Back to Seattle! We were graced with good weather this time. Global warming is really doing its thing.
This audition was at the same place, the PNB school in Bellevue. It’s a gorgeous location with gorgeous classrooms and a nice waiting area. It would have been great if only the GPS lady hadn’t led me into a neighborhood, claiming that I had arrived at my destination as I stopped to turn around in someone’s driveway.
There were probably forty or fifty people at this audition, with a line leading up to the registration table. This was a more structured affair than the LED audition, and I recognized myself in the nice girl at the desk taking forms and stapling headshots to resumes. It was the sort of thing I used to do at NWDP in Portland; it was odd to be so near dancers so nervous but to not be one of them. I wondered if she was a dancer herself or if she just liked to work in the dance field.
The prospective Whim W’him dancers filled the wide hallway, waiting for the classroom to open up. These were my people. Mustard socks and utility pants everywhere, no pink tights as far as the eye could see. Dancers milled around with their headphones in, rolling out or planking or else chatting with their friends. In all my excitement to see my Seattle dance friend again, I kind of forgot that the audition page said to warm up beforehand because it would not be provided. Still, we got our joints lubricated while we caught up.
We were in either the same classroom as the LED audition or else the one right next to it. It’s decent sized, but there is a stark difference in the room when there are ten dancers auditioning versus forty. The room was immediately humid from all of the bodies, and I was already cold and sweaty, the sort of sweaty that doesn’t feel good deep in your muscles but the kind where your chin is moist.
Olivier Wevers was tall and statuesque as you’d expect a former PNB dancer to be, and he had a cool accent (when he called my name for my group it sounded pretty cool because he said Alek-san-dra with a soft a; I’m going to start saying my name like that).
He started off the audition by joking about the severe lack of space and then I really got on board with him because he said that he didn’t want to see us show off and that it actually really turned him off of dancers who seemed to try to show off and just do tricks; he wanted to see who we were as dancers. So this was literally the exact opposite of what we were told at the Royal Caribbean audition. I’m not trying to pass a judgement here, but this is a reason why it’s good to go to a lot of auditions – find out what choreographers/companies share your values and find them, and also to practice versatility.
Before he taught the phrase, he talked about how he liked “sickle pickle,” a sickled foot with a flexed toe with strength and energy radiating from it. It’s an active foot, he said, and he showed how you could be ready to move soon as you put your sickled pickle down on the ground. He also talked about how he liked bent legs, but bent in an alive sort of way, like you were squeezing a beach ball between your knees. Open and voluminous. The last little point was about hands. This dude was going through a real black-swan-esque hand phase. He didn’t just want ballet hands, he wanted the stark ballet hands we had all been taught not to do and that I had just spent the last five years trying to relax.
The phrase was short. I was glad that I was in the front, and he never had us switch lines. There were a few run and slide moments, and so we never had enough room to really do it full out until we did it in groups of six in front of him. He did break us in half to practice with the music before we went for the real deal, though, and that’s when we did it with the music. He didn’t use counts, but you could see the moments he wanted to you hit. I am really into this sort of musicality, so my only struggle was actually being able to get off the ground in time to make some of the hits.
We broke up into groups of six. We cycled through the groups twice. There were a lot of guys. Probably about ten or eleven, which seems like a lot to be in a room at one time. We then stayed in our same small groups and did some improv.
Wevers told us again not to show off and to just be ourselves. He told us not to bother looking at anyone else. Unfortunately, as we observed, while pretty much everyone had at least some nice moments, everyone was very internal. It came off as very dramatic and pained, and I realized that this truly was a room full of contemporary dancers. There were many torso jerks and internally rotated arabesques. While it was all nice, I would have liked to see people being able to see what was going on around them or noticing the other dancers, but I’m not the one with the company.
We did the phrase in our groups a third time, at which point I panicked and realized that the phrase had fled my body soon as the improv section was over. I moved to the front of my group when we went this last time, but I feel like I really dropped the ball. I know I definitely forgot one of the black-swan-hands moments, but I did a really great slide…so there’s that.
After a short break, Wevers made the dreaded cut. He made a few topical jokes that put us all at ease – We’re keeping all the boys – yes I know, those bastards…. and called maybe about 1/4 of the girls’ names? These people were kept for partnering.
My inside source friend who was kept in this second group, which stayed until the end of the audition (yay Idaho dancers!) said that everyone in this smaller group seemed to know each other, and Wevers seemed at least familiar with them. This just reaffirms what I already knew about going to class every chance you can. I can see why you wouldn’t want to hire someone who you’ve just seen once, unless they are crazy amazing magically good and just somehow never was in the area before. You’d want to know what you were getting into, hiring someone into a company where you’re rolling in each others’ sweat and traveling in close quarters.
So I’m definitely going to some master classes soon as I can, and when I move over to Seattle, I’ll be at all of them. They don’t seem to do them a whole lot, but there’s a few every few months or so. I really like the very contemporary style. It’s very much different from the earthy modern that I’ve trained in but still fun and satisfying, and of course I want to keep learning as much about everything as I can.
My Seattle friend and I hung out for awhile and stretched and chatted while we waited for our other friend, watching the other rejected dancers slowly filter out of the facilities. There were some really amazing dancers cut, so I didn’t feel terrible (much like the Vegas audition), but I get annoyed at how isolated we are in Idaho. When I auditioned in PDX, it was nice to feel sort of prepared from taking choreographers’ classes for a few months as prep.
One thing I noticed about this audition was the importance of attire and appearance. Wevers wanted us in socks, so everyone wore socks, but there was a girl in bright red socks and a girl in mustard socks, and they both got into the second group.
I’m not saying that colorful socks make a difference when you don’t put in years of focused practice, but I think maybe the kind of person to buy bright red socks and decide to wear them to an audition is perhaps the kind of person to make smart artistic decisions at auditions. I also think that the socks set these girls apart; Wevers called out mustard socks girl, having forgotten her name, so they were at least an identifying characteristic. She also had mustard pants, but she had taken them off once we started dancing.
Wearing black doesn’t do you too many favors, and wearing too many layers isn’t great either. If you’d have shown up in a leotard and tights or booty shorts and a crop top, you would have looked like you didn’t know what you were auditioning for. Another reason to really research what and who you’re auditioning for and to take class from these people.
Everyone had their own distinct style and personality that you could see through their chosen dance attire, though, and I suddenly have the hankering to get some high waisted plum colored pants.
Even though I got cut, I feel like I’m getting better at auditioning. I wasn’t so nervous that I was shaky. I was able to stay balanced, mostly, enough to perform the choreography even though I’m sure my arms were hella superfluous. I didn’t lose my head at all, and I remembered the choreography, even after a break.
What I want to keep working on is translating a half-marked version of a phrase into the full out thing. So often, there just isn’t room to do it FULL OUT until you’re in small groups. I felt like I was trying to stay controlled too much.
This audition was much less of a class than the LED one. We were only in the studio for an hour/hour and a half, and we were watching the groups for much of that. I had more fun at the LED audition and felt more relaxed because I had enough time to work on the choreography on my own. It felt weird that the LED audition was free and felt like an awesome class but this one cost $15 and was comparatively little dancing (note that I don’t have a problem with this; after all, these companies have not a lot of money and they have to rent out the space from PNB and take time out of rehearsal schedule for it). This audition was much more of an audition. I did appreciate the lack of numbers, though.
Well. On to the next one. I got some Pike’s Place scallop chowder and a mocha canoli out of the day, so it wasn’t a total loss. And now I have a better idea what to expect next time.