Monday and Tuesday of this week were like complete deja vu of two of the most exciting days of last year for me: auditions for Radio City. This time it wasn't as stomach-churning - or not in the same way, at least.
Having already done the Radio City Christmas Show I was only required to re-audition by attending the callbacks on Tuesday afternoon, but it was "highly recommended" we attend the full process so that we'd know the audition choreography. Needless to say, I obeyed! Monday morning I got up way early (with little sleep, as usual lately...) and headed down to the theater for audition day one. Of course it was pouring rain and being me, I forgot my umbrella. I had an overstuffed bag with heels, various leotard choices, makeup, multiple pointe shoes, and my show shirt from last year. But, yes, forgot the umbrella.
I arrived on 51st street at 8:30 for the audition beginning at 10am, only to find a line of dancers already waiting. Last year I arrived somewhere closer to 9am but I ended up joining the line almost exactly where I had waited last year. Weird. But there happened to just exactly enough people in line to make my spot be under the Radio City sign overhang. No worries with the rain! I'm telling you, that theater gives me luck (let's just hope it continues that way...).
(forgive the poor quality cell phone pictures!)
I had my usual coffee and muffin in line casually as I eavesdropped on the other dancers: bunheads like me (or how I appeared last year anyway), serious competition girls, fresh high school grads, and other familiar faces all speculating about the day ahead. "I heard they don't hire you if you look young..." "Wait, don't they wear bear costumes?..." "I've auditioned five times and always get cut..." "My friend is a Rockette and she said..." I love people watching and just listening.
By the time they started to let us in around 9am the line was already around the block. Crazy! All I could think was how truly lucky I was to have had the opportunity that this many people were trying for. Even to know I did it once is huge for me. I say this every day, but I am SO grateful.
They gave us wristbands to mark us as "auditioners" and then let us through the stage door and up to the rehearsal hall. So familiar. I felt like I was home. We got up to the holding room (deja vu, again), filled out paperwork, handed in resumes and photos, and claimed stretching space. Luckily since I'm a repeat and an AGVA union member (and an early bird) I got into the first group to audition, but I found out after the fact that I actually could have shown up later and just walked right in and still gone with the first group. Oh well, more prep time.
By the time I put my bag down, went to the bathroom, and returned, you couldn't even see the floor in the holding room. Flailing legs, lipstick tubes, hair straighteners, character heels, and dance bags covered every square inch! I went back to my corner where I left my stuff and literally went under a table to stretch. Hah! The chatter in there was even better than in the line outside. I got to see friends from last year's cast and go over the dance combinations we knew were coming.
At 10am on the dot (they are so wonderful how they work by the clock) the first group of 80 of us went in the studio. The same familiar faces stood at the front of the room, ready to teach and judge us. I wore the same red leotard, black tights, and little black skirt I wore last year, and got myself in the same spot in the front just left of center as I stood last year. If it worked once, I hoped it would work again. Though this time I was prepared with heels (what did the little Taylor of 2008 know about bringing heels to an audition? Stupid.) and not wearing a bun (during show rehearsals they would tease me playfully for never having my hair down. So there you go ;). De-ja-vu.
They taught the combination quickly, but luckily it was a phrase I did exactly 110 times in the show run. We gathered on the sides and waited to dance it in groups of 3 for them to see us. The production manager lady called the first name. Then, "Taylor Gordon." I was in the very first group of the day. Yikes! Normally that would have made me immediately nervous, but I somehow felt more confident than ever being first, in the middle of the group of 3. Happily, that being first business didn't continue throughout the day, haha (though I was in the middle every time. Luck of the draw the way the names worked out).
It went fine, and then we waited for the other 80 people to dance. There are a lot of good dancers in New York City, let me tell you. It's hard to see why some people got cut and others didn't. Obviously I have more of an idea of what they're looking for now, but there's still something more...anyways when they announced the names to stay for the next round, I couldn't help but hold my breath and get a little shaky, even though technically I knew I had made it to the callbacks. You never know.
So the few of us returned to the holding room while sad faces left. And we waited. And waited. And waited. They took 4 or 5 more groups of 80+ people. Crazy! After more than an hour of waiting the rumor was that there was still a line around the block outside. There had to have been nearly 500 girls their auditioning for maybe 40 or so jobs, plus they still have to hold auditions in Chicago and LA next week. Wow.
