I pulled up to the gymnasium, wired on coffee and nerves. I looked at the clock: 9:30 AM. I’d officially been up for more than 24 hours.
I sighed and rested my forehead against the steering wheel. In just thirty minutes, this would all be over. In thirty minutes, I would continue on with my life as if I’d never accidentally agreed to audition for a national reality show I wasn’t prepared to audition for.
Hah— how’s THAT for a sentence I never thought I’d verbalize.
Only in my world would I have agreed to sub-in for a dance gig while unknowingly agreeing to represent a dance troupe at their America’s Got Talent callback. And only in my world would I have thirty minutes to meet my partner, learn aerials, and perform for the judges. You know, after a sleepless night and a quick choreography rehearsal the night before… At a nightclub.
If I was someone else, I would have laughed. After all, it was all SO ridiculous. But I was just nervous and shaking like a leaf, unsure if I would make it through the next half hour. I hadn’t danced in months or competed in years.
After I’d torn my both meniscuses in my knees from dancing with bad technique, I’d shied away from dancing all together. And when performing aerials, you have to fully trust your partner. Especially when you dance a dance that makes you do insane crap like this:
The worst part was I didn’t even know my partner. And he would have all of thirty minutes to catch me up to speed. No pressure. No worries.
I walked inside and upstairs to the rehearsal space. The other dance members smiled and stretched their bodies out. We started going over choreography that I’d been given the CliffsNotes to the night before.
I met my partner, a tall choreographer named Jonathan with a thick Italian accent. I would later learn he’d worked for all the great superstars, most recently J-Lo. He was very kind and a strong lead, which made me comfortable on the ground with him.
When we were warmed up, it was time to practice air. Jonathan kept asking me if I knew this trick or that one.
Of course I knew them. I’d even successfully landed a few… Three years ago. It wasn’t exactly like riding a bike. So I stared at him blankly.
We went through the motions, slowly doing handstands into pancakes and preps into an A-frame. I was feeling okay with these (given we just started partnering together ten minutes ago). Then he asked me about this backflip called the Knicker Bocker. I froze; I’d never successfully landed this aerial.
“You’ll be fine,” he encouraged, squeezing my hand. “All you have to do is think about flipping yourself and you’ll land just fine.”
Right—do it on my own… ‘Cause I was so graceful. I nodded and we prepped into the aerial.
In my attempt to flip back, I clocked him in the head with my knee.
“Oh my God— I’m so sorry!” He set me down and shook his head.
“It’s okay. No worries. You’re really long so just remember to tuck in.”
We worked on it a few more times. I landed but I wasn’t as fast as he wanted me to be. At this point, we only had about five minutes until the audition so I was just thrilled I wasn’t on the floor.
Jonathan squeezed my hand again. It’s only a minute and a half routine, I thought to myself.
The casting director and her assistants set up their audition area inside the studio. We waited outside, watching jugglers and hoop aerialists warm up. I wondered how much notice they were given for their audition.
We only had to wait a few minutes. Soon enough we were called in to perform.
The music started, and we were off.
I don’t remember much about the performance except that I remembered the choreography. We did our solo performance and threw the Knicker Bocker. I landed it and we kept dancing.
Ninety seconds later, we were panting and leaning on each other in our line-up. The panel clapped and told us they’d review all their audition tapes that evening and get back to everyone at a later date.
We left in smiles, patting backs and exchanging hugs.
My friend Andrew, who had walked me through my nerves the night before, was blowing up my phone. I called him as soon as I got in my car.
“Well?” He asked, “How did it go?”
“I landed everything! AND I didn’t screw it up!”
Andrew laughed. “See? I told you you’d be fine.”
“It’s hard to say if we’re what they’re looking for. After all, lindyhop can be so confusing for anyone who doesn’t dance it,” I thought out loud. “But again, I didn’t screw it up. So I’m considering this a win.”
“As you should.”
“And NEXT time, I will ask more questions before I agree to do something.”
He laughed again, repeating, “As you should.”
I was quiet for a moment, and then continued. “But you know, I suppose there is another lesson in this for me.”
“Well, I had all of what— an hour-and-a-half of prep for this experience? And I didn’t quite suck at it. So I guess this shows me that showing up is half the battle. BUT if given enough time and preparation in an area I REALLY feel I excel in, I MAY in fact be kind of a badass.”
He stifled a laugh. “Yeah, I’d agree with that, too.”
I thanked Andrew again for his support and got off the phone, putting my car in drive.
So now that I’d had this very unique practice opportunity, the question was… What did I want to really take a chance on?