Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Hi all, So audition season is back, rearing its ugly head, traumatizing dancer and actors alike. It is a thrilling season, filled with possibility and opportunity but dreaded due to its wicked harsh nature, we have mentally, physically and emotionally prepared ourselves to the best of our ability over many months, literally since the last audition we did, getting ready. Spending hours in the studio, working on new workout regimes, recycling successful moments, meals, training, mindsets and trashing and recreating those that are less so. We are chameleons asked to blend in and also stand out. So how the heck do we succeed? (Funny you should ask the girl who is in the same boat as you... NO CLUE.) Here are some of my thoughts and reflections, trying to find fullness of presence in mind and heart.
First, we must decide, what is success in an audition? Or shall I rephrase, what should success be TO ME in an audition? Last year, for all but ONE audition, I knew what that success was. It was not the outcome, but how I as a dancer, artist, and hard working human being presented myself and my art.
Did I give my best 150%?
Did I remember to actually dance for me?
Did I dance with full commitment and present myself to the best of my ability?
Did I spend it looking at my good moments?
Did I enjoy the space, the class?
Did I listen to feedback but more so did I listen to the music?
Did I learn?
If I check most if not all of these questions with a "yes" then that was a damn successful audition.
Another measure of success when needing validation from myself, I try to find specific successful moments:
- I really nailed that triple pirouette on both sides.
- I was the only person who danced to the specific counts given.
- I saw the panel of judges nod watching me jump with the men.
- I was asked to demonstrate for my quality of movement.
^^^ This above is ideal mindset. Not about how many jobs did I get offered... but these things. And while most of my auditions last season, by this measure, were hugely successful... the audition season tore me to bits last year. Why? My biggest audition of the season, the one I held of most importance in my heart and in my dreams... was successful by every single point above... so what happened? Why did I crumble? Why did I feel like giving up?
- Did I give my best 150%? -- 200% yes.
- Did I remember to actually dance for me? - Hadn't felt as full as a person in a long time. Yes.
- Did I dance with full commitment and present myself to the best of my ability? - Yes. I recognize my feet weren't at their best in pointe shoes, hadnt been wearing them often and a week previous switched style of shoe., but considering, I felt really good.
- Did I spend it looking at my good moments? - Yes, but an equal balance of what could've gone better.
- Did I enjoying the space, the class? - I wish it had been a master class because I was on cloud 9 and the sour taste in my mouth was due to how it ended. I felt alive, inspired, on fire.
- Did I listen to feedback but more so did I listen to the music? - Yes. For goodness sakes, my favorite song from Moana played (which is my pre-audition song) played during rond de jambe... I might have almost cried right there. It was incredible. Then doing rep, I felt - alive.
-Did I learn? - Yes.
- Did I have expectations? Yes, I had a long running, good relationship with the company and director and had been given incredibly supportive interested feedback for years. I had been invited to company class earlier in the year. I attended company class weeks previous to audition. I attended every show and kept in touch - only ever received feedback as a highly regarded potential hire. Aside from that, it was the first year they were looking to fill a spot for a female and it was a short term contract. For many years, (6 or 7 years) I had been auditioning and remained one of the last few women at the end of every one of those auditions. That resulted in total disappointment last year when they narrowed it down to 6 women and 6 men, I was not one of them, for the first time in years. I looked at the other women and couldn't see what it was that set them apart - which if you know me, is saying something. Typically, I could give you a list on any given day of why, but I was genuinely shocked. I could accomplish the same things as those 6 women, okay, with exception of one, she... was fabulous and I could accept that but not the rest of the picture.
I felt so immediately lost. It sounds so pathetic, I recognize that, but I felt so disconnected from what I was lead to believe and how I felt in the audition itself. Was I so wrong about everything? I CRUSHED both kinds of rep and the guest choreographer who was at the audition even came up to me in the hall and expressed how impressed he was as he returned to the last twelve dancers. What was I missing? What did I lack? What did they actually want? I felt I was giving back what they were giving in their feedback with each combination especially in rep. I felt I became that quality and energy requested and switched it when told or cued another way. I was a scientist playing and doing experiments with my body, shifting with their words... I was the chameleon. I became (in my head) what they wanted.... so what happened? What could I have done better? Different?
^^ Notice this difference in language. What did I do wrong? What did I lack? What was wrong with me? Did I do something wrong to be cut? Instead of the mindset I had left every other audition, this one became personal. It had me in tears. I felt utterly defeated. I ended up emailing the director and artistic director to ask for what I could work on. What held me back?
