The Dance Call

I figured we all needed a little break from the heaviness of the last few chapters, no?

Inspired by my ridiculous behavior at an audition today, I have decided to re-post my very first blog entry, ever.

For about two years, I kept a fluffy little blog that was read mostly by a few friends and family members.  It’s amazing to look back at my struggles as a young, 20-something, married Christian girl.  I was searching for identity and security, and longing for devoted, faithful love.  Five years later, I am still searching for those things, except that through my brokenness, I have discovered a deeper, more satisfying life.  Through times of abundance and times of struggle; tears and laughter; joy and pain; longing, heartache, determination — and — simply clinging to hope, I’m becoming more of who I am.  I’m being molded into more of the person whom God created me to be.

Of course, I’m still funny as hell.  Even funnier, maybe.

So, please — sit back, relax, and enjoy a little break from the drama of divorce, sister wives and jail.  I leave you with the original post that inspired me to start a blog in the first place.

Every girl should be front and center, wearing a tiara.

April 19, 2007 

I strongly dislike dance calls.

Let me explain. I am not quite sure that the non-actor/singer/dancer/performer quite fully understands the type of pressure that we (actors/singers/dancers/performers) put upon ourselves. There’s the pre-pressure: warming up the vocals, going over the sides (script) and “stretching” for the dance call.

My idea of stretching consists of doing the butterfly pose that I learned as a 3-year old in ballet at the Montessori Preschool, then reaching over my right and then left leg. I’ve always been able to get by with high kicks because I’m a fitness instructor. There’s no need, in my mind, for this demonstration of pre-dance ability in front of all your competitors. There’s pressure enough when you get into the room and have two seconds to learn an entire combination, and then perform it as if you learned it in the womb.

This particular audition was very specific. From the phone call I received from the casting office, it was clear they were looking for “triple threat” performers. It’s no wonder why the actor hates to sing; the singer hates to dance; and the dancer hates to sing. Your average performer is usually better at one of the three skills. In musical theatre, you usually get singer/actors, or dancers, and, if you’re extremely lucky, you’ll find a triple threat.

I used to refer to myself as a triple threat. Ha. Somewhere between playing Rizzo in a highly energetic, technically choreographed version of “Grease” in 1999 and today, I’ve lost my dancer’s edge. Mainly, though, I haven’t focused much on taking dance classes – I’ve always been able to slide by, either faking it, or getting in because of my charm, good looks and golden pipes. I decided that, sure, I still had it. I mean, dancing is like riding a bike, right? Double pirouettes? No problem.

The casting assistant was specific.

“Can you do battements and fouettés?”

“Of course,” I replied, scurrying online and looking up the ballet terms to refresh my memory.

“This is, after all, a triple-threat performer’s show,” he warned. “If you think you can do it, start stretching now. We’ll see you on Wednesday!”

I looked at the calendar. It was Friday. I had five days to regain my triple threat status.

“Oh, and one more thing,” he added, sounding something between mocking and sadistic, “You’ll need to wear a leotard, tights, and character heels to the audition. Break a leg!”

I hung up the phone.

Leotard and tights?? AUGHHHHH!!!

First of all, who really wears leotards and tights anymore? I thought about my days in ballet class, oh, so long ago, when it was commonplace to wear your underoos (mine were Wonder Woman, thank you very much) underneath your ballet outfit (tights, leotard and tutu.) The problem was that your leotard was jacked up so high on the leg (thanks to ‘80’s fashion, that all anyone saw was your big, white Hanes. And please, don’t talk to me about wearing bikini or thong underpants, or no underpants, either: we did not wear small little pieces of fabric in those days. Wearing nothing was unheard of – our mothers simply didn’t allow it. Girls who didn’t wear underpants were dirty sluts.

Thankfully, times have changed, so I immediately signed up for the first ballet class I could find, thinking at least one or two would help my brain get back into “dancer mode”. I decided against the classic ballet getup. Instead, I settled for the most comfortable pair of pants I could find, with some granny panties underneath, and a tank top. Nondescript. We’d have to work up to the leo and tights.

