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"They are poets of gesture."

- George Balanchine, commenting on his dancers.

What we are looking for

At Ellington we are here to teach – prior training is certainly valued, but we are first and foremost evaluating your potential and passion for dance. During your audition we will be looking for students who:

  • Physically and verbally express their passion for the art of dance,
  • Show a strong desire to work diligently on technique,
  • Display a willingness to accept discipline and/or positive correction,
  • Exhibit flexibility, a natural sense of movement, musicality, an innate ability to follow directions, maintain a positive attitude at all times and the physique & stamina appropriate for rigorous dance.

What to bring/how to prepare

Students auditioning for the dance department MUST:

  • Girls: Wear leotards and footless tights, bring white socks and ballet shoes,
  • Boys: Wear black footless tights, white tank top, dance belt (supporter – not jockstrap), regular belt around the waist, white socks and ballet shoes,
  • Have hair pulled back, away from face in a tight bun, secured with a thin hairnet,
  • Remove all jewelry,
  • Remove all fingernail and toenail polish.

If you have any questions on the above, please contact our Admissions Office at or Mrs. Williams directly at 202.299.5896.

In addition to the materials sent in for your Ellington application, on or before your arrival for your audition you must provide:

  1. A physical from the current school year or a note from your doctor, clearing you for participation in a rigorous dance program. If you have questions on what you can bring, please contact
  2. Two (2) 8×10″ photographs: one (1) head shot (portrait) and one (1) full body shot.
    • If you cannot provide photographs, Duke Ellington will provide them for you.

The audition process itself

For your audition you will participate in a dance class involving both ballet and modern techniques, as well as strength and conditioning. No solo dances are performed during the audition – you do not need to prepare any choreography!

Dance auditions happen in multiple stages: an initial audition, and then callbacks for selected students. If selected to continue the audition process in callbacks, participation in each session is mandatory in order to be considered for dance at Ellington.

Have a successful audition

Show us you mean business – arrive early, prepared to dance, and with all required documentation. Stay focused. Late arrivals, applicants who are not attired as directed or who do not have all required documentation, as described above, will not be allowed to audition. We do not permit late auditions. If you attend Day 1 but miss Day 2 (or vice versa) you will no longer be able to audition and continue with the admissions process. Due to the high number of dance applicants, dance auditions cannot be rescheduled. You must participate in all days of the dance auditions for which you are selected – dancers who advance beyond the 2-day audition must attend callback and/or final callback auditions as scheduled.


  • All departments offer Audition Workshops in December and January to help students prepare for their official audition. Students who participate will be able to learn what to bring, review the audition procedures, learn how to build a portfolio, present their work with confidence and prepare their work for the audition. Visit for more information and how to sign up – workshops cost $10. This fee can be waived for special circumstances, please email if you would like to request one.
  • Auditions are the first week of February 2020 – immediately after the application deadline! Make sure to visit our website to review the audition schedule. Auditions are open call for all students who successfully apply via MySchoolDC. You must view your audition date and time based on your art department and the first letter of your last name.