The response itself destroyed me. It was as politically correct as it could get.
When I got it, I happened to be reading it out loud in front of my roommates... they didn't know what to say... my voice cut out and I just accepted it with intense sadness. Again, I had lost that confidence, I had lost sight of my list. Those words from the email on replay:
"..... work on your body.... try some cardio...." I became so numb. Oh excellent, even after losing weight and changing my regime to fit the dancer body type better (lies) it still comes back to my body.
"Your feet could use some work, try wearing your shoes regularly so they feel like an extension of your foot." ok... this is what I'm looking for. I couldn't disagree, I felt that is what I needed to give the most attention to. What else do they have that is constructive.... "... we felt we didn't see who you were as an artist....try to find your fire" well if you knew me at all, THIS WAS MY FIRE. I was nearly in tears of joy doing this audition... but ok... its not fire for you... (since then my sadness has hardened to rage... how dare you tell me I don't have a fire... maybe its not the color or size fire you are looking for but how dare you tell me you couldn't see me.... I left "ME" on the floor of that audition. I almost injured myself going 200% maxing out the possibilities within the rep.)
Why did I let these words sink so deep into me. I literally couldn't look in a mirror for the rest of my dance season without being nearly in tears seeing the body that needs more cardio (when in reality, I had just completed a 10 mile run two weeks previous...) Their politically correct words were a knife to my heart. They are right, I don't have a dainty. feathery body, I have a kick-ass strong athletic body... I have muscle and it isn't going to disappear with cardio. This company used to celebrate different bodies but I was so blinded by the dream and my love for the work they were creating, I didn't stop to look at what parts of the company drew me in, that might no longer be there. In reflection, many months later, I realized it was more elitist than it had ever felt. But maybe I was just blinded to see it before or maybe I was butt hurt. Maybe a little of both. Regardless, I questioned my career, my passion, dancing altogether. I don't want to let one person's word dictate my career and passion like that ever again.... (will they? Maybe, but not without me putting up a fight for myself).
Second, we must decide, WHY am I here?
What is my reason for THIS audition?
Does this audition define me?
Hopefully, this year I won't feel defined by auditions. We spend so much our training being mentally prepared to be told no. That 95% of your career is trying to get jobs. It is. So this year, I am going to try to let my WHY be about me. Now, if you know me, I will lose sight of this and get sucked back into the f***ed up dancer mindset... but I'm going to actively try to let myself be my WHY. I am here because I have a burning fire and I want to share it and I want to grow. I hope to find people and jobs that further ignite that flame rather than try to extinguish it. To be fair, I know deep down it was never their intention to hurt and I was the one who asked for the feedback. So instead, I am trying to refocus my energy. My body image was not solid and strong LONG before this audition so I can't allow them to take all the slack. After taking the summer away from dance entirely, after the loss of a friend, I come back to what he said to me,
""F* them. Who cares what they want you to be and look like if you found things that make you happy? If you feel good, what does it matter what they think and want?" - Cody
So what is my WHY? Heading into this New Year, that will probably shift. I'm not entirely sure. But what I can tell you is I'm not giving up. I'm not allowing one company to slow me down. Hell knowing how stubborn I am, I might just show up again with no intention of being there for anyone but me. Make my statement, defend my fire.
What is my reason for THIS audition? - Am I auditioning because I want the job or because of the choreographers? Am I going because of their name? Or am I simply going because I am recognizing my own flame? Or am I just going because I can? Do I want to do the work? Am I passionate about what they are doing? Not so much? All reasons are valid, but regardless of my answer... I MUST go back to "FIRST" knowing what success is. Why.....because
Third, we must remember, it could boil down to skin color, chest size, leg length, hair color, the rep for the next season not being a good fit... there was someone who was better... but also remember "better" is relative in artistry so what we give, has value at the very least to ourselves which is the most important. The judges' are thinking a much bigger picture than one season, all the pictures and marketing, the heights of the ensemble, the casting for each piece, the image, the new or continued direction the company is hoping to go. It could have NOTHING to do with my dancing (or yours) - it might, but don't immediately jump to self sabotage. (However tempting and easy it is to do as a dancer, run through that first list again... reevaluate with fresh perspective.) Allow true emotions to happen in real time, acknowledge, digest, and then get back dancing - you never know who else was in the room.
Find your fire and don't let anyone tell you aren't doing "fire" right. Follow your heart. Follow the dreams but allow them to take form in new ways. It might not be easy, but I'm definitely going to try to love myself my art and my fire and do this for ME. *Gulp*
Well, bring it on 2019. Let's dance.