Audition:  Vices, the Musical

Outfit:  New-to-me jazz pants from clothing swap (thank you, Stephanie)

Location: Ripley Grier, 520 8th Ave.

Time: 2:00

I need to learn to tell my agent no.  No, I do not want to spend an afternoon auditioning for a principal dance role in a new musical out of Boca Raton.  First of all, I have never booked a principal dance role in my life– which is not to say I never will.  But when said role involves partnering and silk work, and no singing or acting, I’m fairly certain someone else will get the gig over me.

But either because I have no balls or because I’m grateful for any audition that comes my way, I agreed to show up at 2:00 PM this afternoon at Ripley Grier studios to audition.   Originally the plan had been to take 9 AM ballet class on the Upper East Side, requiring me to get up at 6:45 AM.  Needless to say, that didn’t happen.  I instead ended up taking 11:30 Advanced Beginning Jazz at Steps, which turned out to be a strange class I do not recommend.  The teacher was a total bitch.  Most jazz classes have a sort of laid-back camaraderie, very much like the Broadway Dance class depicted in Centerstage.  Not here.  She walked in, put on music and started class.  No one spoke or cracked a smile, no one applauded at the end.  There were only four people there, which should’ve been a clue that everyone hates this class.  At one point, I asked a question.  “Just watch me,” she barked.  I went through the rest of the combination fudging the same spot because she just couldn’t be bothered to answer my question.

However, it did warm me up, which is what I needed.  I felt prepared for the audition physically and mentally. You see, dance calls in particular are always full of bitches.  The energy is always negative, competitive and shallow.  I hate them.  Usually I put on my Ipod and block everything out.  Ipods are essential armor in New York City.   They distill the insanity of the subway, the vulgarity of teenagers, and the negativity of audition competition.

But with headphones I was able to hear the theatre’s peon announce that we would be auditoning in two groups, and that we could decide for ourselves who went in which group.  This was bizarre.  No one checked us in or collected headshots.  No one seemed to be in charge.  In addition, women and men were auditioning together, which is unusual, yes, but also doubled the number of people there and added to the chaos.

At 2:00 on the nose, half the group rushed the studio.  I was fine going in the second group until the peon came out to tell us that the first group would take an hour and that we could come back then.  We all looked at each other, astonished.

There is no reason for a dance call of 30 some people to take an hour.  I firmly believe that the first round of an audition should be tambe, pas de bourree, pirouette. Then make a cut.  You can tell within 16 counts if somebody can dance or not.  Beyond that, it’s a matter of style.

But what was the style?  We all crowded around the window of the studio, bitchiness dissipated.  We watched the first group of deer-in-the-headlights dancers getting pummelled by an evil, flingy, lyrical jazz routine that was full of angst, twitching and blatant overindulgence.  We all turned to each other like, “What the hell?”  It was stuff out of So You Think You Can Dance, the final four.  I’ve never auditioned for that show.  I don’t think I can dance that well.  From the looks on my fellow dancers’ faces, they didn’t, either.

A few people had the audacity to leave.  Those remaining talked about leaving or joked about it.  But what would we tell our agents?  An hour later we all filed into the room.  Still, no one collected headshots.   At any time, I could’ve slipped out of the room and no one would’ve known.

Except that despite the difficulty, I almost had it.   I kept tripping up over a series of turns near the end that I couldn’t quite coordinate.  I was later to find that no one could.  Ninety percent of us biffed that sequence.  Part of the problem was the room was so crowded that no one could do it full out.  Because of my long arms and legs, I am always terrified that I’m going to nail somebody.  I didn’t hit anyone today, but another leggy dancer whacked the tiny Asian in front of her in the back of the neck!

Now, if somebody whacked me in the back of the neck, I would go, “That’s it!”  And I would definitely leave.   But not this little thing.  She walked in a circle for a second, rubbing her neck, then put on a brave (stupid) smile and said, “I’m okay!” No one believed her, but she kept on dancing.  She did not get kept in the end.  She had a really shitty afternoon.

At the end of the day, I never did get that turn section right.  When it was over, I was happy to get home.  Lunch had consisted of a sugar-free Red Bull and trail mix.  I was desperate for carrots, hummus, a shower, and a cold Presidente, although not necessarily in that order.