Applying to the Dance Program

Written by Jess Ortaleza

From political science to urban planning, creative writing, early childhood education, and dance, my 17-year-old self, who was preparing to apply to universities across Ontario, felt eager and nervous to be at that stage of my life. I had not known exactly what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, thus I applied to multiple universities and a different amount of programs in the hopes that I would have a revelation with what I wanted to do. I decided to apply to the BFA Dance program at York on a whim, as I heard great feedback from previous teachers and also thought it was closer to home.

The application process consisted of a supplementary evaluation and an audition. The supplementary evaluation included detailed questions about my dance training, what my hopes were for the future, and what I could offer the program and the York community. I must admit, I thought it was intimidating. However, it made me realize that this program was just as special as any program offered in the university, and the writing component established and defined my thoughts on why I chose to apply.

I did some research after applying to York to see what the institution was all about. This included looking up graduates from the BFA Dance program and searching the resources offered on campus, the different clubs and student unions that I could join, and the facilities and studio spaces that the campus offered. It was not until the date of my audition that I decided that York was where I wholeheartedly wanted to start my post-secondary education.

The audition consisted of a full 9:00am-3:00pm day. I had walked into the third floor of the Department of Dance Office – with my hair gelled back into a high bun and leotard and tights under layers of clothes – to have been greeted by one of the administrators of the department. She handed me a green folder that had my name and audition number on it, with campus resources and a schedule of the day ahead packed tightly inside the folder. Nervous, I looked around the lobby of the office and saw posters of previous works and shows hosted by the department, and suddenly I was not as nervous as I thought I would be. I introduced myself to a couple of the girls who were auditioning as well, and before I knew it we were headed to the second floor and into a studio to start the day. The Chair of the department gave us a pep talk and spoke about how this was not be taken as an audition, but rather as a class or evaluation. She made light jokes, which made the atmosphere less tense – one reason why I chose York. We started off with the Ballet portion of the audition, and were accompanied by a live musician playing the piano. I thought that was amazing, and found out after that not many Dance programs feature a live musician playing for their classes – another reason why I chose York.

Ballet is not my strongest suit, though the professor who conducted the Ballet section of the audition added contemporary flares to the exercises and combinations which I thought added a free and less stressful atmosphere and mindset. After Ballet, we were introduced to the professor who was going to lead the Modern/Contemporary section. Just like Ballet, I found that, although the exercises were structured, we had the opportunity to make our own artistic choices and it was not seen as either right or wrong.

We then learned a combination in the style of Breaking (break dancing), which was my favourite part of the day as it showed us the different world dance styles that the program offers. We ended the day with a Q&A session with a couple of upper year students, and it answered a lot of the questions I did not know I had. Answers such as healthy food places on campus, what you can do with a Dance degree, performance opportunities, where the library is, and so on.

I chose York due to my experience at the audition, which made all the difference in my decision. I saw myself attending an institution that was inclusive, interdisciplinary, and supportive, all of which I felt during the day of my audition. I chose to study Dance because it was finally something I got to do for myself, and it was and still is a passion that I yearn to keep growing and pursuing. My 20-year-old self is now grateful to have made that decision, as the experience from the evaluation process to the audition resonated why dance was something I was meant to do.