Anne’s Admission Advice: Acing Your Audition Demo Videos

October 26, 2021

Bruce McCormick teaching a ballet class in a USC Kaufman studio

Bruce McCormick teaches ballet class to students of the Class of 2021 | Photo by Rose Eichenbaum

In the event that we can’t have live auditions this year, we had to find a way to incorporate the Ballet, Contemporary and Hip-Hop classes that are usually a part of the process. This is where the video demonstrations come in. For this part of the USC Kaufman Portfolio, you must provide three short self-taped videos demonstrating exercises and combinations devised by our faculty. Faculty videos are available here. Music is available here.

We do not expect you to show us perfect technique, whatever that means, in every style. Instead, we want you to think of the faculty videos as mini master classes and the exercises and combinations as just a part of those master classes. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of each video (what) and specific recommendations from our faculty about how to ace this part of your portfolio (how).


What: Professor Bruce McCormick asks you to demonstrate a waltz that begins in croisé tendu back with the arms in allongé, to go into a phrase that mixes directions changes with balancés, piqué arabesques, fondues to rise, and pirouettes.

How: According to Professor Kopcsak, “For the waltz, be clear about your how you’re shifting your weight and how you’re changing directions. Most importantly, connect to a feeling of joy and expansion!”

Jackie Kopcsak teaching ballet class on the USC Kaufman stage

Jackie Kopcsak teaches a ballet class to the Class of 2022 | Photo by Rose Eichenbaum


What: For the Contemporary video, Professor Patrick Corbin breaks down a phrase from Esplanade called “Doris” (as an ode Doris Humphrey). The timing goes from a 6-count, to a 4-count, to three consecutive 2-counts, to a 6-count, and then ends with a 4-count.

How: As Professor Corbin explains, “the faculty will be looking to see how dancers approach the floor and return to standing while changing direction. Dynamics, texture and speed are important in this exercise. How is the dancer connecting contrasting dynamics and giving the impression of a slow bounce? Runs! How deep low and smooth is the dancer running? Remember, speed through relaxation. Key words to think about: Fall, recover, contrast, push, slice, dart, jab, strike, wrap, change, twist, small, big, bounce, oozy, volume, deep, weight, counterbalance.”

Patrick Corbin in rehearsal with BFA students

Patrick Corbin and BFA Students learn Paul Taylor’s “Company B” | Photo by Mary Mallaney


What: The Hip-Hop video demonstration begins with Professor d. Sabela grimes introducing a four-wall soul line dance called “Wanna Party.” He goes on to walk through the rhythm, steps and directions that make up the dance. He asks you to go through the line dance three different ways: once as is, then from beginning to end (do the line dance all the way through, facing all four walls), and lastly freaking the sequence.

To close the demo, Professor Moncell Durden teaches you a combination that combines bounce, roll, rock, skate, hop and pause to create the different grooves and steps in the phrase. There is a lot of layering going on throughout the combo because it is polycentric and polyrhythmic; which makes it the perfect opportunity to meditate on and explore the Funkamental Isos within the different steps.

How: In the words of Professor G, “I’m looking to see how [students] personalize/add their voice to the movement ideas. I want to see WHO THEY ARE when they dance. I’d also like to see their ability to play, invent and “make it their own.” I am also looking for musicality. Make the music, groove, feeling, etc. visible!  Please don’t fake it with your face… feel it from the inside out.”

d. Sabela grimes teaches a hip-hop class in a USC Kaufman studio

d. Sabela grimes teaches a hip-hop class to BFA students | Photo by Rose Eichenbaum

Final Recommendations

When putting together your demonstration videos, the faculty want you to:

  • “Dance big!”
  • “Have fun!”
  • “Show joy!”
  • “Really go for it!”
  • “Make it your own!
  • “Bring your individual artistry and personality to each exercise!”
  • “Be thoughtful yet daring!”
  • “Show us who you are through movement!”

I couldn’t say it better myself.

By Anne Aubert-Santelli, Assistant Dean of Admission and Student Services