Reel Deal: Ace Your Video Audition

Nel Shelby Productions is a New York City videography company with extensive experience in dance-specific video production. In an earlier interview, Nel Shelby gave Dance Advantage readers tips on How To Make a Video to Market A Dance Studio.

In their search to find more ways to help dancers and choreographers, Nel Shelby Productions has discovered there is high demand for filming and editing excellent quality audition videos for dancers looking to attend summer dance intensives, enroll in college dance departments and conservatories, and even send video samples of their dancing to professional performing companies.

So of course, we want to know how to make the best audition video possible and asked Nel Shelby Productions for their best advice.

Making Your Dance Audition Video

Image courtesy M4D Group

Don’t get too fancy with your dance audition video

Most dance schools, programs and companies would prefer to see a one-camera video shoot rather than two-cameras.

Two-camera edits involve putting together multiple angles, and the choices made about showing your dancing from certain angles may seem suspicious… “Why did they cut to a close-up of her torso there?” “Was she off-balance on releve?”

You don’t want to look like you’re hiding something.

Let them see you in the best light

Film the audition material in a relatively clean space with great light.

Nel Shelby Productions brings their own lighting equipment to every studio they film auditions. You never know if you’ll have enough natural light, and it’s very important the dance program or audition judges can see you.

Bring a coach

Shelby always reminds clients who are creating audition reels to bring a teacher or coach. After all, they can make sure you look great on camera, but your videographers don’t know the choreography or variations. Bringing an additional set of eyes, already familiar with the movement material, helps you get the most out of your session.

Practice makes perfect video

Dancers should come fully prepared with all variations, exercises and choreography set and well-rehearsed for their audition video shoot. Warming up and setting hair and make-up before the session is also important.

Talk to your videographer

Many dancers need a quick turnaround in video delivery for auditions and other applications. Nel Shelby Productions says they need to know the application requirements and deadlines before you film your dancing so they can work with clients and plan accordingly to deliver their dance video as fast as possible.

Talk over the dance audition guidelines with your video team, too. Things like: how variations should be ordered on the DVD, or if a menu is necessary to navigate through to specific chapters of your audition.

A Dance Audition Video Example:

Watch an excerpt of Brittany Shinay’s dance audition video made by Nel Shelby Productions.

Nel Shelby Productions

Learn more about Nel Shelby Productions and get occasional video tips by signing up for her newsletter.

3 Keys to Creating a Successful Dance Film

How to Survive Your First Dance Film ProjectYou’ve been choreographing for the stage for some time, but something inside you says it’s time to make a film.  But how?

Boston choreographer Anna Reyes is currently editing her debut film, “the good parts of being alive“.  Inspired by the portraits of painter Egon Schiele, the film explores how relationships are molded by time and space.

The Good Parts of Being AliveReflecting on the production process now, Reyes shares three tips for choreographers embarking on their first film.

1.  Plan as much as you can.

By planning ahead, you can avoid most last-minute adjustments and emergencies, which were the cause of the most stress for Reyes.  “There’s nothing wrong with thinking you might have to shoot in a year or a year and a half, if that means you already have the funds for your dancers and you’ve already secured the location where you’re going to shoot,” she says.  While details like film locations may be difficult to envision when you’ve only just started choreographing, lock down as many arrangements as you can.  When you do start to film, you’ll be glad that you can focus on the dance.

That being said…

2.  Be flexible with what’s available to you.

“It occurred to me that making a film is a lot more ‘control freak’ than making live performance.”  Nevertheless, there were many times when Reyes’ control “flew out the window” – from unexpected rain to conflicting schedules to adjusting choreography to accommodate fit the dancers who were available, Reyes met a number of unpredictable troubles head-on.

“As much as you plan, there are going to be things that are totally unexpected that come up, and you’ll have to make a split-second decision.”  Knowing that things might not go according to plan will prepare you to make those decisions.

3.  Be nice to yourself. 

“The process is going to be really hard, and if you’re beating yourself up while you’re doing it, it’ll make it a lot worse.”  Inner criticisms and self-doubts plague us all, but you can’t afford to disparage yourself for every little imperfection.  If you mess up, or if something doesn’t go the way you thought it would, remember that you are doing the absolute best you can, and cut yourself some slack!

For Reyes, film is the future of dance – most audience members spend more time with YouTube and DVDs than at live performances.  Though she has starred in a handful of films, “the good parts of being alive” is the first production that she has produced herself.

So would she do it again?  Absolutely.

