Tell us about a time you took the less travelled path.
So, it’s taken me almost a week to write this post. Everytime I come back to it, I try to think of a possible response to this, and I really struggle.
I read some of other blogs and what they had to say, and I can’t really relate to them because I haven’t experienced it personally.
So, what the hell can I write about? I’ve had a pretty normal, average life. I haven’t really faced any major adversity, nor have I had to deal with major decisions.
But then I came back to it today, and thought some more about it. And although it’s slightly relevant, I’d say that my road less travelled was moving out of home.
I was 19. I’d been living in a country town with my mum and my brother. I didn’t get my act together soon enough after year 12 to audition for dance schools, so I had to quickly work out what I was doing for the following year. I enrolled into a TAFE course studying I.T., and soon enough that fell by the wayside in order for me to completely immerse myself in musical theatre and even more dance tuition. I just wanted something to fill my days.
Later that year I made the decision that I couldn’t stay in this town any longer. I refused to turn into most of the other people that were in my social circle. I had to get out. I’d already discovered my independent nature, and knew that if I stayed for another year, it would break me and I’d never leave.
I spent my focus on working towards my dance school auditions in both Sydney and Melbourne, which meant a couple of trips to both places. It was during these auditions, I very quickly came to the realisation, that although I was a very talented dancer back home, I was NOTHING compared to these city dancers.
I did masterclasses and round after round of callbacks. Dancing and styles that I’d never seen before, but were apparently normal here in the big city. I felt so sheltered and terrified, and yet, my eyes felt like they had dilated to the size of dinner plates, because I’d now got a taste for real dancing, and sweet fucking jesus, I WANTED MORE!!!
However, my first auditions were in Sydney for a couple of schools. I thought I was so prepared. It just turned out to be quite a fucking failure. During one of the callbacks, I was standing at the back of the studio looking at all these dancers, and I realised that I had absolutely no chance of making it here. If I really wanted to have a shot, I’d have to spend the next twelve months here just taking classes every single week to really learn how to dance the way they wanted me to.
It made me realise that all the training I’d done, all the work I’d put into my solo pieces, and all my technique sessions, and the countless hours and pain, and exhaustion, and sweat, and blisters counted for absolutely fucking NOTHING.
Having this realisation isn’t a great feeling. Having this realisation during your audition most certtainly is one of the worst things a performer can ever experience. I ended up standing down the back, dancing through a routine, crying my eyes out, wondering why I had even bothered staying.
It’s hard to concentrate on your triple-chaine-triple-pirouette combo when you have tears flying off your face whilst you’re trying to spot your turns. There were tears flying in every direction and I could seem them all getting airborne, as if everything was happening in slow motion. I finished my combo, and the panel thanked us all and left the room.
A minute or so later, one of them came back in and walked right up to me, ‘Come with me!’
She lead me out of the studio, with EVERYBODY staring at me. I had no idea what was going on.
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you need to get your shit together. If you don’t want to be here, then stop wasting your time and our time, and pack your stuff and leave. If you can’t handle the pressure then leave. If you’re going to spend the rest of the afternoon crying, leave.’
‘I’m so sorry. I really am. I just, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. This is really overwhelming from me. I’m from the country, and I’ve never done…’
‘Yes, we can tell. Your technique is poor, and you lack proper training. You said you’ve been dancing for years, but you’ve been wasting your time. You’ll achieve nothing if you don’t expose yourself to the REAL world of dance. This is it. This is what it’s like. If you can’t handle that, then so be it. But you’re obviously here today for a reason. And if we didn’t think that you had serious potential, then you wouldn’t still be here’
‘But, but I…’
‘Look, I’m not supposed to be saying anything, but we’re all watching you. I was once like you, a country kid in the big city, feeling majorly overwhelmed because I’d had no exposure. I get you. I was you. I see something in you. They see something in you. Even the rest of the people on that floor are watching you – we see their snide little comments, and how they talk behind your back. But I’m telling you, if you don’t fucking pull it together, you won’t make it. Here or anywhere else. Do you understand?’
‘No ‘buts’. Go wash your face, you look fucking terrible. Change your top, and get back in there. You’ve got three-and-a-half minutes before we re-commence. If you aren’t ready then you need to leave now.’
I ran off to get another top, and ran into the bathroom.
And had one of those moments…
And I went back into the studio for the next dance round. I walked in and looked at everybody on the panel and they all smiled at me. I took a sip of water and wiped my face. I stood up and turned around to look at all the other people in the studio and they were all looking at me.
I made it through the next round, and then got knocked out of the following callback. The judges all said that I had great potential and that I had an ‘X Factor’ when I danced – they couldn’t keep their eyes off me. Whether they were just blowing smoke up my arse, I’m not sure, but each of them said that they would love to see me in the future in their classes, which was great.
I felt good at what had happened. I realised that I wasn’t ready for dance school at all, and I really needed to work my arse off.
I got back to my hotel room…
Knowing that I had another audition the next day, I really didn’t know whether to put myself through such an emotionally exhausting day again… but it was experience. I wanted to just pull out and go home and never speak of it again, but I’d come too far, paid too much money and worked too hard to not do the audition.
The next day, I was introduced to contemporary. I had never danced that style. When we found out that the focus of the dance audition was ballet and contemporary, I was ready to throw in the towel there and then, but I forced myself to stay instead.
I learnt a lot that day. A lot about myself. I learnt that no matter how prepared you think you are, it’s not enough. No matter how good you think you are, there are always going to be people better than you. It was a very blunt reality check, but I was okay with it.
A couple of weeks later I was in Melbourne for a dance school audition. In the weeks leading up to it, I’d gone back to sydney two weekends in a row to spend all my time doing classes at various places. I needed exposure. I needed experience.
When I got to my Melbourne audition, I was feeling even worse than I was in Sydney. From the moment I saw the building when I was walking towards it, I had butterflies in my stomach.
I made it through to the final call-back round.
There was such a difference between the Sydney dancers and the Melbourne dancers. It was strange. I actually felt quite confident in my Melbourne audition. But the judging panel were a bunch of steel-faced bitches.
And once it was all over, that was it. The last of us dancers slowly packed up our stuff, said it was nice to meet each other and we left. It was an anti-climax, and then my stupid brain kicked in on the way back to the hotel.
It was a very long wait for my letters to arrive in the mail. Not surprisingly, I got two rejection letters from the two Sydney schools. I then got an rejection letter from the school in Melbourne.
Shit just got real.
My dreams of dancing full-time had just gone down the toilet, and I was faced with the unsettling reality of staying where I was for another twelve months.
So I started looking into what I could do for the next year. Maybe I just move interstate and get a job so I can pay for dance training? Do I move to Sydney or Melbourne? I can’t stay here another year. If I don’t leave now, I never will.
A couple of weeks later I get a letter in the mail. I was a letter of offer. The school in Melbourne had somebody decline their offer – I was next on the list.
I did it. Granted, it happened by default, but it HAPPENED!! I was going to dance school. I was moving out of home. I was going to be leaving everything I know to travel to the big city and throw myself in the deep end.
That was 11 years ago, and I haven’t looked back.
However, most of my social circle from high school are still back home. Grossly overweight, either still living at home, or living with somebody they settled with. Some of them have a kid, some have two or three and it makes me sad.
It makes me sad because they just settled for what life gave them. They had no drive to actually go out and do something with their lives. They didn’t go to uni. They didn’t leave. They just became stuck into a life they settled for. There wasn’t any ambition to achieve something more. I sometimes felt sorry for them, but it’s what they chose for themselves.
I, on the other hand, got out. I wanted to explore life, and it lead me to Melbourne. And I absolutely love it.