When you already have a stellar
competition solo, it can feel like a drag to learn and rehearse a whole separate dance for college auditions. But
an amazing college audition solo doesn’t necessarily
include the same elements as a winning comp routine—
some schools are more interested in movement quality
and performance than technical tricks. It pays to edit
something you already know and love into a piece that
shows you’re serious about the program you’re applying
to. Dance Spirit found the answers to frequently asked
questions about how to transform any routine into
WHAT STYLE SHOULD I PERFORM?
If you compete in various styles, your college solo
should depend on the school you’re applying to, or you
may need variations on the same solo to meet each
college’s requirements. Research audition guidelines
ahead of time, and if genre isn’t specified, don’t hesitate
to ask. Tommy Neblett, associate director of dance at
The Boston Conservatory, can tell which students have
done their homework. “We offer a contemporary dance
performance degree, so if you bring in a hip-hop solo,
that’s not going to help your audition,” Neblett says.
However, some schools like to see a genre that demonstrates a student’s unique passion. “Dancers should
audition in whatever style they excel in, whether that
be jazz, modern or hip hop,” says Charlotte Adams,
associate professor of dance at the University of Iowa.
WHEN SHOULD I START MAKING
The earlier, the better! Use the summer before your
senior year to map out the potential changes to your
comp routine. For example, do you need to scale back
your acro tricks and tilts in favor of something more
connected to the music? Look for ways to stay true to
your strengths while focusing on the overall flow and
performance quality of the piece.
You can also create a combined rehearsal timeline
that includes regional competitions and your college
audition schedule, to strategize when you need to rehearse each version. Give yourself plenty of time to
grow comfortable with your college routine before you
hit the audition circuit.
DOES THE MUSIC MATTER?
While music will depend on the style of your piece, try
to steer clear of popular songs, or songs with words.
“Lyrics are often overly emotional, and we’re looking
for how the movement works with the music, not the
words,” Adams says—another example of how college
auditions and competitions can differ. Consider trying
your comp routine with instrumental music, or even
without music at all. “Some students are very courageous and perform in silence, but only do that if the
piece warrants it,” Neblett says.
SHOULD I ASK FOR HELP?
Neblett is very impressed with students who create their
own solos. “But if you’ve never choreographed before,
this is probably not the time to try,” he says. Instead,
choose a teacher who’s experienced with college dance
programs and knows your strengths.
If you’re changing a solo set by an outside choreographer, make sure to get their permission. If they say no
to potential changes, give yourself and your teacher
time to create something new or update an old solo.
“My students will often edit a previous solo, then
come to me to make it a finished product,” says Brian
Young, owner and director of the Sweatshop in Denver,
CO. “I think about their point of view, how they’re transitioning between steps and whether they’ve chosen
their best technical and artistic movement.”
The do’s (and don’ts) of tweaking your competition
solo for your college audition By Amy Smith
Amy Smith is a frequent contributor to Dance Spirit.
University of Iowa
auditioning for Iowa
are encouraged to
perform a solo in
whatever genre best