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Some dance companies hold auditions despite virtual challenges

Last semester, all 15 PAC dance groups decided not to hold auditions

<h5>The front entrance to McCarter Theater, largely unused for nearly a year.</h5>
<h6>Julian Gottfried / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
The front entrance to McCarter Theater, largely unused for nearly a year.
Julian Gottfried / The Daily Princetonian

Several of the University’s dance companies held or will hold auditions virtually this semester, following the Performing Arts Council’s (PAC) decision to allow students groups to hold auditions.

In the fall, the PAC allowed each subset of the performing arts — theater, a cappella, and dance — to decide within their respective groups whether to hold auditions. Because of this, only a handful of groups, none of which were dance companies, held auditions for new members.

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Citing equity concerns regarding video quality, home environment, and other factors, most dance companies on campus decided not to hold auditions or accept new members last semester. While some carried this reasoning into the spring, nine companies decided to open auditions.

These companies are hosting the entirely virtual auditions in video format, meaning that prospective members submit one or multiple videos of them completing choreography selected or created by the company. 

For a large company like BodyHype Dance Company, the unique challenges of this semester have bred flexible and creative solutions. Vice President Julie Shin ’22 said that she sees virtual auditions as opportunities for increased equity.

“We can look at each dancer individually and give their videos more attention,” she said. “In-person, it is difficult to analyze each dancer when they are dancing in groups.”

“We provided three combinations for everyone to learn, rather than our usual two,” she explained. “Normally we wouldn’t have time to teach that many in person.”

Prospective members of diSiac Dance Company submitted two videos, one contemporary performance and one hip-hop performance. Applicants ranked which style they preferred for judges to take into consideration.

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diSiac also decided to allow prospective members to submit a third video of them dancing to anything they wanted. The purpose of this was to hopefully gather more information about a dancer’s personality, which is hard to determine from just two dancing videos.

“This could be one of their favorite TikToks or a video of them clogging, or really anything that they want to share with us,” said Emma Wang ’23, president of diSiac Dance Company.

Most of the students submitting auditions are first-years who have yet to even see the dance groups perform in person. John Freeman ’24, who auditioned for several companies, said that it was hard to tell what each company was offering.

“I feel like I would be able to get a much better sense if we were in a non-COVID world,” Freeman said. “Virtual auditions are definitely not the same as in-person auditions.”

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Wang echoed the sentiment that auditions are not at all typical this year.

“In a normal year, people would come and audition just for fun and to be able to dance for a couple hours,” she said.

Now, she feels that each person auditioning virtually is invested in joining the company, and people who would normally audition for fun are not auditioning due to the greater demands of virtual auditions.

Almost every company said they experienced lower turnout than usual at auditions.

Heather Samberg ’23, president of eXpressions Dance Company, said that they received less than half of the usual number of auditions this year.

diSiac Dance Company, which usually receives upwards of 100 submissions during fall auditions, only received around 30 this semester.

Not all dance companies have decided to hold auditions this semester. One group not holding auditions is the Black Arts Company (BAC), whose president says that very little has changed from last semester.

“We decided not to [hold auditions] because we felt that it would not be as equitable as possible,” president Aishah Balogun ’23 said. “As a company, we decided it was best and most fair.”

According to Balogun, the equity concerns of last semester are still there.

“Some people are at home and do not have the equipment they would like to feel comfortable with their auditions, [and] some people don’t learn dance numbers very well online,” Balogun said.

BAC, Dorobucci, Highsteppers, Más Flow, and Princeton TapCats are the five companies that decided not to hold auditions this semester.

Nine other groups — including BodyHype Dance Company, eXpressions Dance Company, and diSiac Dance Company as well as Naacho, Princeton Bhangra, Princeton University Ballet, Raqs Belly Dance Company, Sympoh, and Triple 8 — have already held, or plan to hold, auditions virtually at some point this semester.

The Daily Princetonian was unable to confirm whether Ballet Folklorico, which is listed as a company sponsored by the PAC, will be holding auditions this semester.

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