A ballet class is a ballet class is a ballet class…or at least that’s what I was trying to convince myself before my Boston Ballet company audition at the School of American Ballet. Despite the reminder from friends that I do pliés and tendus practically every day,e and that this day was no different, the atmosphere and my nerves made me feel as if even turnout was something foreign to me.
I wasn’t the only one feeling the pressure of the day. Approximately 120 hopeful dancers showed up to audition. The sheer number itself caused a split into two different audition groups, one right after the other. I, being in the second group, was thankful for the extra time to prep and calm down, but knew my biggest challenge would be to distract myself from watching the dancers in class before me. I brought all my energy inward, stretching and repeating exercises for my previously injured hip while drowning out the constant chatter (from the other dancers and from my own head) with my iPod. The rap music blasting from my headphones was the perfect antithesis to all of the pink tights and neat hair around me. I hoped in a way it would toughen me up.
Most of the words of wisdom and encouragement I'd gotten leading up to the audition didn’t quite stick with me. It wasn’t until a close friend’s mother finally said something that was more of a reality check than a sappy one-liner: “You should have a great time in class because you are doing what you love.” It clicked. My love for the art form had been side-lined by stress. I remembered that dancing, above all, makes me feel something so incredible that I can hardly articulate just what that feeling is. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
Other words of encouragement came as an introduction for the company. “We are looking for classical technique as well as artistry,” Mikko Nissinen, the artistic director told us before we started. “You don’t have to perform, but show us who your are. You know, you can also have fun!” So with his advice and my earlier realization, I approached my dancing with cleanliness, artistic value and freedom. I danced how I wanted to, hoping that that’s what he wanted as well.
Barre and three center combinations was all it took for the artistic staff to make their first decision. “This is my least favorite part of this process,” Mikko told us. The dislike was mutual. The number plastered on my chest, 68, was a mantra repeating through my brain. I took the chance that telepathy did indeed exist. Ten numbers were called, none of which were mine. The initial let down always makes you sigh. Another audition, another cut. Before I thanked Mikko and left the room, I encouraged the fellow dancers I knew who were still in the running. They would move on to jumps as I would move on to dinner with friends. Not a terrible plan for a Saturday evening, but not what I had wanted to do so early in the night.
Initially, I left feeling proud of what I had shown, glad to have danced so well, but as the minutes after I walked out of the studio passed, the cut truly cut in. The feeling of contentedness turned into a single thought: “Why not me?” It was a question never to be answered. Time heals wounds and a day later I had picked myself up from the rejection. It was a new day, a time to start over and another chance to go back to first position and do what I loved.