arguing, acting pissy, or walking off in a huff if you don’t get the placement you want. These behaviors reflect negatively on you, and people remember impressions like that.
Hold your head high. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You’ll recover from any embarrassment, anger, or disappointment you feel. But if you waste a whole weekend because of it, you’ll never get that time back. Make the most of it, no matter what!
Want help getting your practice groove on? Download my online course: Secrets of Better Dance Practice.
How do YOU do your best at auditions?