Maddie Medina is a freshman at The Juilliard School, one of the most prestigious performing arts universities in the world. I had the opportunity to photograph her over the summer, and she gave me some of the most exciting photos of my career. I recently asked her about her background and the admissions process for Juilliard. Read on for her path to studying in New York and her tips for college auditions. Her answers may surprise you!
Emily: How long have you been dancing?
Maddie: Since I was 3 years old.
Emily: How many hours a week did you dance before being accepted at Juilliard?
Maddie: I started off dancing only a few days a week when I was young. When I was older, I attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts as well as at Vitacca Dance Project, a private studio with pre-professional level training. When I was a senior, I transferred to a different high school and began dancing only at Vitacca.
Emily: Do you think serious students should go to high school at a performing arts school, general high school, or home school?
Maddie: Dancing at school and a studio is very difficult. It is hard to maintain school work and mental and physical stability. I always recommend going to normal school and then dancing after school at a more pre-professional studio.
Emily: Did you participate in any intensive programs where you lived away from home while in high school?
Maddie: When I was fifteen I spent four weeks of my summer at Tulsa ballet, and when I was seventeen I spent five weeks of my summer in New York at American Ballet Theatre.
Emily: How many post-high school colleges, universities, or professional programs did you apply to?
Maddie: I only applied to two schools, Boston Conservatory and Juilliard. I know that it was risky of me to do that since those are both very hard schools to get into, but I knew if I didn't make it in to either, I would have gone to community college while I would figure out companies I think I would be interested in while still taking open dance classes in Houston.
Emily: What was the audition process for Juilliard?
Maddie: For Juilliard auditions, they travel to four cities to hold auditions, and they also hold six here in New York at the school. We start off with a ballet class, then a modern class, then a modern combination, then solos, then interviews. After each of these segments in the audition, they keep you in a separate room and call out the numbers who are staying and if your number is not called after each segment, then you are free to leave and will no longer be considered for the program.
Emily: What do you think was the biggest factor in your admission to Juilliard?
Maddie: I think I impressed the teachers in the audition with my technique. Technique is SO important. If you are not training in ballet it is very important that you do.
Emily: Do you think it’s important for a dancer to have an alternative career path or degree in case of injury or burnout?
Maddie: I do not think it is important to have an alternative career path. If you really love dance, focus on that and believe in yourself. You can do anything with hard work and dedication.
Emily: And finally, what’s one thing that students applying to elite programs can do to stand out?
Maddie: Wear what they ask you to wear, but wear what you are most confident in while still following the dress code. Do not wear too much makeup and eat really well all week of the audition and get plenty of sleep. Keep your eyes bright and be confident even if you are extremely nervous. SMILE! They want to see you. Be you and don't worry about anyone else. Trust in yourself.