A Dancer’s Details: Overture

  • Kirti Daya

This four-part series goes behind the scenes of a musical cast member, from the audition process to final stage performance. Join in for a weekly rendition of what happens in between!

It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning when I made my debut in the rehearsal space. But before we talk about my underwhelming entrance and what went on in that rehearsal space, let’s do like Sister Maria and start at the very beginning.

I saw the audition call on Instagram funnily enough, I guess that’s every artist’s new preferred medium, and immediately dismissed it. It had been two years since I was involved in a production of that magnitude (and we’re talking ALL the magnitude, cast, budget, expectations) and I’m one of those people who rather avoid rejection completely than try and not succeed. Then I heard that a dance colleague of mine had been cast as a lead and a few of my friends were planning on auditioning. Needless to say, my Fear of Missing Out™ got the better of me.

I called to book an audition slot, my only specification being “as early as possible”, that way if I didn’t get the part, nobody could have placed me at the scene of the crime. Like I always say, the only thing worse than being rejected, is being surrounded by those who know. My audition piece was a medley of three genres: Classical, modern and pop. I figured they had to accept me based on SOMETHING RIGHT? Well. Halfway though, I forgot my choreography and made up the rest of the moves on the spot. However they must have really liked my improvisational skills because three weeks later I got the call from the director herself.

Walking in that first morning, felt nerve-wracking and I was almost immediately intimated by everybody else in the room. There’s something weirdly unnerving about beautiful women stretching by contorting their bodies into literal pretzels as well as having the ability to do the full splits whereas I recently celebrated the fact that I could touch my knees with my head (you know the warm-up I’m talking about). All I remember is sirens going off in my head and that pesky little voice saying “What are we doing here? It’s not too late; just leave while you have the chance.” However, by then, the director had spotted me and had started to make her way towards me. So I guess you can say that it was too late.

After introductions had been made, a background into the storyline had been given, and expectations had been laid out, we got to work. Now it was too soon to judge any of the cast members (nobody reveals their true colours on the first day) however it was pretty obvious to spot who was vying for teacher’s (or should I say, director’s) pet and who was there to just dance. When learning new choreography I like to stand in the middle line, just off-centre. That way there’s no pressure of being in direct eye line of the choreographer, but still gives me the chance to stand out once I’m comfortable with the choreography.

Speaking of which, the choreography was COMPLETELY foreign to me. I’m a right dominant dancer, which unfortunately did not resonate well with the left dominant choreography. Being right dominant means starting moves using either your right hand, right shoulder or right leg. Every move felt strange, every turn counterintuitive, and I found nothing coming naturally to me. So I took note of the placement of every limb during every move, the direction in which it faced and the prep needed beforehand. I tried to be easy on myself, because chiding oneself in the middle of rehearsal helps NOBODY, trust me, suddenly you can’t remember anything including the moves you already know. It was also quite comforting knowing that I was surrounded by other right-dominant dancers who were also not having the best of times. But by the time we were doing clean-up (once the item was fully taught, we would go through it again step-by-step to ensure everybody was uniform) I had gained enough confidence to wipe the frown off my face and begin to enjoy the item by smiling and singing along.

And just like that, the process had begun. Having to cancel social engagements for future rehearsals, meeting the other cast members, practising new choreography and having to memorise new steps; all these things made the idea of the production very, very real. But there was still so much more to come.