Mar 2, 2011

Preparing for the audition

Auditions for the spring show all done? Disappointed? Here's what to do before the next one.

There was a lot of activity at my home rink in the past two weeks, because qualifying auditions for the spring ice show were coming up. Kids who skate once a week were suddenly there every day, working hard.

The bad news is that it's too late.

The time to start preparing for something like an audition is 6 months ahead of time. Double jumps are not something you can cram for-- it's not like the date of the invasion of Poland, which you can memorize and forget, and then look up when you need it. Muscle memory doesn't work like that-- your muscles won't "remember" the jump unless it was really really solid in the first place. Michelle Kwan can skate once a year and still land an axel. You can't. Once or twice a week skaters seldom achieved that kind of competence. So here's a step by step calendar for preparing for that audition:

At least six months prior
Find out exactly what will be required at the audition--what jumps, whether it's a skills-only, or a program presentation. Make sure your coach knows the requirements and the date. Evaluate those skills with your coach and develop a plan to solidify those skills over the next 3 to 4 months. If you're only skating once or twice a week, look at how you can increase that. My rule of thumb is 30 minutes on the ice for every rotation in your jump repertoire. So if you need an axel, a double, and a double-single combination (5 1/2 rotations) you need to be on the ice about 5 hours a week (including lesson, practice, and class). The time to increase the amount of skating you do is not at the end of the process, but at the beginning. (If anything, you'll drop off a little in the final week.) This is where you'll gain that all-important muscle memory, not in the last 3 days before the audition.

The period from t
hree months to one month prior
Continue perfecting each skill and start to work on conditioning and presentation, especially cardio and nerves. Ask the coach if she can set up critiques with judges or other skaters or coaches to try to emulate the performance (i.e. nerves-inducing) aspects of the audition. Continue working on good technique, and keep skating as much as possible.

The period from one month to one week prior

Confirm the requirements and dates; make sure they haven't changed. Figure out your actual activities at the audition: off-ice warm up, ice entry, on-ice warm up and presentation. You should practice this every time you're at the rink, as well as getting regular lessons to solidify the skills, so that you're not making it up when you get there. Every step once you're inside the building on audition day should be 'choreographed'.

One week prior
Keep practicing as though you're at the audition: do the same off-ice warm up, ice entry, on-ice warm up and presentation. Minor corrections from coach. The skills should be ready. The focus now is on confidence and presentation. Practice smiling while skating (this is harder, and less silly, than it sounds).

Day before audition
No skating. Eat three good meals and get a good night's sleep.

Audition day
If you want, do a brief on-ice practice, just emulating your warm-up and presentation. Your coach can be there, but this is not a lesson. The time for corrections is past.

The Audition
No worries. The jumps and spins are solid, the confidence is high, you're prepared. You've got your nerves under control and all you have to do is smile and skate.

I see a lot of good skaters flubbing auditions because they don't think far enough ahead. For younger skaters, mom and dad need to keep their eye on the prize and work this plan out with the coach. For teens, the coach needs to lower the boom on the skater and get mom and dad on board with the increased skating this far out.

(P.S. The consensus from the judging panel is: work on those spirals. Jeebus, kids, spirals?)


  1. On the "Smile" issue, it's not silly at all. I remember after a bad dress rehearsal of 42nd Street in high school, how everyone from the cast to the booth crew (me) to backstage all got a half hour b*tch session on "SMILE, DAMN YOU." The jist of it was; If you're head to toe in lime green spangles, waving a hot pink dime hat over your head, making a lot of noise and you're not smiling, then you need to reconsider what you're doing here. Same goes for crew. If you aren't happy wiring plugs, inhaling paint and cleaning curtains, then leave. It's best for everyone involved.

    The SMILE DAMN YOU speech was awesome. (Our parents were not there.)

  2. Spirals?! Ha ha, I know that mindset: "My spiral is soooo awesome, I never have to practice it!"

  3. Auditions? That must be some fancy show! At my rink, registering and paying for a "Spring Show" class confers participation....

  4. We have 60 freestyle 5 and up skaters trying to qualify for solos, so we have to hold auditions.

  5. Isn't the spiral the most dangerous thing in the audition? I'm always nervous doing mine on crowded sessions.

  6. A spiral shouldn't be anymore nerve wracking on even a crowded session than anything else. But if that's the case, it explains why they were so poor.

  7. My daughter tends to skate with her mouth open. This is true of anything she has to concentrate on, like piano. We've been trying to encourage her to remember to smile so her mouth isn't open. Somewhere online I found a suggestion that if you press your tongue against the back of your upper front teeth, you can't help but smile--a little forced but still a smile.

  8. "My daughter tends to skate with her mouth open."

    At least she's breathing! Some people forget to breath, particularly on difficult elements. I come from a swimming/woodwind playing background, so I think breathing should be a planned part of a skating program. And part of playing the piano. Ever wonder how a string quartet starts together accurately? They breath together first.

    Of course she should smile too, and she should make sure she does not bite herself when she falls.

  9. Skaters actually do get training in breath control, but these kids aren't nearly at that level. Sometime I would settle for any evidence of brain activity.

  10. The Same AnonymousMarch 4, 2011 at 10:34 PM

    Hey Anonymous, when I do spirals (and some other elements) I stick my tongue out! It's actually kind of funny. :P