It was a lot easier waiting so long this time as opposed to last year because I knew what was coming next: "ballerina bear" choreography! After they finished with the first cut of all the giant groups, they took the final 35 or so of us back into the studio to add on to the combination we had done earlier. And then, yes, pointe shoes.
It's very obvious that my ballet is what got me the job last year. There are only 3 "ballerina bears" in the show and if I didn't happen to have some ability in pointe shoes, I know there's no way my jazzerina skills would have been up to par. But for the audition process this time around the ballet was my very least favorite part! Mostly because I'm having major issues with my silly achilles tendon. Being in heels was really a treat for once, haha. The point shoes (which I've been trying to force myself to stay out of for fear of making my injury worse) were painful, not helped by the fact that I wore my last dead pair of shoes from the actual show (dyed unnaturally brown for the bear suit). But I wore them because they had the rubber on the tips so I wouldn't slip on the hardwood floor of the studio. That would've been the last thing I needed, a fall!
As we danced to the all-too-familiar Sugar Plum music, I had another moment of being SO grateful. There are exactly two people in the world who danced that variation center stage at Radio City Music Hall last year. I was one of them (my alternate in the other cast, the other). What a very nostalgic, strange, putting-things-in-perspective feeling.
Anyway, they made one last cut and then invited those of us left to the callback on Tuesday afternoon. Phew, day one over. As I packed up and left that day I passed all the guys lining up for their ensemble audition, wishing good luck to friends I knew auditioning for their first time.
Tuesday was more deja vu. I arrived an hour early and was led to the other studio upstairs there (as if I didn't know where it was) to stretch. We signed in and went over choreography and chatted with some of the guys from our cast last year who had just finished their callbacks. Then finally it was time to head back in to the big studio.
They started us with a brand new combination, but one I also remembered from last year's audition. I believe it's part of one of the touring versions of the show where some dancers are "Clausettes" and actually have short speaking parts. It's a cutesy little number and was actually quite fun to do. That day I wasn't in the first group to dance the combination in threes (yay) but I was in one of the early groups, which was nice to get it over with. I hate auditions where you're in the last group so you must watch anxiously and forget the choreography and get cold.
After that, we learned a song! Yes, singing. This was the part of last year's audition that STRESSED me out. Haha. Until then, I DID NOT sing. I still don't really, but after sort-of-singing (I admit, towards the end of the run sometimes I lip synced out of exhaustion) in the show last year I was much more comfortable. They're more looking for personality than a good singing voice, thank goodness. Last year they had us audition with "Need a Little Christmas," which was familiar at least. This time we sang, "Santa's Gonna Rock," also from a touring show. Unfamiliar, but a much easier tune to carry while dancing! If you know me in person, you know I'm extreeeemely quiet even just talking, never mind singing. But for the first time I think I was actually almost comfortable singing and dancing nearly alone in public, haha. I have the show to thank for that.
Later we reviewed the combinations we did Monday and did them again, this time so that they could video tape them. And make decisions, of course. It all seemed to go by much faster than last year, again maybe because I knew what was happening. It just goes to show that even if you don't get or want or are not ready for a particular job, it's so beneficial just to go to the audition to be more prepared for next time.
When dancing was done for the day, we returned to the holding room to fill out final paperwork, have our pictures taken, and have measurements recorded (only for the new people). We had to mark our preferences for which show we'd like to be in if chosen. Of course I put New York first, but honestly I would be so thrilled just to get in any of the companies! Besides NY, this year they have the arena tour (to a whole bunch of cities), a group for Pittsburgh/Seattle, another for Atlanta/Dallas, and one in Nashville.
I left that day saying a prayer as I headed into the elevator, stared at the "Rockette Operations" directory sign that made me laugh my first day there, slowly made my way out the stage door, thanked the security guard, and entered back into the rainy streets of reality. They told us the first casting phone calls would be made mid- to late June, but casting isn't finalized until August. Last year they called me in September.
There are a lot of people who have done the show for many years (some for a decade or more!) who don't think twice about getting to do it again. Some people from my cast were lucky enough not to have to re-audition. Lots of those of us who did are already planning their schedules accordingly as if they've already received their contracts in the mail.
I don't think that even if I were so lucky as to get the job for multiple more years in the future, that I could ever just assume I'd get such an opportunity yet again. I can't take something so wonderful for granted like that. Once was enough magic for a lifetime, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed until my phone hopefully rings this summer with my favorite 212-phone number...what I would give to do it again...
In other news, tomorrow I'm heading home to Mass. for my mom's studio's recital. Blogging and pictures to come as the weekend progresses!