Anxious Auditioning. Desperate Dating. Not a cute look.
I’ve spent over ten years in NYC which means two things for a young aspiring female artist. Countless auditions, and countless dates – for better or worse, equally entertaining and heartbreaking.
And of course, hysteria ensues…
Pushy choreographers. Pushy men. Those too nice for their own good. “Why didn’t I get the memo on what to wear!?” Perfect on the outside, disaster on the inside. Studios, and studio apartments alike, screaming for a dust buster. “Where the hell is this audition?” “Are we meeting at 8:30 tonight or what?” Boho chic going to a downtown pub singing karaoke one night, the next swinging in heels and a fitted BCBG dining over fine wine. Fitted lulus, downtown gauchos, and fishnets sporting red lipstick, all in one day. Those you feel you need to endlessly impress, and it’s never enough. “Can you shut up already so I can get in a word?” “I came here to dance right, not just posé like a Roman statue?” Those with lots of money and lack of integrity. “You want me to wear what exactly?” Those with no drive and means of supporting themselves, but honest intentions. “$5 an hour for rehearsals?” I have my headshot. I forgot my mints. I’m lighthearted and laughing at my flubbed triple pirouette. I’m mortified after pretending to be a champ, tasting sea urchin, and then nearly puking in my napkin while locking eyes over candlelight. Horrific first impressions that surprise you beautifully. Beautiful first impressions that disappoint. People who fall off the face of the earth. “Weren’t they going to call all of the final ten, and tell us either way?” “No I didn’t pre-register but you should let me in anyway.” “This is your uncle’s friend’s nephew, right?” “How many more of these damn things do I need to endure?” “Will this be the job that completes my career?” “Could this be the man I’m meant to marry?” Friends turned lovers, turned friends again. Jobs had, left, and revisited.
Hidden in all the madness is me. Auditioning and dating is a continuous experiment of trial and error to find the best fit, and more significantly, a means of understanding myself and being more honest about what it is I want out of my career and personal life.
Hosting the Parsons Dance audition and leading a mock audition at a Broadway Dance Center intensive gratefully placed me on the other side of the chopping block recently which exposed and surfaced all the emotions that typically come with it (not to mention recently snagging a handsome young gentleman putting an end to the ridiculous dating disasters!). I watched as eagerness subtly crept in behind eyes, the tellers of so much truth. Telling eyes and facial expressions either ooze confidence, or become stagnant with the stare of pleading for pleasing whomever is in the front of the room. Yes, eagerness is beautiful. It allows dancers to fight for challenging moments, pick up choreography faster, and get jumps up even higher. However, it is in the eyes of a confident dancer where true performance lies.
Without a doubt, positive attention goes to the dancer who has the combination down pat. It’s because their brain is quick enough to pick up material and make it their own instantly. So if your brain is what’s slowing you down, sharpen your tool. Get to class and force yourself into the first group. Don’t rely on others to know the steps. Test yourself. Work on the combination until you do conquer it. Attempt different strategies of learning – find counts as landmarks, grasp the over-arching movements or phrasing, utilize sounds and rhythms, name steps even if your inner dialogue sounds maddening. (“Swirly arm thingy, leg fan big, quirky head roll, boom-kat” You know, good ‘ole dancer lingo!) Don’t stop striving to be your best self when looking for any kind of company, professional or personal. Your best self will attract your best match.
And while working out your best stuff in front of company dancers and directors, staring at them makes it extreme awkward for those watching, not to mention it reads as a disconnect between intention and movement. Why are you eyeballing the director when you should be concerning yourself with the dance moves? Those in the front of the room have nothing to do with the cabriole you are doing center stage, and the blatant staring screams of immaturity and feening for the attention and approval of someone else.
While on a date, your expression varies honestly with what is being discussed and you give your attention to the person across from you rather than beading jaggedly from waiter, to the other girl on a date at the table over, to her beau, to the bus boy – at least let’s hope! You focus on your lovely date with an attentive and generous intention without being obsessive or robotic. How come our expressions when we dance can become static or horrifically “put on” when we wouldn’t ever consider it in “real life?” Your eyes, your facial expressions, should be shifting with the way each step makes you feel. The choreographer is not going to give you those intimate details, moment to moment, that is the job of an honest artist. Honest art and honest dating please!
Desperation is never a cute look. Quite frankly, it reeks. We all know the tragic date where one person direly craves the other and will helplessly and meekly make themselves appear desirable under all circumstances. Yes, that would be the datée who miraculously loves the same things you love, talks fondly of their well-adjusted parents and their picket fence, and doesn’t dislike a damn thing or hold an adamant opinion of their own. Why is desperation in dance-form not as blatant? Moments fly by and thoughts are on being desirable to the authority in the room. You can draw positive attention to yourself without sacrificing you just to meet someone else’s expectations. What about your expectations out of the job? You are auditioning them too. It is a two-way street. Why not just be desirable by being entirely you. What if you get the job, or the boyfriend, and then realize you two are horrible for each other because you weren’t acting like yourself until 4 months into the contract, or relationship? Screw the authority in the room (yes, I said screw it….shameless shout out!!). Why don’t you just act as yourself and see if they like you? Will this job even make you happy? You are not going to make or break yourself in an instant. Your training has served you up until this point. Your hirers, your date, either like what you have going on, or don’t. So the moment of an audition is really just someone else going on a first date with you. You’ve been doing your thang all along. And your thang, either is or isn’t their shtick.
Someone confident with themselves, in their own skin, needs no reassurance. Anyone can learn a kick-ass pas de bourée but no one is going to instruct how to feel while you do it, or how to have the look of piercing intensity and purpose. Hands down, I would hire a learner, a good listener, with a zest, over an empty vessel who has down all the steps.
If it is meant to work out, it just will. And it will be easy, because it will be a wonderful fit. So don’t sweat how many auditions and dates you’ve been on. Everyone’s story is different. Don’t sweat an awkward response to what your family’s like, or one bobble out of a tour. Not that you are attempting to get tongue-tied or travel on the wrong foot, but when it happens, it is not a deal breaker. The one major deal breaker, for me, at an audition and on a date for that matter, is someone without confidence, without maturity, without generosity, without the ability to shift a mindset once a new set of ideas are gained, and without the ability to listen and truly hear.
And if within this honesty, you can manage to master the flawless, captivating yet “oh this fabulous person is just me-everyday-oh-so-chill vibe,” you may just have the man…and the dance. (how’s that for your sappy ending?!)