8 Tips For Nailing Your Next Audition

You know the feeling. You line up at the registration table and the nerves start to creep in. You smile for the headshot, safety pin your number to your leotard and head to the barre.

You look around at all of the other hopefuls stretching and listening to their pump-up playlists. To you, they all look ready to take center stage and blow the competition out of the water. In reality, they are all just as nervous as you are.

Auditioning is a vital part of being a dancer. Although they can be stressful, each audition helps us gain confidence and improve our technique.

Many dance teams at the University of Florida, such as Danza, Floridance and Sabor Latino hold auditions at the beginning of each semester.

Each team looks for something different when they audition potential new members, but here are some tips from the experts to help even the most seasoned dancer take on audition season.

  1. Do your research

Similar to job interviews, preparation for auditions is key. Find the team or company’s website and watch videos from past performances to see what their style is like. “I research everything from the time period to the creative team,” Cassie Silva, an ensemble dancer with Rock of Ages told Dance Spirit.

2. Prepare your body

As a dancer, your body is your instrument. Before an audition, make sure to get a good night sleep and eat a healthy meal that will give you lasting energy without making you feel too full. Dance Factory suggests eating a meal two or three hours before an audition and a small snack right before.

3. Dress to impress

Wear something that flatters your body and allows the panel to see your technique. Be mindful of the type of audition you are attending – sweatpants and a crop top are not the best look for a Radio City Rockettes audition, though that might be perfect for a gig dancing for a hip-hop music video.

4. Get in the zone

Tune out the competition (respectfully) and listen to some of your favorite pump-up music while you stretch. Arrive early so that you’ll have plenty of time to warm up, get familiar with the environment and get excited to give it your all.

5. Stay positive

Remember that at an audition, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. “Take deep breaths, relax and remind yourself that this is what you work so hard for.  This is what you love to do,” Sean Rozanski, a dancer with Giordano Dance Company told Dance Spirit.  Think of your audition as just one more opportunity to perform.

6. Pick it up

In the fast-paced world of dance, time is money. The ability to learn choreography quickly and execute it well is crucial to getting a job or a spot on a dance team. Dance Advantage recommends marking the routine on the side while the other groups are auditioning.

7. Put on a show

Every dancer in the room has had the same amount of time to learn the combination, but when your number is called, it is your time to show the panel what you can bring to the table. Don’t let your face show that you are thinking about the choreography, just pretend you are on stage and entertaining your audience.

8. Be gracious

Whether you were offered the job or you were cut, always remember to thank the panel for their time. If you really want to succeed in the dance world, take every audition as a chance to learn something and become a better dancer. “A positive attitude, great work ethic, confidence and a big helping of graciousness should be among your daily audition vitamins,” Cassie Silva told Dance Spirit.




Dance Marathon at UF raises $2.4 million

At 3 a.m. on March 20, the Steven C. O’Connell Center was more awake than ever. In one corner, college guys were shooting hoops wearing brightly colored tanks. In another, students were gathered around practicing the moves to a “Linedance” they learned the day before. In the center of the basketball arena, Dance Marathon captains, dressed in their 80’s prom attire, led dancers in a conga line. Some students were standing around a table, coloring pictures or studying for their next exam. Others stood in vats of dry, white rice.

It was hour 15 of standing.

Eight hundred UF students worked year-round to raise funds for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.  Each dollar brought them closer to securing a spot as a “dancer.” They would stand for 26.2 hours, with no sleep or caffeine, to raise money and awareness for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

“All of the funds raised through DM at UF go directly to purchase state-of-the-art medical equipment, fund research grants and educational programs, and purchase toys and other items to help make the children’s stay at the hospital more enjoyable,” according to the Dance Marathon at UF website.

But if you asked any one of the 800 dancers on hour 15 of standing, they would tell you the reason they won’t sit down in three words: “For the kids.”

Throughout the day of standing, participants heard from children and their families who have been directly affected by childhood illness. They heard the stories of test results, diagnoses, treatments, fears and hopes found at UF Health Shands.

Many parents held back tears as they told the dancers that their child would not be here if it weren’t for the efforts of those involved in Dance Marathon.

