You ever have one of those moments where you do something so impossibly bad that you then have to go do something you know you aren’t horrible at shortly thereafter, just to make yourself feel better?
Yeah, I was there. I mean on one hand, what could I really expect. I’d never been through an audition for a show before. Heck, two days earlier I had only ever had my first dance audition of any type; for the local tap group. That audition felt ambitious enough, so what was I even doing at this one?! Auditioning for a show? Me? Like with a single year of dance classes and no ballet to speak of?
I admit I almost chose to skip the auditions on the morning of them, at least a full three dozen times in the three hours leading up to them actually. I was THAT nervous. But I couldn’t back out, because there was a new friend who I had met casually the day I went in to meet my future ballet teacher. It was a real friendly girl who had reached out and said ‘hi’ and basically said the dance division was small and they liked knowing everyone, and since I was one of like seven guys (that’s a liberal estimate, not a conservative one on my part lol) they wanted to at least say hi. That day, this friend had said I should audition for this show, and I had said I would. So in the interest of knowing that she would be there, I figured I’d better make a decent impression by at least not backing out. Sure I’d screw up, sure she’d see exactly why I was reluctant, but at least I wouldn’t be the twerp who told one of the best ballerina’s in the program he would do something only to not. What kind of first impression would that be! Nope, this had to happen, inhibitions and shyness be damned.
So there I was. Of course, I knew I was in hot water right from the start. Make no mistake, I had no illusions about my inabilities. I’m a really new dancer, I’m not afraid to face that reality, but I also knew that my tap and jazz teacher wouldn’t be there because she’s taking sabbatical this semester, so I knew nothing I’d ever seen would appear in the audition. Thus, the whole “I’m new” excuse to myself only carried so much weight.
It started off about as you’d expect for a dude who didn’t know any ballet terms except Plie, First Position and Third position. Basically everything that happened in the audition was ballet or ballet related with a twist of Modern style (which I also haven’t taken, I’m just guessing here). To give you a feel about just how bad it went and how I felt leaving, here’s another story, a true one, that’ll give you a little better frame of reference.
It Was Like That One Game Against K-State’s Ultimate Frisbee Team
Back in high school I played Ultimate Frisbee. Still do off and on actually. In 2006, in my Junior year of high school, I was on the high school team at the school I would end up graduating. It was a good team, a really good team, and I held my own on it. They would end up actually finishing in the top 25 high school teams in the nation that season. That year, we were going to play the high school team from our rival school in the city where I now go to college. However, that year, their team collapsed, leaving us with no way to qualify for the national tournament. We desperately needed a tournament under our belt to earn a spot at nationals. So what did we do? We picked the Kansas State University tournament and went out to play against some of the local college teams.
We actually did okay against the local community colleges, including Washburn University, a great largely-law school in Topeka. Actually, we beat them the second day of the tournament after barely loosing to them on the first day. It was great, we left there feeling like I don’t even know what. Something wonderful. However, the one loss that I remember distinctly is the one where we went up against the host team, Kansas State.
Just how bad did that game go? Well, for us high school juniors and seniors, these guys and girls looked like titans. I’d swear they had a solid 18 inches of height on all of us. While most of the college teams at the tournament brought less than 14 people, and we brought two full 7 person lineups, allowing us to cycle out faster and essentially outrun most of them, K-State had a full two lineups and then some extra players still. They had talent, they had physical advantage, and unlike anyone else at that tournament, they had the fresh legs to keep up with us. It was a bloodbath. Plain and simple. It was so bad, in fact, that as we were playing, they would give us pointers on how to play better against them. For those who don’t know, in ultimate frisbee you can’t run with the disk. Usually there’s a person there trying to keep you as a thrower from getting your pass off whenever you have it. Well, I distinctly remember the guy who was playing defense on me giving me instructions on how to pivot and keep my body more under control while I was trying to throw around him. And this was DURING the game. That’s how bad it was. I think we lost 13-2.
