Note that this is very similar to the system that bluesSHOUT! has used for the past several years.
0. Establish clear track criteria. Base the criteria on various skills students should have for each track. For example: 'clear, consistent pulse' or 'changes pulse lag in response to the music' or 'mastery of polyrhythms'. Make sure both students and instructors are familiar with the criteria.
1. Only audition the top few tracks. We had a lot of self placement between our lowest two tracks anyway, and people are reasonably good at self-selecting at that level. This also keeps the number of people you have to audition down.
2. Preselect some of the highest track. We asked students to submit video of themselves dancing so we could determine if they belonged in our highest track before the weekend even started. Make sure to leave a few of the spots open for people who either don't have video or aren't confident enough to ask to be pre-placed.
3. "What are we doing? Dancing! Why are we doing it? Just for fun!" Auditioning can be extremely stressful for students. I first saw this at by LaB in Philly at their excellent event Blues Muse. Chant it as a call and response before you start auditions to relax and encourage students. It's also a great idea to put on a warm-up song or two so students can loosen up and instructors can start to gauge the level of the room.
4. Students should dance with 3 instructors. It's absolutely the most accurate and fastest way to audition students. Line all your instructors up and ask students to form lines in front of each one. Give each instructor a clipboard with a list of all the students, alphabetized by first name. Have your DJ play music for 30 seconds for the student and instructor to dance, then pause for the instructors to find the students on their clipboards and write down their ranking. Students are responsible for dancing three times then sitting down.
5. Rank by median score. Once all the students are done, tally the scores. With three scores, there's never any ambiguity about which track a student should be placed in. For those who don't remember high school algebra, the median is the middle of the three scores when sorted. If two of the scores match, it's that one (CCD -> Track C). If the three scores are different, it's the middle one (BCD -> Track C). Call up students one by one to receive their level indicator.
6. Allow for changes. No auditioning system is perfect. If students ask to change levels, let them be re-auditioned by one of the instructors during a class break.
There you have it! Using this method, with 8 instructors you can audition 100 students in under 40 minutes, with plenty of time left over to calculate tracks and distribute indicators.
The first two scores will agree for many of the students, eliminating the need for that student to dance with a third instructor. Using the above system, it's not possible to know this in the moment so they have to dance with all three. However, if there's wifi, give each instructor a laptop or smartphone with a Google Spreadsheet of the students so they can see which scores have been given. If the first two scores match, the instructor can direct the student to the registration table to get their level indicator.
For a low-tech alternative, give each student an index card and give the instructors invisible ink pens. After two ratings, students take the pen to the desk where they either are assigned a track or told to go get a third rating.
by Paul Mandel