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Confessions From An Audition Judge


Dear Aspiring Dancers,

Kati Hanlon Mayo. Photo: Jeff Cravotta

I am a former principal dancer, an artistic coordinator at Charlotte Ballet Academy, a teacher and a mother. I travel from city to city and teach your audition classes. I walk around the room judging your every move and deciding your fate after 90 minutes of instruction.

Some of you are interested in a spot in the summer intensive, and some of you are looking for future employment opportunities with our professional company.

I take notes on your technique, your instep, your body type and your energy. I’m certain at times I seem quite friendly and other times I am intimidating. I often try to lighten the mood and get you to relax. I feel your anxiety but I realize that this process is part of your journey.

Many times I want to take you aside and tell you that the leotard you’re wearing is not flattering, or that too much makeup is really not ideal for your next audition. Other times, I want to let you know that I see you working so hard and I admire your passion but we will not have a place for you in our program due to something as simple and out of your control as your height or your overall “look.”

A Charlotte Ballet Academy audition

Most weekends my job is challenging and enjoyable; other times it is overwhelming.

You see—this year something changed: My daughter reached the age of joining you all for her first audition season. I am now the mother of one of you. Now, more than ever, I see each of you as not just a dancer but as a daughter or a son.

I want you to know that you are enough. That your commitment to your skill is admirable and your body is incredible in its capacity for pain and strength. If you think I did not see you, I did. I value your time and I hope you realize that the sacrifices you have made are appreciated by me and by my fellow faculty members.

I want you to know that becoming a dancer is a journey without a road map and it will at times be demoralizing, terrifying and exhilarating. I want you to try to enjoy it—it is a snapshot in the larger photo album of your life. It will go by in a blink, but at times it will seem like an eternity.

I want you to breathe, smile and connect. Get the most out of what I am offering you as a teacher and use it to improve or to explore. I see you, I see all of you. I remember the feelings that you are experiencing, and I carry those with me when I teach your class. They have shaped who I am and some day you will be able to say the same thing.

Enjoy all of this while it lasts. Your audition results email won’t say this, but you are beautiful.



Kati Hanlon Mayo

Artistic Coordinator at Charlotte Ballet Academy

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