Like a Lincoln Center hopeful, Aislee Nieves spends most afternoons in her cramped living room, the couch pulled aside so she can perfect her pointed toes and pirouettes. A spreadsheet tells her the tryouts she has attended, where and when the next one is and the one after that.
On a recent Sunday she flitted about her apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, collecting what she needed that day: ballet slippers, leotard, footless tights, all slipped into her bright green knapsack.
“Mommy, you have the admission ticket? And my transcript?” she asked, her 13-year-old voice betraying a slight edginess.
Yes, yes, her mother, Blanca Vasquez, answered. After all, they had been auditioning for high school nearly every weekend for the last month.
The high school admission process in New York City is notoriously dizzying, with each eighth grader asked to rank up to a dozen choices, and the most competitive schools requiring tests, essays or interviews. But for hundreds of students who sing, dance, act or play an instrument, trying out for the ninth grade is now an all-consuming routine.