After 26.2 hours of standing, playing with miracle children, raising money and, of course, dancing, it was time to see the final outcome of their efforts.

The overall directors of the event lined up on the main stage of the O’Connell Center holding posters that each displayed a number. One by one, they raised their number in front of the crowd until they could finally see the total funds raised during Dance Marathon 2016.

The crowd went wild. And then they sat down. Finally.

After waking up from a post-Dance Marathon, 14-hour nap, 18-year-old freshman Kelly O’Neil said that dancing in her first DM was the most rewarding experience of her life.

“I don’t really think I knew what I was getting myself into when I accepted the offer to be a dancer,” she said. “I could’ve never prepared myself for what those 26.2 hours were going to bring.”

She said she plans to be involved with Dance Marathon for the rest of her college experience and beyond.

“Interacting with the miracle families and seeing how we were able to change their lives really changed my life for good,” O’Neil said.


Kelly O’Neil (left) and Mariana Lombello hug Wyatt, a Dance Marathon miracle child. Both students represented Pi Beta Phi and stood for 26.2 hours to raise money for Dance Marathon at the University of Florida.



Alex Reffie: Danza Dancer

For Alex Reffie, a 20-year-old Telecommunications sophomore at the University of Florida, dancing runs through her veins.

She has her mom, a former professional dancer with Joffrey Ballet, and her dad, who formerly worked in theatre in New York City, partially to thank.

“I come from a very artistically inclined family,” she said.

Reffie’s mom enrolled her in dance at the age of 3, in tune with the family tradition.

She used to hide under the piano during ballet class. Seventeen years later, she takes the stage with Danza Dance Company. 

Her fears of the ballet barre transformed into an incredible passion. Reffie remembers a moment when dance became more than just a hobby.

“I went to my first summer intensive at Ballet Florida when I was 9 years old,” she said. “I think it’s a big commitment when you say, ‘I want to spend my whole summer dancing and trying to excel.’”

All through high school, she was told to pick something practical, something she could make money doing. That just fueled her desire to put her all into her training.

“My mom put some pressure on me to pursue dance because she was a dancer, and she saw a lot in me,” she said.

Reffie said her plans to pursue dance haven’t changed, but they have gotten more specified in her time at UF. After a recommendation from her dad to try some film classes, she stumbled on Telecommunications, specifically the production track.

“The financially responsible and practical person in me knew that it wasn’t safe to not have a back-up plan,” she said.

She has discovered the ability to blend two things she loves and plans to pursue.

“In my production projects, I can think about what type of narrative I can make that incorporates dance, or what kind of story can I write that incorporates a dancer,” she said.

While her studies have taken center stage, Reffie has no plans to let her love for dance stay in the wings. That’s where Danza comes in.

She auditioned in the Spring 2016, and she will be performing with the team at UF’s Dance Marathon, Disney World this month. She will also be featured in two contemporary pieces in the Danza Showcase, which happens each semester.

“Danza has reignited the spark I had for dance,” she said. “I get to dance with a group of girls that is so invigorated with their passion for dance.”

She said that each dancer is extremely diverse, but when they all get together for their Monday technique classes and rehearsals, everyone is there for the same reason.

While some members joined the team to train for professional endeavors, Reffie said many of the dancers are there for the “genuine wholesomeness” of dance.

She finds that the diversity within Danza pushes her to experiment with styles that are out of the contemporary comfort zone. Every Monday, the team does a different style of dance in order to expand their variety.

“When we do a 3-hour long hip-hop class, I am thrown to the wolves,” Reffie said. “I can feel my technique being worked.”

Though Reffie has only been a member of the team for one semester, she said she has the opportunity to voice her opinions, and even showcase some of her own choreography. That has fueled her fire to take on more challenges.

“Having an executive board that is my age pushes me to be more confident as a dancer and work toward leadership roles,” she said.

When the stress of college kicks in, Reffie finds happy place and a family of 70 dancers when it is time to rehearse.

“For me, taking an hour out of my week to learn a dance and move around a little bit is perfect because it’s exactly what you need to get restarted,” she said.

