Saturday, 29 September 2012

Oh Hat! Measure me!

Every time my cell phone made a sound this week I hoped it was an email, or call or a sms from my director. Every time I felt the vibration in my pocket, or heard my cell phone I rang I hoped I would be receiving the confirmation that I will be leaving for Cape Town next week. My hopes were ignited when I received a phone call eatly Monday morning from my agent’s wife. I didn’t recognize the number on my screen as my cell rang, so I answered slightly apprehensively. She told me that she couldn’t confirm anything, but that the wardrobe department wanted my sizes. I told her the sizesI knew, and asked if she wanted anything more specific? It's really hard giving people sizes, because they tend to be different from store to store. I tend be one size in Woolies, and a larger size in Mr Price (which is rather bad for my self esteem!). She said she would email me if there was anything else. The next day I received another email. They were rather specific in the measurements that they wanted from me: My hate size, my glove size, my inseam, my waist, my sleeve, my suite size, my neck, my height and my weight.

I panicked. I do not own a measuring tape, and who knows what sizes and hat gloves work in. And don’t think my inseam has ever been measured. My friend decided that I would be measured with a piece of string and a ruler. We asked around and found a colleague with a ruler. Now we were left with the conundrum of finding a piece of string that would be long enough to go around my waist. And something that didn’t stretch so that my measurements would be accurate. My friend and I stopped the telephone cord lying across the office floor. “Isn’t there a spare telephone cord around here somewhere?”
I had found the said cord while cleaning out the cupboard of the lecturer whose position I would temporarily be filling in for while she was on leave. I fished it out of a box of odds and ends, and we started the process. After measuring my waist we were slightly stumped. I googled: “How to measure glove sizes”. Google quickly provided me with a site, complete with a table and diagram, showing me how to measure my hands across the knuckle, and which size corresponded to the circumference of your knuckles. My 15cm knuckles meant I was a size Small. Then we did the hat size. “How to measure hat size”. I was again provided with instruction, around the head, three quarters of an inch above the ear. I still do not know how much an inch is, as I grew up using the metric system. I used the converter on my cell phone to figure out roughly how many centimetres that would be. My friend measure my head, we looked up the appropriate size on the table, and we documented it (I am still not sure exactly how hat sizes work). This system of google and measure was used to measure my neck, inseam and sleeve as well. The sleeve was interesting, due to the email not exactly being specific as to what part of the sleeve they needed, so with thanks to google we measured from the middle of my back to my shoulder, my shoulder to my wrist and around my shoulder its self. I filled in my height, and my…uhm… weight. Let’s be honest, all of us ladies type in what we hope to be by the specific date, not what we are at the moment.

The very specific email was sent off. My measurements as accurate as a telephone cord and a ruler could do it. My agent was quite sure I’d get the job. Now I’m praying I’ll get the call!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Linking to Los Angeles Baby!

I survived the first call backs. I choreographed two sets of eight as I was told… and arrived more than on time for my timeslot. I danced, in frame with another girl, who danced her own choreography and nearly removed my head with a fan kick, but I kept my pose. I went out feeling that I had done well, glad that I had made the call backs, but not necessarily expecting anything more.

And then my cellphone ringed with my agents name across the screen…

“They are having second call backs this Friday evening. I’ll send you an email with your time slot”

Another round and I was still going strong.

According to the email I received We would be working with an American choreographer, and the apologetic email asked me to take specific notice of the change of venue, as the auditions would be held at a video conference centre so that the director in Los Angeles would be able to see us live…

It was Tuesday, video-linked call back would be on Friday. The diet was on. And I started to pray. I prayed constantly, and asked anyone who would listen to pray. I watched the Fosse based videos which were linked to me via email, I memorised the poses. I read up on Fosse. I watched Cabaret…again. I was an expert on the style, because the email told us we should be. I arrived at the audition on Friday evening and the tall American choreographer told us that they had ditched the Fosse idea and would go more typically Show Girl. Hmmmmmmm.