“The majority of my life that I have choreographed, it has all been for stage, and I love that, but for me, film is really exciting.  As much as it can be stress-inducing, I really love it.”

Rachel Elizabeth MaleyRachel Elizabeth Maley is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Chicago.  She writes being human today and collaborates with artists to tell their unique stories.  Connect with Rachel on Twitter.

Choreographer, Anna ReyesAnna Reyes is a dancer and choreographer based in Boston. She began her dance training in Austin, Texas, and studied at the Boston Conservatory, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance Performance. Reyes has presented her choreography in both New York City and Boston, where she also founded Synesthetic – a cross-disciplinary improvisation project – with jazz musician Jordan Maley. She has starred in films by Tamara Al-Mashouk and Hubbard/Birchler, and her debut film, “the good parts of being alive”, will be released in Autumn of 2014. Reach out to Anna on Twitter.

The Royal Ballet’s Beauty, Sarah Lamb

The Royal Ballet is bringing The Sleeping Beauty to movie theaters for a single performance on March 20.

The Royal Ballet Cinema Season is a fantastic way to watch your favorite ballets. It’s especially great if you live in an area of the U.S. where world-renown companies rarely visit. Readers so far have told us they love the convenience of this new way to experience ballet.

Sarah Lamb with Steven McRae in the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Johan Persson/ROH

Sarah Lamb with Steven McRae in the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Johan Persson/ROH

Dancing the role of Princess Aurora is Sarah Lamb, a Boston native. She was a principal dancer at Boston Ballet before crossing the pond in 2004 to join The Royal Ballet, where she was promoted to principal in 2006.

Sarah speaks with us today about dancing this classical role, her versatility, and taking risks.

DANCE ADVANTAGE: The Rose Adagio sticks out in my mind, but what is the most challenging aspect of dancing the title role in The Sleeping Beauty?

SARAH LAMB: The most challenging part is the entire Act I. Aurora stays onstage after her entrance full of exuberance and effervescence, and goes directly into The Rose Adagio. Her solo follows, which is very technical and has almost all aspects of a ballerina’s technique: pirouettes, balances, hops on pointe, and a manège with jumps.

DA: Five years ago, you came back from a foot injury that took you out of work for several months. Tell us about that time and how you bounced back to your best.

SL: It was incredibly difficult, depressing and frustrating and I’m so lucky that my husband and family helped me through such a dark time. I was so fortunate that Kevin O’Hare, our director and then company manager, allowed me to return to Boston and get therapy and coaching from an incredible man named Igor Burdenko who worked with me in a pool for six months of rehabilitation while I couldn’t bear weight on my foot.

DA: You’ve been overseas for about a decade now but, thinking back, how did it feel making that choice to move from an American ballet company to The Royal Ballet?

SL: It was a leap into the unknown and a risk to do something different, but I thought about the proverb, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived,” so I left and I am so happy I did.

A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.

DA: You are a versatile dancer, moving with ease between classical and contemporary roles. What can you point to in your training background that has helped you become so?

SL: My teacher, Tatiana Nicolaevna Legat, was the most important part of my development as a dancer. Her direct connections to the Vaganova system and her expertise as a teacher formed me into the dancer I am today. I didn’t start training with her until I was twelve so I think certain parts of my own personality had already been established and I think that’s a very good thing! I’m willing to try things and to take risks and that’s attractive to choreographers who are interested in collaboration. Legat also reinforced my own work ethic which means I always push myself harder than anyone else can push me, so I’m always trying to improve.

DA: Does knowing The Sleeping Beauty will be filmed for audiences across the world change your preparations or performance in any way?

SL: Of course there’s more stress and pressure but you cannot change the way you fundamentally dance so I need to remind myself it’s a performance just like all the performances I do – for everyone in the audience. The fact that it is also filmed can’t make me alter my approach, except perhaps less make-up!

DA: What do you enjoy most about portraying Princess Aurora?

SL: I like the challenge and the fulfillment when a performance goes well – I’m critical so I haven’t had many shows that satisfy me, but the rehearsal process is intense so once I’m onstage I need to remember that I’m there to convey a story and bring the audience with me.

Royal Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty in cinema: March 20

Once again, this cinema performance of The Sleeping Beauty will occur one night only on March 20, 2014.

Find out if The Sleeping Beauty is playing at a theater near you: Go to the Fathom Events website, click Buy Tickets and enter your zip code.

