What modern dancers needs to know about Youth Dance Ensemble Auditions

Photo Credit: Lawrence Luk
Photo Credit: Lawrence Luk


Mark your calendars! Auditions for the Youth Dance Ensemble are on May 7 at Friendship Heights!
Students entering grades 3-7 will audition from 5:00-6:00PM
Students entering grades 8-12 will audition from 6:30-8:00PM

Register for auditions here!

What is the Youth Dance Ensemble (YDE)?
The Youth Dance Ensemble is a youth dance company and program that teaches and inspires excellence in dance (modern, ballet, and jazz), through classes, performances, artist residencies, and educational project blocks that integrate and connect dance to topics on health and well being, self and community and the related performing and visual arts. The YDE program offers participation in the Ensemble Company for high schoolers and six preparatory levels for 1st-8th graders. Admission is by audition only.

We sat down with YDE Program Director, Helen Hayes, to discuss her vision for the 2016-2017 season and what every student auditioning should know.

1. You’ve been in the dance game a long time. How do you keep the program so fresh? The students engaged year after year?

The core faculty and the guest choreographers keep the program fresh and exciting year after year. Every faculty member is an amazing dance artist that has so much to share, in addition to dance steps, to our YDE students. The faculty’s performance and choreographic experience make the YDE program deeply meaningful and enriching.

2. You’ve hit some major milestones. What is one of your goals for the 2016-2017 season?

YDE has performed in their own concert at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage twice, the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall and has been the recipient of the Metro DC Dance Award for Outstanding Youth Performance 3 times in the last 10 years. We hope to perform at the Kennedy Center again next season and perhaps perform in New York with the Congressional Chorus.

3. Our youth companies seem to have a life of their own. Dancers are performing all over town, starting bake sales for JOMDC Youth Scholarships and so much more. How do you foster this spirit?
The YDE program is focused on learning LIFE lessons through dance. The students are encouraged to build community both in their classes and outside of them. They learn to be team players and leaders. They learn that the great rewards are earned through GIVING, not receiving. They are taught to dance with generous hearts and spirits by all of their teachers. This resonants and is transferred into all areas of their lives.

YDE @gberg 20154. What kind of dancer are you looking for at the audition?
YDE dancers are focused, dedicated, and creative. YDE dancers understand that the FUN is in the discipline of the work. Discipline and hard work bring progress and improvement. What could be more fun than watching/feeling yourself get better and better?

5. What should someone remember at the audition? Like your BEST advice….
Be confident and SMILE. Show the judges why you love to dance and be unafraid. Making mistakes is a part of life. Don’t be tentative in your approach to the material and go for everything! And don’t wear black!

6. What should a dancer bring/wear to the audition?
Dancer should wear pink convertible tights, pink ballet shoes, a solid colored leotard and hair completely up. Dancers should be prepared for a ballet class at the top of the audition and be ready to transition quickly into modern class.

7. What do parents need to know about their child being in a JOMDC company? How can they be best prepared for the season ahead?
Parents are a huge part of the success of the YDE program. The program could not be as successful as it is without YDE family/community support. Parents need to know that being in YDE is a huge commitment, but the rewards are tremendous. Students have classes a minimum of twice per week and much, much more as they advance in the program. YDE students will perform a minimum of 4 times per year and the YDE Company will perform significantly more throughout the season. YDE students are expected to keep their grades above a C average and YDE students wear a uniform for their classes. Students are placed based on ability, not age or grade in school. Age and grade in school are simply guidelines for the program.

class_kids_modern_0048. Does everyone get accepted?
Not every student is accepted into the YDE program as the program is not the right fit for every dancer. Students who show potential and are dedicated, hard-working and want a more focused course of dance training are perfect candidates for YDE.

9. When do you notify dancers if they were accepted?
The YDE program will send out email notifications regarding acceptance and placement the week of June 20th after the Annual Youth Spring Recital. We do this so as to not distract from the current season.

10. What is the best part about being the director of a successful dance company?
The best part of directing the Youth Dance Ensemble is watching our students grow up and become amazing dancers and people through the program. Knowing that the YDE program has made a difference in so many young people’s lives is truly one of my greatest accomplishments.