Matt was our American choreographer in South Africa teaching us the steps that we would be performing for the director. We 13 dancers assembled with all the glory we could muster in hot pants and fish net stockings, over the top make up and push up bras. We were ready. We also learned that there were 18 other hopeful Show Girls in Cape Town the day before. The odds doubled for getting one of the 7 shows, and the audition was on.

 The choreographer, who I am assuming is from ‘The South’  due to his excessive, and simultaneously sweet, use of the word ‘you’ll’. He punctuated his sentences with this word, and had all of us in the palm of his hand the moment he did the first step-cross-step (starting on the right leg you’ll). He even answered us with an Afrikaans phrase, and told us with grate glee how he had been stopped in a grocery shop in South Africa and women had a roughly 5 minute long conversation with him in Afrikaans: “She didn’t give me the opportunity to interject”.  He said all he did was smile when she smiled, and frown when she frowned and she moved on, none the wiser. Another phrase I picked up, and which I will forever repeat in a Southern American accent is “Wrong and strong you’ll”.

After he said it the first time, he felt the need to explain:

“If you make a mistake, just keep on going. Do it like everybody else is making a mistake. Wrong and strong. That’s what my dance teacher used to say”.  

I had often heard a similar sentiment from my mother, and had a warm, if somewhat theoretically incorrect feeling of universality and comradery with the tall tattooed American dancer.

 When we had an opportunity for break myself, and two other girls who were desperate for some of the powder in my car’s boot so as not to shine like glitter on the camera quickly ran to my car. One of their boyfriends also followed “Oh my gosh, the choreographer is so hot” the attached girl said. Her boyfriend was not impressed, but she quickly reassured him that the said choreographer was gay. When we returned to the room we were practicing in the tension was practically tangible. We all wanted this. Badly.

I repeated the steps ad nauseum over and over. In my head, doing it small, doing it big. All the while waiting for my turn in front of the camera. And before I knew it we were going in in groups of threes.

I was with two other dancers, whose faces were now familiar, and who I knew, in a weird sort of way although I didn’t specifically know their names, or had been introduced. We ran in the same circles, we were all feeling the same thing. We all hoped we would get and we all knew that not everybody could. We had bonded further than knowledge of first names, and we were in. Three very large TV screens were in the front of the room. On the centre screen sat a man in his late twenties, with long unruly hair and a cap on his head. This was the director, in Los Angeles. On the other two screen we could see ourselves. We introduced ourselves, we said what we did for a living and then we danced. For a second, just before the music started I felt sick. For a split second before I ripped myself out of it, put on my show girl smile and did the routine the best way I could. The worst mistake one could have made was to look at yourself on the screen. The moment I did, and I saw myself on a different side to what I felt I was I didn’t know which side was left or right, so I looked the director straight in his digital eye and did my best show girl smile. The audition was on.

 I phoned my mom during the hour ride back home from Pretoria. If nothing else, I had auditioned for an American director that day. I was in the second round of call backs.  I was considered. I was there.

And then my cell ringed today, and my agent told me nothing is confirmed yet, but they want my sizes for wardrobe…

Monday, 17 September 2012

When Divas don't call it.

I ended the previous blog entry on a meaningful ellipse...  As I was going on holiday that very Monday morning for a week I was assuming that I wouldn’t have much to post about this Monday . I assumed that I would just blog about the second audition I had had that week. I assumed incorrectly.

To get back to what I was intending to blog about today, the auditions I had attended now a week and a half ago were spread over two days. On the Thursday I did the cowgirl audition. On the Friday I auditioned to be a showgirl for the same advert. At least here they were choosing seven girls, and not just one. Any amount more than one usually gives one a lot of hope. So I headed off to the shows girls audition with a lot of optimism. Which was later dashed on on a diva's ego.