The class went well enough, and I, as always, was the clown. The teacher lost me at “undooo dooah youyr legg like-a zat, ahhhh!” – whilst taking her knee to her ear, and the “chaîné, chaîné, chaîné, chaîné, chaîné” turns across the floor left me dizzy and feeling half-drunk. Instead of following through with technique, I started krumping across the floor, much to the chagrin of my tiny, graceful teacher.

Yet, I was satisfied and happily paid for two more classes for the future, just to keep up the “ballet buzz”.

I am no dummy, though – I knew that just one beginning ballet class wasn’t going to prepare me for a full-on dance audition with a Broadway choreographer. But, I had to follow through. I just had to make the dance cut somehow. Surely, after hearing me sing, those behind the casting table would scrap their lead and go with ME, all the while congratulating themselves for finding such an amazing performer who aces all three categories. Yeah. A triple threat.

Day of the Audition

I had stretched as much as my poor legs would allow…I practiced kicking as high as I could without tearing my hamstring right out of the back of my leg. Begrudgingly, I had dressed myself in my 17-year old sister’s flashy black leotard, my own black fishnet tights (yes, fishnets), and her flirty mini-skirt. As I surveyed myself in the mirror, I realized that I looked like an overweight 6th grade girl in a too-tight bathing suit at a pool party. All I really needed were those underoos to complete the ridiculous look. I sighed, pulled on some yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and headed out the door.

When I arrived, there were already several girls in the room. I felt their eyes boring through my skull as I signed in. Sizing me up. “Vibing” me.

Side note: What is with the dancer attitude? Can someone please explain it to me? Do singers “vibe” other singers? No. It must be entirely a physical appearance. If you “look” like you can dance, then you’re competition.

Surely, I wasn’t competition for some of these girls dressed to the nines in their leotard and tights, looking very much like elegant supermodels. Here I was, the dorky rotund girl in her sister’s leotard, but at least I was there. And, once it came to the singing round, I would blow everyone out of the water. So, I sat down and started studying my music. There was no way I was going to warm up with these girls in the room – half of them were doing full-on ballet routines and sit-ups. I tell you, it’s an intimidation technique. Sadly, for the out-of-practice triple threat, it works.

We were introduced to the perky choreographer, who has done a lot of great work in New York and L.A. Upon first impression, I thought that she would be someone I’d love to have as my friend; I also thought that she might half-enjoy my cop-out krumping routine. I decided that, if ever in doubt, I would do a bunch of cartwheels and act crazy. I mean, half of performing is committing to it, right?

Her first words were, “All right girls, I don’t want to see anybody faking it. I’m looking at your legs and your arms and I want everything to be perfect.”

Uh, oh.

We took our places in the small, hot room. I was already beginning to sweat, and we hadn’t even started to move yet. I stood way at the back, thinking I might just be able to hide. The décor on my leotard sparkled in the harsh, rehearsal room light.

“Okay, here we go! Walk forward, A-one, two, three, four and turn, turn, turn, turn, and leap, and kick, and kick, and kick! And fan kick, fan kick, fan kick, fan kick! Jet-te, Fou-etté, double pirouette-ay! Spot turn, spot turn, spot turn, prep, and COOTER SLAM!”

I raised my hand. “Excuse me, did you say, “Cooter Slam?”

Several girls whirled around, glaring at me, hands on their hips. There were a few nervous cackles.

The choreographer laughed. “Yes! It’s common in this type of show, and you knew it was coming. Just jump up, and land in the splits. That’s the cooter slam!”

Oh, God, help me.

Here’s the thing: I can belt the crap out of any song you give me; I can read music, play the piano, direct and choreograph children’s musicals; I CAN act my way out of a paper bag; I can run 3 miles in less than 30 minutes and then teach an indoor cycling class; I can even do a double pirouette. One thing I cannot do is the COOTER SLAM.