Reffie said she has already seen major improvements in herself as a dancer, and she plans to audition again for the team next semester.

“Everyone there is a very talented dancer, so the bar has been raised for myself eons above what it was set when I first came to UF.”

Watch Alex Reffie and her Danza team perform at the Phillips Center on April 17! For more information, see their Facebook event page.

Natali Rodriguez: Sabor Latino Assistant Choreographer


Natali Rodriguez poses before she takes the stage with Sabor Latino at the UF Fashion X-Clusive show on Feb. 19. 

Natali Rodriguez, a freshman marketing major from Miami, Fla., has gone from the newbie to the assistant choreographer of Sabor Latino Dance Team in just one semester.

“But you can call me ‘Natu,’” she’ll say with a smile and a sassy Latin flair. “’Natali’ makes me think my mom is yelling at me or something.”

Rodriguez credits her mom for taking her to dance classes in her neighborhood clubhouse, despite her desires to play soccer instead.

“My mom forced me into dance,” she said.

Rodriguez graduated from the neighborhood clubhouse to Dancing INXS, a competitive studio in Miami, when she was 9 years old. There, dancing went from a hobby to the center of her life.

“I couldn’t go a day without dancing,” she said. “I was at my dance studio more than I was at home.”

Hundreds of rehearsals, conventions and performances later, Rodriguez was a senior in high school deciding where she would take her talents in the next phase of her life: college. There was something about UF that stood out to her, though she isn’t exactly sure what that was.

“Maybe it was that inner Gator inside me,” she said.

Years before she even began her application, Rodriguez knew that if she did go to UF, she would audition for Sabor Latino.

She remembers looking up to Tammy Tang, an older dancer at her studio, from the time she was a “mini.” Tang went on to attend UF and become the president of Sabor.

Rodriguez kept in touch with Tang through social media and watched her performances with Sabor on YouTube.

“I remember telling myself ‘If I ever go to college in Gainesville, I am joining this team,’” she said. “Tammy is the reason I am on Sabor”

When Rodriguez made the move to Gainesville to Miami, it was the first time she had moved since coming from Argentina when she was 5 years old. She was nervous to leave the place she loved, especially the family she had formed at her dance studio.

“It was so hard for me,” she said. “I would cry myself to sleep because I was so lonely.”

All of that changed when she joined Sabor Latino in August 2015. She was the only freshman that semester who made the cut.

“I used to think ‘I’m new here, they’re going to be expecting a lot from me.’”

Despite her reservations, Rodriguez found the home away from home she was looking for in a dance team.

“We really are a family,” she said. “And they have that Latin flavor that I’ve always had back home.”

Rodriguez said she applied to be the assistant choreographer before her first semester was over.

“This was me taking my next step in my dance career,” she said. “Now I get to dabble in all of the dances.”

Her teammates helped her transition into college, both on and off the stage.

She said her performance level has hugely improved, but she has seen an even bigger difference in how she views herself, thanks to motivation from her teammates.

“I had a low self esteem before coming to college,” she said. “I’ve become so much more confident in myself.”

From the token freshman to assistant choreographer, Rodriguez has come a long way in just one year, and she has no plans to slow down.

Check out Natu and her Sabor Latino teammates in their Spring 2016 promo video here!

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater comes to UF


The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater takes its final bow after performing “Revelations.”

The usher directed me to my balcony seat in the Phillips Center, with a look of “you’d better hurry up,” at 7:34 p.m.

The show was about to begin.

Ominous voices reminded us to silence our cell phones and refrain from flash photography, but all I could see were images of the dancers taking their places behind the curtain. Figuratively see, of course.

I felt their head rolls, hand shakes, final stretches and final prayers. This was just one performance in their worldwide tour, but I knew firsthand that didn’t take away a minutia of the excitement that comes with performing for a live audience. In their case, a live audience who paid a good amount of money just to watch their talents unfold.

This was the first time I would be seeing the action, rather than being it. It made me anxious. I wanted to jump down from the balcony, learn the choreography, and dance alongside them. I was nervous about being a bystander.