Disclosure: Dance Advantage accepts compensation for the promotion of these events

More Classical Ballet on the Big Screen

Last October, we were pleased to share news of The Royal Ballet Cinema Season. Your response to this monthly opportunity to see the work of London’s premiere ballet company in U.S. movie theaters has been extremely positive.

Well, the series continues in 2014!

If you missed Giselle in January, fear not. You can still catch two more classics in February and March.

Click for details about The Royal Ballet Cinema Event, Swan LakeSwan Lake – Thursday, February 20 (click for details)

Anthony Dowell’s romantic interpretation returns the ballet to its 1895 origins by using the choreography of Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa. Dramatic costumes emphasize the contrast between human and spirit worlds, while glowing lanterns, shimmering fabrics and designs inspired by the work of Carl Fabergé create a magical setting. The twinned role of the pure White Swan and the scheming, duplicitous Black Swan tests the full range of a ballerina’s powers, particularly in the two great pas de deux of Acts II and III. Other highlights include the charming Dance of the Little Swans performed by a moonlit lake and sweeping ballroom waltzes in the splendor of the royal palace

Royal Ballet Cinema Season: Swan Lake

Watch this video on YouTube.


See The Sleeping Beauty (The Royal Ballet) March 20 in cinemasThe Sleeping Beauty – Thursday, March 20 (click for details)

Marius Petipa’s classic 19th-century choreography is combined with newly created sections by Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon. First staged in St. Petersburg in 1890, The Sleeping Beauty is the pinnacle of classical ballet: a perfect marriage of Petipa’s choreography and Tchaikovsky’s music and a glorious challenge for every dancer on stage. Today’s The Sleeping Beauty not only captures the mood of the original but shows that this is very much a living work for The Royal Ballet, growing and changing with the Company while celebrating its past.

These special one-night events screen at 7pm (local time) in select theaters nationwide. Follow the links above for more information or to buy tickets.

Many thanks to Fathom Events, Arts Alliance Media, Mr Wolf and the Royal Opera House for making it possible to see world-class ballet on the big screen!

Have you been?

Let us know what you think of the series in our comments below.

Swan Lake: Photograph: Marianela Nuñez as Odette (Johan Persson) and Odile (Dee Conway); background, Act III (Bill Cooper)
The Sleeping Beauty: Photograph: centre, Sarah Lamb as Princess Aurora and Steven McRae as the Prince, Act III (©ROH/Johan Persson, 2011). Image by AKA (©ROH, 2013)

We wish to disclose that Dance Advantage received compensation for the promotion of this series.

Lovable Stefanie, “Biggest Girl in the Ballroom”

Last year, Stefanie walked away the Editor’s Choice winner and a Top 10 finalist in our Top Dance Blog contest for her blog, “Biggest Girl in the Ballroom.”

I chose Stefanie for my pick because, despite my lack of ballroom dancing experience, I always find her insights as a student, performer, and human being valuable and completely relatable.

Stefanie and partner, IvanShe shares anecdotes about her partner and teachers, and frequently shares technique guidance they’ve given to her. Her stories about her Bulgarian pro instructor are funny and endearing. The blog includes information about pro/am competitive ballroom that can be difficult to find elsewhere: pointers on first competitions, buying shoes, choosing an instructor and more.

Writing openly about her journey to lose weight and to become the best dancer she can be, Stefanie has also built a community of support among other dancers, women, bloggers, and anyone working toward their goals.

Her most recent community-building effort is the Ballroom Village, a growing list of blogs about ballroom dancing. Stefanie says there are so few blogs with this focus, she wants to band together to connect and “play.” So, if you aren’t blogging about ballroom, Stefanie wants you to get going! If you already blog about ballroom, she wants you to join the village.

If you aren’t familiar with Stefanie’s blog yet, you should at least get to know to her.

Theme song

Watch this video on YouTube.

Honestly, the video above may tell all you need to know about lovable Stefanie. However, she stopped lip-syncing and gliding around the ballroom for a moment to answer some of my questions, too, and her answers are worth the read!

On Dance Blogging:

Dance Advantage: When someone asks you what your blog is all about, how do you answer?

Stefanie: My blog is about a real person doing competitive pro/am ballroom dancing, and all the struggles, triumphs, and insights that happen during the process.

When it comes down to it, the blog is where I basically share me, my journey, my experiences in life from the gym to the ballet barre to ballroom lessons to competitions.

My tagline is “Ballroom dancing, Weight loss, Inspiration, Community,” and I think that pretty much sums it up!

DA: Please share with readers what 2 things have most helped you develop an audience for your blog.

