IT'S SUPER BOWL SUNDAY AND slender, long-legged athletes are gingerly warming up. Some are fidgeting nervously; others are nibbling chocolate bars for stamina. A number are wearing satin warm-up jackets with names stitched across the back, but all have the regulation headgear -- a bun anchored with ribbons or flowers.

This is the first of four one-hour auditions at the Kennedy Center for 9- to 18-year-old dancers trying out for the Boston Ballet summer school. Winners will be eligible to apply for admission.

Associate Artistic Director Bruce Wells and Laura Young, one of the principal dancers, are covering 15 cities in four weeks scouting for candidates for the school and for Boston Ballet II, a kind of farm team for the big-league Boston troupe. Right now Young is handing out numbers to be pinned on leotards, and parents are applying last-minute bursts of hair spray and advice. "Concentrate." "Don't be nervous."

"Be confident." And, impossibly, "Have fun."

The Fennewalds have driven up from Richmond, where 14-year-old Marianne and her friend Lane Satterfield study with the Richmond Ballet. Marianne's mother Paulette sits nervously on a couch outside Rehearsal Room 7. "It's hard on them," she says, straining to catch a glimpse of her daughter. "They're at that gawky age, and they all think they're too fat."

Some of the dancers are planning small celebrations if accepted; others are more matter of fact. "I'll go home and eat," says Katie Mensch, who has studied dance and dieting for seven years.

Wells scrutinizes the dancers, rating each on proportions, turnout, arms and coordination on a score card. Dancer No. 4, delicate features accented by mascara and blush, holds her arms in a graceful arc but grimaces as she bobbles in the demi-pointe position.

"And WALTZ and WALTZ and SOUTENU," chants Wells. The floor shakes as each group lands after a high-flying grand jete'. "Hold it, Number 6 and 7," says Young. "You've switched places. I've given you each other's scores."

By the time everyone has worked up a decent sweat, the first audition is over. The candidates bite their lips as the acceptances are called: 1, 6, 12, 13, 16 . . .

Except for a brief, wide grin for the winners, there is little emotion displayed in Rehearsal Room 7. But down in the deserted foyer, safe from competitors' piercing stares, No. 4's meticulous makeup streaks as she leans on Mom's arm and cries.