What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break?
Please allow me to preface this by pointing out that I spent almost an hour writing this post yesterday, only for my auto-save to not work, resulting in me losing my entire post. Such a pain in the bum, so I’ll try and recreate it from memory again… Fingers crossed
I initially struggled when I thought about this, and spent a lot of time trying to come up with a scenario, but I thought that I would write about one of the dance auditions I went to when I was younger.
It was during my year of full-time dance, and I had never been to an audition for an overseas gig before. I’d only ever auditioned for dance schools and that was stressful enough. I didn’t really have much interest in the actual gig (which was for an overseas theme park), but I wanted to do it for the experience, and so I could determine what areas I needed to improve on for any future auditions that I might have.
So I turned up to this audition, not really knowing what it was going to be like and I walked up a few flights of stairs which opened up to this giant space – full of guys. Now for anybody in the commercial world of dance, you’ll know that all the guys are usually tall and good looking and quite well built.
…and I was pretty much the opposite. Well, except for the height.
When I walked in, it was, quite literally, one of those moments where everybody in the room completely stops, the music stops, and everybody stares at you. Although it was only a brief moment, it felt as though time had completely frozen. I walked around all the people sprawled out across the ground and found a small space in the corner, and started to stretch.
Everybody else was already sitting around in their little cliques, and most of them seemed to already know everybody else. Nobody paid me any attention – even when I tried to say hi to a couple of people, if they didn’t completely ignore me, they either brushed me off with a one-worded answer, or just advised me they didn’t want to be disturbed.
One woman came out and called all the girls into one studio for a vocal audition and the rest of us, the majority, were all guys who were ushered into the main studio. From there we were all split into smaller groups to make it easier for the judging panel to watch each of us a lot more closely.
I quickly realised that even when our group wasn’t performing, we were all standing around the studio watching the others, which really threw me. I had anticipated that everybody else would leave the studio , and we’d be called in group by group, but clearly, I was wrong.
First up was out jazz audition. We learnt a small routine which was actually quite fun, and when danced as a group, it looked incredible. I quickly realised that I wasn’t actually as bad as what I had initially thought. Watching some of the other guys trying to learn the chorey, quickly gave me an idea as to who was a threat, and who wasn’t.
When we started to perform in our groups, we also got to watch the others closely, and I was amazed that there was such a considerable number of these so-called dancers who couldn’t actually dance. I mean it was Jazz. Everybody needs to be able to cut it when it comes to jazz – or maybe I just have high expectations?!
So our group was somewhere in the middle, and everybody was watching everybody else like hawks. These bitches were hungry and we’re scoping out the competition, just like I was. I got up to dance and purposely stood in the back row so as not to come across as being an ‘attention seeker’. The music played and two of the guys in the front row made a massive fuck up, so they stopped us and made us start again.
The music started again and it was go-time. Just as quickly as we started, it was over. Almost got through it without making any mistakes, but I made one or two small mistakes, but nothing compared to some of the other guys. Compared to some of them, I was actually doing pretty well. At one point as I was dancing, I caught myself in the mirror as I nailed some complex move, and as I finished it, in my peripheral vision, I caught the eyes of one of the judges who, I thought, was watching me. And as I finished this particular move, she got a smile on her face, and then put her head down to write something… like she was secretly rooting for me, perhaps?
Everybody was then ushered out to the waiting room, where some people took the opportunity to have a bite of some food, and down some sports drinks. One of the people from the judging panel said that they were going to begin the callbacks, beginning with Ballet. Then, one by one they started calling out numbers of who they wanted to return.
It was nerve-wracking having to sit there and watch peoples reactions. Some were really humbled when their number was called. Others were more celebratory and flaunting of the fact. The ones who didn’t make it though either got really angry about it and stormed off in a huff, or they just accepted it for what it was. There were quite a few though who got really upset. I think they may have been the ones who were really hoping to get the job. Then whilst I’m sitting there watching everybody else’s reactions, I hear something, but I can’t quite work out what it is. Then I hear it again.
It’s me. My number. I’ve made it through the first round of callbacks!! I couldn’t quite believe it. For somebody who felt so intimidated at the beginning, it would appear as though that was slowly changing. However, I wasn’t necessarily going to get too excited just yet. It was time to get my ballet on.
We went back into the studio to learn a rather basic adage., and then split into new groups. Just like before with the Jazz audition, the ballet audition really gave some of us the perfect opportunity to show the others how it was done. I was really quite shocked that so many of these guys were so terrible at ballet. Here I was thinking that this was the foundation of all dance training – obviously just not theirs. There was only a few guys who really stood out, and even I was surprised at how well I managed with it. But I think I got lucky, because the other guys in my group were pretty bad, so they made me look even better. So I’m not sure if I stood out for actually being talented, or if it was because I was the best of the worst.
After we had finished, we were put back in the holding room, and they made the next round of announcements. Again, my number got called. ‘You have 5 minutes before you come back for your hip-hop audition’.