I found the venue for this audition, which was different to the first due to the nature of the audition, and the need for the appropriate floor which was not carpeted. When we had arrived we were told to get ourselves into groups of four. They started playing “And all that jazz” from the musical Chicago and we were told to create choreography in our groups of four. I stumbled into a group of three, and another dancer I didn’t know, named Tanya, made us four. Now, Tanya seemed very sure of herself, and in control. In short, rather dictating in this process of creating choreography for an audition all of us wanted. And wanted badly considering the percentage we would be getting for royalties. Now, to look good, one usually supports each other so that the entire group looks good. That’s what dancers do. Apparantly. 

When the groups started performing for the camera the casting agent suddenly announced to all that she required high kicks in our routine. It would have been quite useful to know this before the time so we could have choreographed them in. We quickly talked within the group and a hasty decision was made to work in the kicks at the end. We listened to the music to see how this might fit. Tanya had a problem with the timing. Tanya also had a problem with how long we should wait to start and where we should all be standing. It was handled. We listened as the next group performed to make sure everything would fit in with the music. We weren’t told precisely how many bars to choreograph, so we finished when our time to choreograph was finished. Tanya wanted to add more choreography. The other three of our quartet all put our T-barred feet down firmly. “Let’s rather to what we have well, then do a long piece which is ineffective and gets sloppy toward the end”.

Tanya agreed. Verbally.

We took our turn in front of the camera. The smiles and showmanship which were drilled into me from years of performing and experience came through, although the spacing was off I kept up with the decided routine, and then we hit the final pose, which I kept for a moment as is customary. I was on the end, looking away from the group, when I recovered Miss Tanya was soloing away, the other two were hitting poses, I was still standing still.
“Oh heck” was all I thought before I my body took over automatically and started hitting poses until the casting director finished the music. It felt like forever, but couldn’t have been more than 3 counts of 8. Miss Tanya finished her solo in the centre of the group striking a pose on the floor. I contained my rage, as invisibly as I could. Picked up my things with the rest of the quartet and headed for the exit. I was furious. I felt like an idiot.
As I walked out Tanya greeted, rather cheerfully and obviously chuffed with herself, having shown herself off as she did and headed out. The other two girls of our quartet looked at meaningfully, and one released a comment: “I can’t believe she did that. She literally pushed me out of the way”

The first thing I think I felt was relief. Relief that I hadn’t missed something, and relief that I wasn’t the only one who thought that the diva moment was fiercely inappropriate. And as usually happened, once an emotion is shared somewhere the logic kicks in.

“They won’t pick her. The casting agent will realise that we were supposed to finish and that she just carried on to upstage us. They won’t pick. She’s acting like a diva and she doesn’t even have the role yet. There’s no way they will take her” I said firmly, and hoped even harder. The other two laughed and we melted into conversation about how stupid we felt when we realised what was happening, how we all switched to auto pilot and how we all regretted it, and that next time we would walk off and let that person look like the idiot they were being.

Despite my own words, and the change in mood I was needless to say not exactly over-confident in my performance or my chances after the misadventure with Tanya. Hence my surprise when I say my agent’s name flashing on my phone as it wringed on Tuesday afternoon as I sat next to the pool at Sun City. My agent usually only calls when there’s big news. I dared to hope slightly.

“You have a call back. Its tomorrow morning. I’ll send you the email with specific information now. You need to choreograph two sets of eight”
I didn’t even need to wonder. I was definitely not receiving a call back for the damsel cowboy if I had to choreograph two sets of eight. I scoured the email with all the other names of the girls who had received call backs for the audition. There was no 'Tanya' on the list.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Heeeeeeeeeeeee Haaaaaaaa!!!!!

I received one of those late night emails from my agent. I had audition coming up for a major brand. I read through the audition brief attached to the email. It was to be in Rosebank, at three in the afternoon. There appeared to be two roles which I would be suited to, over two afternoons. The first was for a role entitled “Damsel cowboy”. The role required the actress to be able to ride a horse. Check. The other role which would suite for me was for a group of showgirls. The actresses for this role required dancing experience. Check.

