On Tuesday 13th, October 2015, I attended an audition at the Kirov Academy, in Washington DC, for American Ballet Theater’s version of Sleeping Beauty. The ballet would be performed at the Kennedy Center, and any children that would get the parts would perform alongside the rest of the company. There were two parts I could potentially be in, the violin pages and the garland waltz. I was auditioning for the violin page. We arrived at the Kirov and went in to an unused studio for registration. Hundreds of bodies soon filled the room. Parents waited in the 40 ft long registration line while the students warmed up around the sides of the room. We stretched, waited, warmed up and chatted. Then we waited some more and finally, they had all the kids for the audition line up in one long line. I peeked around the gaggle of ballerinas in front of me and saw the ABT staff funneling the kids through a door. They took each child that came through and measured them against a measuring tape that was tacked up on the wall.
Apparently, there was a height restriction on the audition and each student that wasn’t tall enough had to wait for the garland waltz audition instead. I held my breath as I stood against the tape and then released it as they shooed me on to the next room.I gave myself a mental high five for getting through. I followed the line into the next room and gathered at the back with everyone else. Yet again, we waited.
A few minutes later three people came into the room. I would come to know them as; Mr. Richard Bowman, a classically trained ballet teacher with one of ABT’s affiliate schools (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis); Mr. Jeremiah Bischoff, ABT’s Assistant Stage Manager; and the lovely Ms. Rhodie Jorgenson, an ABT and SAB trained teacher and whom I would later become a student of at Maryland Youth Ballet.
The audition then commenced, almost immediately after setting things up. There was no barre warm-up; Mr. Bowman went straight to the dance. There were around one hundred of us which he organized into eight neat rows. Each of the eight rows learned a separate spot, but the basic steps were the same just with alternating directions. It was a short combination, just a fraction of the whole dance. Next, they had one person from each of the eight lines go in the corresponding spot. They rotated through the groups a few times and I tried to perform my best. And then there was the first cut.
They started calling off random numbers on a list ” 17, 84, 35, 102″ and so on. I waited in anticipation for my number, 15, to be called out. I willed them to say it out loud, but still resigning myself to not hearing it to save myself from disappointment. I waited through an agonizing half of a list, and then:
That simple 15 sent me practically into hysterics, even though that was only the first cut. I think I concealed it well though and kept my composure through a small smile. I continued on with the audition and performed it for them a few more times. I noticed the people around me were barely smiling, 70 people and the majority had straight faces. I decided that the smile I wore made me stand out and that I wouldn’t be discouraged by the blank faces around me.
The next cut came. About 55 were left. We all performed again.
Another cut. I still waited and willed while they read out numbers. I was still in. Again, we danced the combination for them. Around 30 still waiting and pushing themselves to be noticed.
Then another cut. Twenty people were left now. They brought us closer to them and had us line up in height order. I figured they were assessing and evaluating heights, trying to figure out what heights and which combination of performers would work.
They had us perform it one more time. I put all the emphasis I could into it. All the corrections and things Mr. Bowman told us to focus on.
After finishing our final run-through of the dance they had us reassemble in height order, one last time. I tried my best to look presentable, but their eyes that were running over our numbers and checking their clipboards made it difficult. I found myself holding my breath in even greater anticipation. Mr. Bowman started listing off numbers, “89, 91, 63….”.
And then finally-
My heart lurched in triumph and the grin plastered on my face grew five times the original size. I was taking it in much more excitement then all the relaxed girls around me, who must have been older.They told us to get our parents so they could listen to the details of rehearsals. Despite my trying to act cool like the other girls, tears came to my eyes. I know how undeniably cheesy that sounds, as some people have been in numerous Kennedy Center performances, yet it was still a enormous step for me. I practically ran to get my mum and tell her the good news. Her face instantly turned to a frown when she saw the tears in my eyes. I rushed forward giddily and stumbled over my words as I said that they wanted to see her. Understanding dawned on her as she realized that I got in, and we walked back to talk to Mr. Bischoff.