Pressure to be en pointe

Rachel Murrell performs a dance during the Meadows Brown Bag dance series March 1 in the Bob Hope Lobby. (Sidney Hollingsworth/The Daily Campus)

Marika Wynne knew exactly what she wanted to do after her senior year in high school: dance.

She also knew where she wanted to be. Wynne only applied to SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts dance program.

Wynne still remembers her audition on Nov. 22 2008 when she was calming her worried mother down in a hallway of full of stretching, highly experienced dancers in leotards and tutus. She kept hoping and praying that number seven, her number, would get a callback.

“We had to wait what felt like forever,” Wynne said.

Wynne didn’t have to wait too long in comparison to other dancers. She was the third person selected to perform her solo.

She faced the faculty judges in Meadows B100, away from the temptations the mirrors provided. She gave her best effort performing her self-choreographed contemporary piece to an
Apocalyptica cover of “Seven Nation Army” and she received her acceptance a week later.

The dance performance program at Meadows School of the Arts accepts dancers from all over the country each year. Whether it is in person, via video submission, in Texas or out of state, the way the dancers audition isn’t always the same.

The Meadows dance program currently has 65 students majoring in dance performance, with 16 minors. It is the second longest major at SMU, only behind engineering majors. Everyone in the program is trained in ballet, Martha Graham modern technique, jazz and more. The majority of the dancers in the program had danced from 10 to 12 years before joining Meadows. Seven of the majors are males, and they typically entered with around 6 years of experience.

Students admitted to the program undergo a dual admission process, having to be accepted by both the dance program and SMU.

This year, 273 students auditioned. The Meadows Dance Division accepted 71 of those dancers. About 19 percent were accepted into both the dance program and SMU. Dancers have until May to decide if they will enter the program.

Last year’s freshman class of dancers was the largest the program has seen in a long time with 27 students. The freshman class is usually around 18 to 22 dancers.

Almost half of the program’s students aren’t from Texas. Dancers came to Meadows from states such as Florida, Michigan, Maryland and others. Four SMU auditions are held each year, with two in the fall and two in the spring. All faculty members are present at Dallas auditions. The dancers are asked to come prepared with a 90-second piece in ballet, modern or jazz technique in case they are selected to perform a solo. The audition begins at 9 a.m. with a class of bar work and ballet combinations. After the class, which usually takes about two hours, dancers wait in the hall to see if they will be asked to perform a solo.

Auditions are also held outside of SMU about seven times a year. Known as regional auditions, a faculty member will travel to certain schools to teach a master class. Unlike Dallas auditions, all candidates will perform a solo. If the dancers wish, they can also prepare combinations in ballet, modern and jazz to prove their proficiency in techniques that the audition may not have covered. The auditions are recorded and later watched by faculty members.

These regional auditions are often held at certain schools, often only having members of those schools audition. In 2011, regional auditions were held in states such as Georgia, Louisiana and California. .

Another way to audition is a video submission. Audrey High recorded hers on a DVD with her mother’s help.

High, a sophomore, had been performing ballet since she was two years old. She recorded her audition in her lucky spaghetti strap black leotard. High’s mother filmed her portions at the bar, a ballet variation from “Sleeping Beauty” and her own combinations in modern jazz and ballet.

The major is more than pirouettes and plies. Dancers have to write term papers as well.

“The faculty challenges us to be intellectual movers,” High said.
 

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