Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I'm Gonna Live Forever
In May of 1982 I went to my first dance audition. I had just turned 16. The audition was for the Broadway department stores (whatever happened to that chain?). The audition notice in the newspaper announced that they were looking for high school age dancers to model their back-to-school line in a local tour. I had had no formal dance training at this point, just a huge desire to dance, fueled by my fanatical enthusiasm for the first season of "Fame," the TV series.
I hadn't even gotten my driver's license yet. My band geek friend, Dee Dee, was one of the sousaphone players in La Mirada High School's marching band. I paid her $5.00 for gas to drive me into Los Angeles for the audition. We made a day of it, driving in from the Orange County area with a couple of the other band geeks. The audition was at a Broadway department store in Century City, right by the 405 freeway.
I didn't have a head shot or resume. I didn't even know about those basic audition tools at the time. I wasn't sure what to wear. I ended up wearing my new Levi's 501's and my purple Britannia polo shirt. I wore a purple bandanna for a head band, figuring it would make me look more like a dancer, at least.
There was already a huge line of dancers when Dee Dee dropped me off. I got behind two girls who looked very professional in their leotards, tights, and leg warmers. I would've felt more intimidated by their confident appearance if they hadn't been so nice to me. They were Claire and Jill from Alhambra, and they did have head shots and resumes, along with their fancy dance wear.
The audition itself was a crowded cattle-call of a madhouse. I remember seeing a few other students from La Mirada High, including my Very Close Friend Erin. She was there with a few of the other LDS girls from her church. Erin looked cute with her long brown hair pulled to one side, held in place with a ribbon bow. She was a talented artist at an early age. At the audition she had worn a hand painted shirt with a calico cat and her name printed in large letters at the bottom. I thought she was smart to make herself stand out like that.
The dance routine for the audition seemed hard. I don't remember the combination, today. I'm sure that whatever the routine was for the first cut, though, would probably look very basic and simple to me, now. But back then, with not a single dance class under my belt, it seemed hard. It seemed like everyone else around me was picking it up while I tried in vain to follow them in the ordered steps.
But I loved it. Even though I couldn't do it, I loved being in the middle of an authentic dance audition. It looked exactly like what I had imagined it to be. It matched the images I had seen on TV about the contemporary dance world.
Dee Dee and the other band geeks came back from walking around the mall.
"God, it looks like 'Fame' in there," Larry, my fellow trumpet player said. And he was right. The packed room was full of young dancers, mostly female, stretching, practicing the dance routine, talking to each other, and waiting for their turn to audition.
Neither Erin nor I got hired for the Broadway's Back to School Tour. I did get a letter from them, though. I could tell right away that it was simply a courtesy letter because it was thin. It wasn't a thick letter full of forms to fill out, like the kind you get when you're admitted to a university. Still, it felt good to be acknowledged, as if they had actually remembered me from the audition.
Twenty-six years later, I am now living only a few miles away from Alhambra. I wonder what happened to Claire and Jill? I wonder what they've been doing for the last quarter century?