So I did my usual pre-audition preparation, but this time would be the first time that I would be taking the Gautrain to an audition. I left my flat in the rain (trying my best to stop my hair from getting wet), dressed in appropriate cowboy attire and hat, and hopped on a train to Rosebank. When I arrived the wind all but blew me off my feet, nearly taking my dress with it. When the hail starting pelting my umbrella I was even more grateful for the train and that I had not been driving in the torrential rain, thunder and hail. After leaving the station my curls were blown into a near afro, and any thoughts of control which I might have had over my hair was fiction. But there was no time for taming, or turning back.

I eventually found where I had to be and got my now very usual form and number sticker. My photo was taken and I waited for my turn to go into the camera room. As per usual, I headed in with an always changing number of other hopefuls, and told what to do. We all did the usual name, age, etc. But what made this one different was that I was asked, on camera about firstly my acting experience, and secondly my horse riding experience. We were also told quite explicitly not to lie about our horse riding experience. This made complete sense to me, as we had to ride a horse in the advert.

I was then told, to pretend I was on a horse, being chased down by various other groups, and I was trying to get my horse to faster and faster. I comited to the rolethat I had to play. It was worth definitly worth the paycheck. Cowboy hat, boots and all I did the 'Heeehaaas', I motivated that horse, and I chased down my imaginry goal on my imaginary horse! This, however, was nothing compared to the showgirl auditions I would be facing the very next day…

Monday, 3 September 2012

A dancer's worth: Horton!

This past weekend I attended a dance workshop, specifically on the work of a practitioner named Horton. A physical theatre director I had worked under had done Horton work with the facilitator of the course advertised on my facebook page, and we had some of these exercises in our rehearsals. I thought it would be good to learn more about the style so I decided it would attend. I also knew that doing Horton work is quite hectic on the body. I expected to be stiff today. I didn’t expect that getting myself out of bed would be a challenge.

As I entered the building on the first day I didn’t know anyone. Attending courses close to where I grew up I would always know some of the people from competing against them, or from attending courses together over a period of years. A friend who wanted to attend the course with me couldn’t anymore, so I dragged my 24 your old self to a class that incorporated sixteen year olds. A part of me was quite scared that I would be the only ‘adult’ in the workshop, and that the rest of the dancers would all be school going age and I would end up feeling like a granny in a jumping castle. I arrived, and a few minutes later another lady arrived, in dancing gear looking slightly sheepish walked in. She was definitely not sixteen. We struck up a conversation, and I was very thankful to learn that she was 30, and a friend of hers who was also above 25 would also be attending! I was also thankful to learn that she felt exactly the same way I did!

The course consisted of four sections over two days: Two sessions of Horton training and two session of contemporary dance using these principles. After the first session I noticed that I had danced the nail polish right off my newly painted toenails. After the second session I noticed I had danced the skin off parts of my feet. By the morning of the second session I had a few well developed bruises. As I walked in to start day two I smiled at the now familiar faces. Although not knowing any of the names of the other girls we all shared a common experience. The stiff muscles which we all tried to get moving before we started the morning session. And the knowledge that the worse was still to come!

Stiff muscles, bruises and grazes aside, I had a good time. And as with all sessions of hard work, the moments of release from the extreme focus required for the exercises was even greater due to the intensity of the work we were doing. One of the most memorable moments was during the last fifteen minutes of the last session on Sunday afternoon. We were doing a series of strenuous  jumps which required one to jump, lifting your legs into a double stag. That is, one leg bent and raised in front of your body and the other bent and raised behind you while in midair. As soon as you landed out of this jump you jumped again switching legs. Across the length of a school hall. Needless to say it’s not exactly easy, and the first round ended in mostly confusion and some laughter as we tried to get height in the jumps while getting the correct placing and to actually keep moving the entire length of the floor. The facilitator said we should all concentrate on raising the front leg and the back leg would get into the correct position naturally and we tried again. On round two one of the younger girls in the group gave up on this and skipped across the hall, raising her front leg beautifully none the less, but completely forgetting that the back leg also had to work. The fascilitator turned around, holding her stomach to laugh. When she could speak again through giggles: “She looked like a fairy!”