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Kansas City Ballet School: Summer Intensive Audition by Flashlight

There are roughly 25 auditions held during the Kansas City Ballet School Summer Intensive National Audition Tour every year, and several teachers on staff, including our school director, travel to teach these auditions. They’ve experienced a lot of things from cancellations due to weather and personal illness, but this recent story is a bit of an outlier.

An Unusual Audition

On a recent trip to Atlanta, Taryn Ouellette administered an audition she will never forget:

“Due to snow and ice, it was challenging to get a flight out of Kansas City. At the same time, Atlanta was experiencing a severe thunderstorm on the evening of the audition. This storm came complete with a tornado watch, windy conditions, heavy rains, and flash flooding. The thunderstorm led to a power outage at Atlanta Ballet.

There was no power even before the audition began. The outage lasted throughout the class, despite their efforts to have the power restored. I was asked if I would like to reschedule, but a large group of auditioners were there. Since I had gotten there despite the snow in KC, we pressed on!

We were given a studio with a faint glow from an emergency light (which became progressively fainter throughout class), and flashlights to light the dimmest area. Gennadi Nedvigin, the artistic director of Atlanta Ballet, was remarkably kind, apologizing for the inconvenience, and personally going in search of flashlights. The pianist who played for the class, Elizabeth Grimes, was outstanding. She cheerfully and beautifully accompanied class despite the shadows around her and limited vision.

This was certainly the biggest obstacle I’ve ever had to surmount during an audition! I think it was a memorable experience for all involved. One typically does not take class in the dark, and certainly not an audition class.

Audition Results

The audition went smoothly, despite the dim lighting. We proceeded through the class in a typical, organized manner, and I made sure that I could see everyone as well as possible, even if we had to repeat a combination with a different arrangement of students. I also made sure that the students felt safe and as well-oriented in space as possible as they were moving through the dark. The students were troopers. They danced with the same level of confidence and energy as they would if the studio were well-lit. They seemed to enjoy the unusual experience. There were many opportunities to chuckle together at the absurdity of the situation, even while staying focused and determined. Auditions can be stressful for anyone. I think all of the people who teach audition classes for KCBS, certainly including myself, try to make auditions a positive and enriching experience for the students, even when faced with a power outage!”

Summer Intensive Audition Advice

Taryn’s advice for anyone auditioning for a summer intensive: “Come to the class with an open mind and ready to work. Dive into the class, remaining attentive to details, and expect the very best from yourself. If a combination or step doesn’t go as well as you hoped, keep moving forward. Don’t let that mistake sabotage the rest of the audition for you. We are looking at the whole picture. Perhaps most importantly, you should know that the people at the front of the room are on your side; we want you to do well, and we are rooting for you!”


Photography of Atlanta Ballet by Taryn Ouellette. Photography of Taryn Ouellette by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

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