“Did you see that girl they kept?”
“The leggy one – I know! She had nice lines, but she wasn’t anything special.”
These are just a few classic throw away comments as disillusioned dancers descend dingy stairs that lead back to dressing rooms. There is no denying it: being cut after the barre is miserable and unfair. It feels almost like a personal insult, and the first reaction is to rail against those who were kept, and those who did the choosing. Where is the fairness in it? ‘I came, I paid, I did not conquer,’ we say inside, searching for some justification to our prompt dismissal. We criticise and analyse – who can we blame? ‘They didn’t even let me dance,’ we murmur, anguished at the injustice of it all.
The bittersweet truth of the audition circuit today, is that the high and ever improving quality of dancers seeking employment means that a Director could essentially take a random ‘eyes closed sample’ of his 200 plus auditionees, and still find plenty of talented and deserving dancers for his contract. And with the jobs becoming increasingly scarce, us dancers patiently stand in zig zag queues, punish our bodies with 6 am flights and lug round ‘carry-on’ suitcases with the undying notion that this next audition might be ‘the one.’ And it may. Whilst some of us are sitting glumly on Stanstead-Victoria buses, contemplating our next foray in the Dance Magazines Auditions Listings, one lucky girl is phoning her mum to break the good news. Whilst the rest of us are picking ourselves up again (for we are a wonderfully resilient breed!), someone somewhere is blissfully imagining a future of glittering premieres and tearful curtain calls. Or more likely, she is simply relishing the prospect of what we all crave – stability, a place to dance and the satisfaction that all those auditions have finally paid off.
Few dancers have ‘had it easy.’ Marianella Nunez, just 16 years old and far from home, arrived at the Royal Ballet Company after a stressful year fighting for a work permit, only to be told on her third day that the Royal Ballet would be closing. In interviews about her time at the RBS and her early years in the company, she recalls a past far removed from the effortless shoot to fame that we all imagine. Carlos Acosta endured four ankle operations and a year without dancing, before claiming his place as one of the World’s most famous and well-loved dancers. These may be examples in the extreme, but jobs do become available. Directors do fall in love with people on sight, and those chances that you spend your nights dreaming about can become a reality. One girl’s broken rib is another girl’s foot in the door. One woman’s happy pregnancy is another’s chance to shine.
So tonight as I struggle to stay awake on this FR8547 back to London, and as I contemplate doing this all over again next weekend, I urge my fellow auditionees to think of her – the girl who got it (nice lines and all) – not with resentment, but with a sense of triumph. There are enough people and things to put us down in this crazy world which we have chosen, without us doing it to each other! So maybe you deserved it more than she did. Or maybe you just missed out without knowing it. And maybe your dream ticket out of open class is just one more Ryanair flight away. But whatever happens, just take a moment to be happy for her. Let’s show ‘em that we are not a bunch of Black-Swan-esque psychos; just because we work in a competitive world, doesn’t mean it cannot be a supportive one too. For on a day where I got up at 6 am after three hours sleep, arrived to register at 9, began class at 3pm and was on my way home by 3.25, a girl needs something to be a bit cheerful about! So, successful candidate, whoever you are, I salute you!
By Julia Davies