More than 100 little girls, mostly in black leotards and ballet slippers with their hair tightly tied back, filled the National Museum of Dance’s School of the Arts Sunday afternoon to audition for roles in upcoming New York City Ballet summer productions.
“These are for roles in the two most challenging ballets that Balanchine choreographed: ‘Coppelia’ and “Mozartiana,’ ” said Dena Abergel, Children’s Dance Master. “They’re the hardest ballets for kids.”
What Abergel and Arch Higgins, the company’s other Children’s Dance Master, were looking for was specific both in size and age: for “Coppelia” there were 24 roles for girls between 4 feet 2 inches and 4 feet 11 inches as well as four roles for “Mozartiana” with girls aged 9 to 12 between 4 feet 6 inches and 4 feet 10 inches.
That’s because they must fit into the costumes and what the ballets call for,” Abergel said.
With pianist Patricia Hadfield playing a few bars of music, Abergel and Higgins watched as lines of six girls were given a few sequences of dance steps to perform. They were looking for how coordinated the dancers were, if they were musical, could they work in an ensemble and how focused they were. They also chose a few to see how well they dealt with corrections to their techniques and if they could integrate the comments.
“We’ll see a lot in a little time,” Abergel said. “They have to be a quick study.”
Once all the roles will be filled, Abergel will return in late June to rehearse.
“There’s a huge amount of work to do,” she said.
Of the 180 dancers who signed up to audition, 35 teens tried out for the non-dancing roles in both ballets. Eight were chosen and came from Queensbury, Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa, Glenville and Niskayuna.
Those who were chosen for the dancing positions had to go through a few rounds before the final cut. Understudies were also chosen. Initially, Abergel and Higgins chose as many as 10 dancers from each group of 20 to 30 that they viewed. Three who made it through the first round talked to this reporter.
Charlotte Bradford, 10, from Saratoga Springs and attends Caroline Street School has been dancing for six years. It was not her first audition for the company.
“I auditioned in New York City for their summer camp but I didn’t make it,” she said. “But I practiced a lot and decided to do this audition.”
Emeline Hong, 9, of Saratoga Springs goes to Geyser Elementary School, auditioned two years ago. But she’d been dancing only two years and the company thought she was too young to go on stage.
“But I love being on stage, so I auditioned again,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Esme Platt, 9, of Niskayuna said she’d been dancing for six years and was elated when she got the email about the audition.
“I was really excited but really nervous,” she said. “But I want to go to Columbia University so I can see the New York City Ballet often.”
She’s also an old hand at “The Nutcracker” that Myers Ballet produces every year at Proctors.
“I was a mouse for three years,” Platt said, adding that she felt she’d done “pretty well” for this audition.
What was missing from these auditions were the parents. Apparently, it’s New York City Ballet tradition to keep the parents off site, which helps the dancers focus and perhaps keeps their nerves to a minimum, said Kristy Godette, Director of Communications for Saratoga Performing Arts Center.