The funniest thing was that I was the only one in that hot, cramped, poorly lit room that couldn’t do the cooter slam. Where have I been all these years? Am I that out of touch with musical theatre – no, dancing, really – that I don’t know these are actual terms? Why didn’t anyone else bat an eyelash at the obviously disgusting and degrading reference? What is more, the actual act of “slamming” the “cooter” is not attractive. It looks painful.

I knew I had to bring it, though. I mean, I had gotten this far. I couldn’t walk out the door.

We were broken up into six groups and given – honestly – five minutes to practice. While I was stuck on how the heck I was going to fake the last move, everyone else was dancing full-out, complete with swift, high kicks, perfect pirouettes, lovely graceful arm movements and smiles on their faces. What’s worse: they all were slamming their cooters with ease. Almost as if every other movement in the choreography was leading up to that shocking moment – the moment I knew would send me to the hospital.

We “rehearsed” in our groups of six about two times, and both times I screwed up the choreography here, the legwork there. When it came for the final “pose”, both times I chickened out and ended up doing a cartwheel, or “falling down” with my leg cocked behind me making it look like the splits. Some dancers looked at me with disgust, some with knowing sympathy. Others smirked. I was clearly out of my element.

The good thing, though, I kept telling myself, is that you’re like Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. You may not be a graceful ballerina, but you sure are damn funny and you can sing like no one has ever heard.

No pair of roller skates truly could get me through this one, though.

We were finally dismissed into the waiting area and then called back in groups of three to perform for the panel. Knowing full well that I hadn’t “brought it” in rehearsal, I kept going over the movements, occasionally talking aloud through the routine before my name was called.

“One, two, three, kick…okay, wait, no…one, two, kick three, or is it…??”

Other dancers sat down and relaxed, some texted on their cell phones, others complimented each other on their ability.

“Oh, my Gawwwwd, we really enjoyed watching you,” a tiny girl chirped to the smooth, elegant other who towered over her.

“Oh, thank you,” came the feigned modesty.

My name was finally called. I smoothed my hair, hoisted my boobs up and pranced into the room. If anything, I was going to have fun. The music started. I grinned from ear to ear. I made it through the first four counts of eight with ease. However, when I stopped to think about what came next, I was immediately behind. I tried to pick it up again, hoping no one would notice that I was the only one facing the wrong direction, and hadn’t done any of the ballet moves that were required. I also bombed the spot turns. I must’ve been spotting the big EXIT sign instead.

And then, the final moment – the jump splits (aka “You-know-what slam”). I hoisted up my flirty skirt, jumped as high into the air as I could, split my legs and landed. I looked down at my position in shock. Obviously, I was supposed to look up in a “ta da” moment, but I was honestly baffled at how I was physically – no, medically — able to be in this position. Of course, I wasn’t entirely in the splits, and my knee started to throb a bit, but I was as close to the ground as I had been since taking gymnastics in my pre-pubescent years. I was so excited to have accomplished the cooter slam that I stayed in that position while the choreographer spoke.

“Um, OK, do any of you do any tricks?”

I raised my hand, almost falling over. “I can do cartwheels and walk on my hands!” I cried, my voice overly eager and excited.

“Mmmmkay, great…” She was clearly not impressed. “Welllll, thanks, girls!”

I maneuvered myself out of my precarious position and dusted myself off. “No, thank you!” I responded, still a bit too eager.

As you probably guessed, I ended up being cut from the audition after the dance call. But here’s the real glory and moral of the story: I faced my fear.

Did I humiliate myself? Yes. Was I most likely the worst dancer in the room? Yes.

But I did it. I went to the audition, I performed the routine to the best of my ability, and, above all, I limped away with a smile on my face.

I have always respected dancers for their ability, grace, energy and discipline. I will never be a true dancer, but I can start back at that beginning ballet class and take it more seriously. So, until further notice, I’m circling “MOVER” instead of “DANCER” on an audition sheet. But, you know what? That’s not going to stop me from trying again, and having a whole lot of fun in the process.

2 thoughts on “The Dance Call

  1. Awesome. Great story! 🙂

  2. L says:

    Laughed so hard and so loud. Had to stop reading to collect myself before going on. You’re amazing.

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