As I write this, I have just come back from a dance audition. It went... badly. I learned three things today.

One, when a dance call says 'no ballet background required', they are lying. They do not mean no ballet background required. They mean they don't do pointe work and don't mind if you use jazz hands when you spin. Casting calls for all things are often like this -- they're a lot like personal ads, where people say 'height and weight proportional' because it's not considered appropriate to say 'no fat chicks'. Translation is a bitch sometimes. Lesson learned!

Two, I am still totally unable to learn choreography on the spot. I keep hoping it's because I'm nervous, in much the same way I keep hoping my inability to get up early is because I'm a lazy sod. Laziness can be fixed by applying more effort, and situational anxiety can often be reduced with habituation. Anxiety is not the problem here; I wasn't particularly nervous about this audition, and I still couldn't do it.

The general process in auditions like this is that they give you a few bars of movement, a couple of eight-counts at a time. First couple of eights, run through that. Second couple of eights, run through that. Get to the end, run the whole thing slow. Then go through it at speed a few times before you actually demonstrate for the judges. Most people flail through it the first time, then correct themselves a bit for the next try, and so on and so forth. By the fourth or fifth time through, most people can do something that at least looks like an attempt at the choreo they were initially given.

I can't. I flail through it every time, learning nothing, until I get a chance to sit down and analyze things. I don't look it these days, but I am actually fairly badly dyspraxic. I have very little idea how the experience of moving translates into the shapes people look at until I have a chance to scrutinize both the exemplar and myself in the mirror -- separately, because I can't watch the teacher and myself at the same time. I have to have time to run both mental and real physical experiments, paying particular attention to how the motion that looks like that feels to perform. Once I've done that, I'm perfectly fine. But until I get to do that, repeated runs do absolutely nothing to help me master the steps. I can't correct myself, because I don't have any reference for what I'm supposed to be doing.

Trying again and again at this does not appear to be improving anything, so from now on I think I'll stick to either performing solo, or companies/shows that accept video auditions.

The third thing is that I don't think I'm very well suited to be a corps girl. It's not as bad as in classical ballet; the call said they were looking for diversity, and there were indeed people of many different colors at the audition. I expected to be by far the stoutest person there, and I actually wasn't, which was nice. But all of the other dancers had a particular vibe. They didn't all have the same haircut, but nearly all of them had conservative styles. (Only one had short hair, and it went with a look that, had I run into her in my normal social circles, I would have interpreted as 'Proud to call myself a dyke, tired of having to explain it to people one at a time'.) No undercuts, no asymmetrical cuts, no unnatural hair colors. Nobody had any interesting piercings. They all wore the same style of makeup. I was the only one wearing no black, and about a third of the room had on the exact same brand and style of black leggings on.

I did not look like them, and they let me know it. Not meanly, I hasten to add -- out of forty-odd people in the room, four of them specifically walked up to let me know they liked my hair or my eyeliner, and one of them even recognized me from my home studio in Cambridge. But to get compliments at that rate means that I stood out a lot, which is not necessarily a good thing in a dance company. You don't all need to be perfectly matched, but you are sort of supposed to look like a coordinated set. Even if I had been brilliant at what they wanted, which I was not, I do not think I would have been called back.

It's nice to have found my niche, but it also has kind of an aggravating undertone of 'stay in your place'. I suppose this is how the ADD kids feel without their accommodations. I am generally competent at the thing you want me to know, but unable to demonstrate it because your testing procedure weeds out people who are incompetent at your testing procedure, which is not necessarily the same thing as people who are deficient at the skills you're trying to test for.


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