Three Positives That Happened
Well, this ballet audition, or rather this show audition that was mostly ballet, really felt like that. It was funny actually, because at one point, I was lined up in front of the lady who will be my ballet teacher this semester, and she actually was encouraging me as she saw my facial expressions betray my inner frustration at myself. Thank God for her that day. No joke. I really needed that, because I felt awful as I went through all of that, and even though she hadn’t had me in class, there she was after just casually talking to me once on a single day weeks before, saying “You’re doing fine Shelton, keep going. You’ll be okay.” I’ll forever look on that moment as one of my favorite ever, actually.
Believe it or not though, there were three great parts about that day.
The second great thing was that I actually got to dance with this friend who had convinced me to show up. Now, I don’t mean “dance with” as in couple dance, but rather more like “work around.” We were in the same lines sometimes, so in some cases we did the same choreography at the same time. Well, okay, that’s ambitious of me to say. Let me rephrase that: SHE did the choreography, I just hoped I didn’t look like a fawn with a drinking problem as I visualized myself trying to do it :P. There we go, that’s much more accurate. In any case, at one point I got too close as she spun during some choreography, and when she came out of it I took a gentle, and graceful, but midly noticeable, kick to the right ribs. I felt bad about it, because she seemed to feel bad and apologized, but I was behind her in the movement sequence and it was actually me who caused it by following too close. Served me right. Still though, she was really sweet about it. Either way though, I look back at it and even at the time I was actually thrilled. It didn’t hurt, and now I can say I’ve been kicked in the ribs by someone who may end up doing this professionally, if I’m any judge of talent at all. Because if there was anything I learned that day, it was that this friend I’d randomly met, had pure and well earned swagger. She was spectacular as a dancer, both from how she danced and how she conducted herself during the audition. She’d be directing us other dancers to get in lines actually during the audition, coordinating and leading us like a military sergeant just trying to hold a line in battle or something, and I think we all sensed the complete understanding she had of what needed to happen. She was calm, but direct and directing, and it actually made me feel better knowing that as long as I did what she told me, I wouldn’t commit any cardinal sins regarding dance auditions. There was a lot of comfort in that actually, with it being my first one. Basically we followed her lead and, at least from my perspective, she crushed that audition. I left that day in awe of her.
The other positive that came from that audition was that there was another person I met the day I went in and talked to my future teacher. That day, as I went and talked to my future professor, the previously discussed girl had a couple of other dancers with her as well (they were getting dressed in regular clothes after class). The second person I met was also at this audition, and we danced in more pieces together than even the first dancer and I. Actually in one, we had to work with another dancer but wordlessly and just via eye contact, and she and I did. Occasionally, between other dances throughout the audition, we’d whisper back and forth, and as it turned out she’s going to be a teacher’s aid (if I understand it right) for one of my two classes with this teacher this semester! She also is a great girl, and the more she and I talked the more I realized there’s potential for a great friendship there as well. That was a really neat revelation of that audition. That was the third great thing that happened that day.
In the end though, like I said, it felt horrible. I left there thinking I had done even worse than I previously expected. But hey, at least I’d been kicked in the ribs, realized I had another potential friend and realized I’d have a really encouraging teacher this semester right? Still, I left that audition and went straight to the tap studio down the hall and went to work for a full thirty minutes as hard as I could. I had to get that audition out of my head before I left the building. It was, in my opinion that day, that bad.
The story could end there, but it doesn’t. By either a miracle of movement on my part that day, or a total leap of faith by the three choreographers who ran us through movements that day, I actually made it! I’ll actually be in multiple pieces! Maybe they just wanted to get guys involved and there I was! Maybe they just wanted to encourage a new dancer! Maybe I did okay! Who cares! I don’t know what their logic is, and I don’t want to!!!! I just know I’m going to work my heart out to prove that casting me was a great decision! 🙂 To this day, my mind is still overwhelmed, and I still blush like an elementary school boy who just got kissed when I think about that day and all that’s ahead :).