That was until the curtain rose and the music began and the dancers began “Toccata,” their first dance of the night. The upbeat jazz music whisked them away into a series of spins, extensions, and glides across the stage. Their white-shirt-black-pants attire and their high-speed intricate choreography combined to evoke the feeling of a bustling New York City street. The men and women weaved around each other in perfect synchronicity, seemingly forgetting to breathe before performing the next series of movements.

An Adonis-and-Aphrodite-like pas de deux brought serenity to the entire performing arts center, reminding me of the moment after it rains. Following the duet was a group routine that put me in a trance. Its athleticism and artistry told such a compelling story, though I don’t know what that was.

After a brief intermission, it was the moment we had all been waiting for. It seemed as though the entire audience sat up in their chair, waiting for Mr. Alvin Ailey’s spirit to tell its story through the dancers. We were about to experience “Revelations.”

“Revelations” tells the story of the last book of the New Testament. We were transported to Judgment Day, Purgatory, Heaven, and Hell through the lighting effects, the African American Gospel music, and, most importantly, the dancers.

I was in the audience, but I felt like so much more than a bystander. I was moved by every lift, extension, and contraction. My eyes followed the subtle movements of the dancers’ hands during their final day.

Dancers of UF, don’t be afraid of the audience. Experiencing the movements of the most elite modern dance company in the entire world taught me that seeing dance from the audience makes you more than a dancer; it makes you an artist.

We are fortunate to go to a school that brings such iconic performances right to our doorstep, and we are missing out if we choose to forgo them because we would prefer to be on the stage.

Change your angle of observation, and watch what happens. Stay up-to-date on the next performances at the Phillips Center here.


Setting the Scene

Since I was three years old, I have been a dancer.

I came to the University of Florida in pursuit of the paramount “college experience” that my friends, high school teachers, and parents couldn’t stop talking about. Leaving behind the (insert name of fancy arts school here) acceptance letter, I decided to go for it, thinking my passion of dance would need to be set aside for academia.

That’s part of growing up, right?

Wrong. What I have found at the University of Florida is a community of dancers who refuse to sacrifice what they love just because they are focused on school. Where I thought I would find 50,000 Organic Chemistry students who are just too busy to worry about something like dance, I found a community.

I thought I was the only one in the in-between world of school and dance, but it turns out the University of Florida is full of students waiting for the next time they get to be in a dance studio, perfect their technique, or take the stage.

I was overwhelmed by the number of dance groups that I could audition for by my first week of freshman year. There were so many different styles that I wanted to continue practicing in college, and there were so many that I wanted to try for the first time.

That’s where you come in. If you are a new student at the University of Florida, or a senior for that matter, and you want to further your passion or try something new, I got your back.

Here are just some of the incredible dance groups we have on campus, and a little bit about what they offer to suit the dancer in you.

Dancin’ Gators

Whether you’ve never danced a day in your life or you are basically a Beyoncé back-up dancer, Dancin’ Gators could be the place for you. They are the only dance team on campus that does not hold auditions. Their goal is to bring together dancers of all different levels and styles.


The original student-run dance company holds master classes every week from ballet to hip-hop. If you want to try a little bit of everything, check out Floridance!

Extreme Dance Company 

Extreme can be a place for those new to dancing, and it can be a place for those ready for their Alvin Ailey Dance Company audition! They have different levels based on technique ability, and provide plenty of choreography opportunities for dancers who want to create their own movement.

Danza Dance Company

If you can break it down with a fierce hip-hop combination and finish with a triple pirouette into a side grande jeté, Danza is ready to see what you’ve got! They offer plenty of performance opportunities and teach tons of unique styles.

Stomp the Swamp

If you want to move your feet to the beat and advocate for Dancers Responding to AIDS, shuffle-ball-change over to Stomp the Swamp auditions! They are a rhythm tap dance team at UF who are ready to tap their way to the top.

Sabor Latino Dance Team 

The official dance team of the Hispanic Association brings the flare of Miami to the stages of Gainesville. If you can drop it like it’s hot and Salsa like the stars, check out Sabor Latino. They bring the fire to just about any event, from Gator Growl to VISA talent show.