This was right up my alley. Suddenly, the number of guys had dramatically dropped. This was starting to get a bit real, and as much as I didn’t want to pay any attention to it, there was a tiny, tiny part of me thinking that there was a possibility, something might eventuate from all of this.
We went back in for our hip-hop audition, and surprisingly, the routine was short, but quite technical. I found it quite challenging. I went over it and over it and over it, but it just wasn’t sitting well with me. Suddenly the groups had changed order and my group was now second.
I only had a couple of minutes before I had to dance again, and I was really feeling nervous. I felt as though I had somehow managed to prove myself, and I couldnt mess it up now. The music started, and my group started dancing. When the music finished, I let out a giant sigh of relief, but it was quickly interrupted by the judging panel announcing that they wanted us to do again, but they wanted the front and back rows to swap. I was in the back row. I wonder if they want to watch me?? Oh, don’t be so stupid, why would they? SO the music began and I found myself back in the zone. In the corner of my eye I could see the same female judge watching me, then writing down some stuff on paper, and then talking to the judge next to her. And again, when I finished the routine, I caught her smiling. I tried not to think anything of it, but I couldn’t help myself.
As far as I knew, that was the end of the auditions process. I felt relieved, and was looking forward to getting out of this confined space full of stress and tension and hyper-emotional people. Just as I started to re-pack my bag, a lady walks out to us and says that there’s been a change in the audition, they were doing one last round of callbacks. Again, she started to read through the numbers, and only 4 guys got cut, the rest of us were all through again. I actually couldn’t believe that I’d made it this far. It was quite surprising, given that I hadn’t actually worked professionally in this industry, whereas most of the people here had, or still were.
We sat there looking a bit puzzled, as we didn’t really know why they were having a final cut? Maybe they wanted us to sing? Or do a reading? Nobody knew. The lady left briefly, and then returned to say, ‘I’ve just received confirmation that they would like to see you complete a Tap audition. We understand this is last minute, and understand you probably don’t have your tap shoes with you, but if you could, we’d love to see what you’ve got.’
Now, that’s what I call a **PLOT TWIST**
I instantly knew that I was out. I couldn’t tap to save myself. I can do a couple of basic steps, but other than that, I’ve got the skill of a monkey rollerskating on an oil slick. A couple of people cracked the shits, saying that this was ridiculous and unfair, and they stormed off. A couple of others brought their tap shoes with them ‘just in case’. I followed everybody back into the studio, and they made us line up across the studio side-by-side. Everybody was feeling nervous, because we didn’t know what to expect now. I looked at the lady who I’d made eyes with earlier, and she gave me a quick little wink – which, really, could have have meant anything, but she only did it to me, so I felt a tiny bit better.
They explained to us, that they wanted to see roughly 16-counts of some tap skill, to try and judge what level our expertise is. It could be anything we want, as long as it was between 16 and 32 counts.
Shit. Oh shit. Oh shit shit shit shit shit shit.
Knowing that tap was the absolute worst style for me was already bad enough, knowing that I was now going to be last (!!!) made everything even worse. They’re going to go through us one at a time, and all these guys are going to show off their fancy foot skills and then they’re all going to watch me completely ruin everything. Maybe I should just leave? There’s no way I’ll get anywhere now. It’s a guaranteed no. I’ve stil got a chance, perhaps I should just thank them for the opportunity and excuse myself.
I opted not to give in so easily. I’d spent so many hours here already, I may as well see it through until the end, and let’s face it, I had no intentions of actually getting a job out of this, I was only here for the experience, and I should make sure that I get the whole experience, regardless of how uncomfortable or awkward it gets. That’s what it’s like in this industry. It’s cut-throat and you just have to roll with the punches. No time for you to be self conscious and weak. We all watched each other as the tap-a-tap-a-tap-a progressed down the line. The whole time I kept taking bits and pieces from everybody else’s ‘routines’ to create my own little series of steps… and well, in theory it worked in my head.
However, when I had to actually perform it, it was a completely different story. Turns out, I had no fucking idea of what I was doing. I’d even managed to completely forget even the most basic of basic steps. It was just a complete disaster. I was so humiliated, but all I could do was laugh. There were a few concerned looks my way, but by this stage, I was kinda over it. I’d achieved everything I had come to do, and made it through to the final cut. The lady on the panel looked at me with a small grin and shook her head slightly. The guy in charge of the audition thanked everybody for staying, and for being so gracious and doing the tap audition, and that those who were successful would receive details via email later that evening.
