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…