S: One, being authentic and interacting with others on my blog, via their blogs, and via other social media outlets.

Two, sticking with it. People find me, I don’t even know how most of the time. I keep writing and tagging posts and the more I write, the more tags I put on the blog, the easier it is to find me on a web search.

DA: Sticking with it, is a BIG one! Speaking of, what’s the hardest thing about keeping a blog active?

S: Creating the time to write. My blog posts are way, way longer than the average post so they take a big chunk of time to complete. I usually have so much to say and life moves at a fast past so keeping up with all I experience in a week is quite a challenge, but so worth it!

DA: What’s so great about blogging about dance, anyway?

S: Blogging about my dancing has been another way I have found, reclaimed, strengthened and developed my voice. I bottled up so much when I was dancing as a kid with self-esteem and body image issues, but now as an adult, the blog is a place where I can process all I experience while dancing.

I’m just doing what I’m doing and people seem to connect with my experience. So, the best part is that not only am I working out my own stuff, but I’ve found a community of like-minded people, other dancers, others who inspire me and who are inspired by me.

DA: What experience in your dance study best prepared you for your dance blogging experience?

S: Honestly, there was no preparation for this! I just started writing thinking that my mom and maybe, if I was lucky, my best friend would read the blog, while knowing that my husband had already fulfilled his quota listening to me blather on about dance.

All I do is share from my heart. That’s all the preparation needed. Well, that and a (somewhat) firm grasp on the English language.

It is kind of like dancing – you need a base of technique, but what moves people is the heart you put in it.

On Dancing:

Stefanie "Biggest Girl in the Ballroom"DA: You’ve talked candidly about weight and body issues. Have you ever felt judged by fellow students or even teachers when you begin a new class?

S: I am blessed that in the environments I dance in now, I am encouraged and supported.

As a kid, I certainly felt more judged, and the honest truth is we are all judged, and judging others, and judging ourselves, all the time. Of course I am being judged when I compete. In fact, I am deliberately putting myself in a position to be judged.

More than anything, I think it has to do with the attitude I bring to the situation. Over the years I have gained a modicum of confidence in myself and my dancing, which at some moments can be fragile, but most times I trust in it and figure that those who have the eyes to see, will see.

Those who can’t see beyond their judgments of my outward appearance, well, I have no power over that, so I don’t put too much thought into it. It is a larger problem the judgment I place on myself, when I reject myself for not being as I think I should be or wish I were.

I do not actively seek to please others but rather focus on fully expressing myself as best as I am able, which means dancing as I am. Dance, being a subjective art form, will always involve a level of judgment – that is part of the game I have chosen to play. So I accept that and seek to please myself, and my instructor/pro dance partner. As long as we feel we do our best, feel the dance, tune into the connection, and stay present in the moment, I am satisfied with that.

On Perceived Shortcomings:

DA: Amen. If you had only a few lines to convince someone afraid of beginning a dance class because of their perceived shortcomings, what would you write?

S: I would say if you have a desire in your heart to dance (or anything else in this world for that matter) then do it! Life is a journey and we all have to start somewhere. Dancing, especially, is a process of self-discovery, experimentation, and a practice.

I think it is incredibly sad when we limit ourselves or deny ourselves experiences due to perceived shortcomings and it is really a matter of choosing to engage in life, to say yes and risk it, or to say no, and slowly waste away. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather getting on with it anyway in the face of it. And that is where the growth is, outside our comfort zone.

It is amazing what one choice to step out into a new experience like taking a dance class for the first time can blossom into. It is worth the 45 minutes of courage. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

On Being Awesome:

DA: What’s the most wonderful, exciting, or inspiring thing a reader of your blog has ever said to you?

S: My readers inspire me all the time. It is difficult to pinpoint one particular example because I have been blessed and surprised by the many kind words sent to me.

However, I was most surprised to receive a letter in the mail once. The author mentioned things she admired about me – that in her eyes I am a warrior, an athlete, someone who could write a book or speak about my experiences, that I have mental strength and determination. That she took the time to write that letter this day and age is so incredibly special.

Even so, I value and appreciate all the interactions I have been fortunate enough to experience along the way, and sometimes the encouragement is what gets me through. Just to know people care, that they are even rooting for me as I take on my life, like no kidding, is a gift beyond measure.

This article wouldn’t be complete without sharing Stefanie’s fantastic dancing with you.

Check out her sexy, showcase Cha Cha!

Showcase cha cha

Watch this video on YouTube.

If that doesn’t inspire you to leave your comfort zone, nothing will!