We filed out of the studio into the holding area. People got changed; some called their friends / family; a couple of the guys walked off crying. I went into a toilet to change my clothes, put on some deodorant and wash my face. I let out a big sigh, picked up my bag and headed down the stairs. I got outside and was almost blinded by the blaring sunshine. I had almost forgotten what the weather was like because I’d been in fluoro lighting all day. I stood there on the steps of the building trying to work out what to do with myself for the rest of the afternoon. One thing that couldn’t be denied was that I was STARVING!! But having just stressed out and danced my arse off, I wanted to eat my feelings. The most important choice was whether I wanted to go buy half a dozen pastries, or if I wanted to get a tub of ice-cream and hire some dvd’s.
I was enjoying the sunshine, and whilst thinking of the pro’s and con’s of what I wanted, I grabbed my iPod and started untangling my supposed ‘tangle-free’ earphones, when I heard a group of people coming down the stairs. It was the judges from the panel. The lady that had smiled at me a few times noticed me and said goodbye to the others, before she started walking towards me.
‘You were quite an interesting one to watch today. You did a really good job’
‘None of us have seen you before, so you’re obviously one of the new kids on the block, so to speak’
‘Yeah, although I don’t think I have ‘The Right Stuff’ hehehe.’
‘*laughs* Good one. Listen, I’m glad that I bumped into you, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed watching you today. You really did a great job. Although you were nervous, you danced with passion and authenticity. I don’t actually know anything about you, but a few of us couldn’t stop watching you… even when you weren’t dancing, we were still watching you..’
‘Oh god, why? I was probably picking my nose or something…’
‘Eww, no, you just, there was something about you. There’s a light within you that just makes people want to watch you dance. You need to perform. You need to continue on this path. It’s just so refreshing to see somebody different to the same people we see all the fucking time. It just gets boring, and we tune out, because we’ve seen them all before. They all look the same. Like clones. Except you, you look nothing like them. And you’re clearly talented. There were people with a fuck load more experience than you who got knocked out in the first round, and yet, you made it all the way. We just wanted to see more.’
‘Really?? I don’t know what to say to that’
‘Although your tap was fucking abysmal. One of, if not, the worst of the day! Which was suuuuch a fucking let down, because we were expecting some awesome tap routine from you, but we didn’t get it.’
‘Ha! yeah, well, tap certainly isn’t my favourite style. Actually, I really don’t like it. I have to do it as part of my course, but I’m terrible at it. My ankles don’t seem to want to let me do it. I just can’t get it. And well, I’ve only been doing tap this year for the first time EVER! When the other lady said we were going to do tap, I almost walked out because I knew that I would bomb out on it, but I wanted to be the person who didn’t just give up when it got too hard. At least I can say I completed the audition. I may have completely mucked it up, but at least I finished it, AND I made it to the final callback, which completely shocked the hell out of me, so for that, I must say a big thankyou to you and the rest of the panel.’
‘Yeah, you need to really work on your tap. It’s not a major audition component, but some auditions require solid tap skills. Not all of them do, but it’ll work in your favour if you can get them up to speed. It’s going to work in your favour if you do, trust me. You’ve already got that spark in you, like an x-factor, but if you can do a good, solid, clean, tap solo, you’ll be more of a threat. I’m glad that I got to meet you, you actually made my day.’
‘Seriously? now that’s something you don’t hear everyday!’
‘Hopefully we’ll get to see you again sometime soon. I’ve got your details, and so have some of the others, so if we see you on the audition list, we’ll happily make sure that you get an audition. BUT WORK ON YOUR TAP FOR FUCK’S SAKE!! GOD, THAT WAS SUCH A LET DOWN!!’
‘I’ll try, I can’t promise though. How about if I do audition next time, we just skip the tap altogether, and you just let me do a good job with everything else instead?!’
We both laughed and said goodbye before walking in opposite directions. I think that was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had in terms of dancing. It felt a little weird to be honest. As a dancer, you rarely hear somebody praise you for your talent. Most of the time you just keep getting told that whatever you did could have been better. You get told about all the flaws and imperfections of your talent – you need to work on your turnout, you have bad feet, you’re not flexible enough, you didn’t jump high enough, you need to work on your spotting, your arms are too sloppy, you have ugly turns, your back is too swayed, you look like your trying too hard etc etc etc. That’s just something that you have to get yourself used to very quickly. You need to have a thick skin if you’re going to pursue something like dancing, because everybody will pick you apart for every little thing that isn’t 100 percent perfect. That’s just how it is. It’s not nice. It’s not fair. But that’s how we improve.
For somebody to then turn around and have that kind of positivity and praise for my talent is almost completely foreign, and something that I have always struggled to accept and deal with. I’ve always been quite humble with my dancing. I’m not denying that I’d be quietly confident about my talent, but I wouldn’t be the one displaying the ego telling people that I’m the best and everybody else can just suck it. But for somebody like her to say something like that to me, felt amazing. Audition judges are always seen to be quite hard, and extremely blunt in their feedback or comments, so for somebody to say that they loved watching me dance just blew my mind.
I was on cloud-nine for the rest of the afternoon, and I practically inhaled a tub of ice-cream when I got home and enjoyed every single spoonful!!