The Newbie Chronicles (part 3): Initial Audition Results

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 :).

The Newbie Chronicles (part 2): Audition day

I woke up last night from a nightmare.

I had gone to bed early; so early that I assumed I couldn’t possibly sleep off the whole 17 hours before the next day’s 8:30 audition call time. In the nightmare, however, I did. Not only did I sleep more than ten hours, a feat I don’t believe physically possible for me, but I slept for 19 and woke up at noon, having missed the audition by a whole three hours.

I woke up from the nightmare and frantically checked my iPad next to my head, while noticing a lack of even dimmed natural light coming into my room through my windows. The clock told me it was 11:30 p.m. I found it rather ironic.

This week provided more of an emotional roller coaster than I’ve experienced in a long time, maybe in my whole life. Between auditioning for a non-vocal music performance group for the first time, performing in my first dance performance, having craziness happen within my personal life and having my last day as an editor happen, this week took me from some very low depths to some very high pinnacles. I’m still riding the emotion of the last 48 hours, which involved such a series of good news that I can’t even explain it. The audition results, though likely something I’m allowed to discuss, are ones I’ll be careful not to in great depth yet, but for the moment, I don’t count that audition as one for one specific show, so for the moment, I haven’t technically auditioned for a single performance. However, regardless of which way that went, I’ll just say that performing in that first performance and noticing the silence in my life and the newfound freedom of not needing to be attached to my phone like an editor for 24 hours-a-day was a joy that I’m still coming to realize. The comfort I felt in dance class that day when I realized that I didn’t get totally lost with every new dance step or sequence, the joy of knowing that even on Sunday I wouldn’t have to worry about what ran in the paper Monday. The joy of those two things alone left me breathless, relieved in a way that caused me to ask to be alone for a few days from even my girlfriend so that I could get used to having all the conflicting emotions in my head at once that have been introduced in the last 48 hours.

Of course, there also remain nerves. Today is the first day, in just a few hours actually, that I’ll formally audition for one specific show: Springdance 2015. It’s a good kind of nerves, not a ‘fearful’ type, but more of a “I can’t wait to see how this works!” type of nerves. It’s not fear, because to call it that would imply that, to some degree, I live my life in fear, and that’s something I refuse to accept in notion or in practice. There’s a difference between being anxious and being afraid. Both cause a person to be nervous, but anxious has a positive connotation; it means being excited and a little apprehensive about what you’re about to do.

I’m very apprehensive. I audition today because I feel obligated to, both because I gave one of the best dancers I know my word that I would try out, and because I feel personally obligated for other reasons. To say I actually “want” to audition, though might be going to far. Though I won’t likely be a great dancer at the end of next semester, I’ll surely be better, and I wish I could wait one more semester before giving both the teachers present today a first glimpse of me. I’ve met both, talked to both, but neither has seen me dance very much, if at all. Today will be where I make my first impression on them, and I wish I had time to wait one more semester to improve before making that impression, whatever it ends up being. One of them is my Ballet teacher next semester, a person I’ll get to know while my own takes sabbatical, so by the end of next semester she’ll know me a lot better anyway. But today will show her, in some sense, what she’s working with physically from me, and that’s something I’m a little anxious about, maybe even a little fearful of. I’m also apprehensive of the fact that this will be the first time I audition with some really amazing dancers who specialize in styles I haven’t even begun to learn yet, let alone master, one of being that friend I promised I’d audition. This will by my first impression on some of them as a dancer too, at least regarding those who haven’t taken class with me yet.

Between it all, I’m rather nervous about today. I have to believe I can dance a little bit at least. I’ve spent a year doing this and this semester I feel like I really turned a corner in how comfortable I felt, just moving in general. I can dance to random songs in my apartment (with all the blinds closed and the lights off so nobody can see me of course) and feel more comfortable than I’ve ever felt just hearing the music and knowing where to put emphasis. I’m more comfortable with that, a lot more than I was a year ago and a lot more than I was even back in August at the beginning of the semester. So between what I’ve seen from myself and what I’ve been told, I have to believe I’m not a total disaster. I’m just new.

That doesn’t mean I’m not a little intimidated though. I know I’m not where these others are, and I won’t dare to allow myself to even think of it as something competitive, that’s not the angle I’m taking on this. What slightly intimidates me more than the idea that who I’m performing for today, is the idea that I’m actually at a college level, having just started this whole dancing practice and I get to share a stage with people capable of stuff like this. I’ve seen these performers, and I know they’re amazing. I’ve seen many of them perform multiple times (the dance division does two annual shows, one per semester). Yet here I am, a guy who is still trying to figure out how he fits in to all this and who just started dancing this year, sharing a stage with these guys and girls. With these athletes! It’s like being an NFL rookie at the Pro Bowl or an NBA rookie at an All Star game. It’s that feeling you get when you look around and see the players you grew up watching and getting that sense of being awestruck just before you realize that you are here to play in the same game as them. Or that moment you’re a small business owner of some local mom-and-pop restaurant in your home town that just got in to the Fortune 500 category, so you go to an owners meeting and you see people like Bill Gates there, and you just can’t stop thinking “Oh my gosh…I’m here? Little old me?!” How I feel is a lot like that.

Of course I’ll do what I can to confine those nerves to the page for the time being. Something I realized yesterday was that my confident side is strong. I’m able to go into a place excited and push my nerves to the back of my mind and just go for it. I didn’t realize I could do that, maybe it’s a new skill I learned recently. So I’ve been devoting mental energy to practicing self-control over that stuff. Controlling when I feel giddy and cheesy and excitedly anxious like a little kid and suddenly flipping it off, at least the appearance of that side of me, and going forth into something with at least the appearance of confidence.

At home, around close friends, and in my writing I’ll allow myself to blush at the amazingness of what’s going on in life now. To contemplate all the wonderful things coming to fruition and to just let myself dream and get excited and get nervous and to be overwhelmed by it all. To visualize all that is happening or will happen behind closed doors that relates to me and to dream about how it all happens, to think about in excitement all the wonderful experiences likely to happen next semester I just don’t get in my own way. To anticipate and dream big, and hope without limits.

But out in public, out with people I’m not yet real confident with or that I’m not sure are ready to know my full cheesy side, I’ll be careful to display the confident, relaxed side of me that I just realized I have, regardless of how it contrasts with what I’m feeling inside.

At least…that’s the goal :).