Like so many, my first audition was for a role in The Nutcracker. My eighth birthday had fallen in February of the previous winter, and having finally reached the age requirement, I spent six months excitedly preparing. I was one plan-happy, eager little girl- that is, until the day of the audition. I freaked and decided the thrill of the big stage would no longer outweigh the terror of the audition process, and I would “not like to do this at all, thank you very much.”
My gem of a mother knew better than to succumb to my nerve-induced sudden change of heart, so she took me to the audition anyway, thank goodness. As you may have already guessed, it was a total blast and I was elated. I came home and reenacted the entire audition for my mom, showing her how we’d shuffled across the floor like angels and even temps lie-ed with imaginary dolls like party girls. I impersonated the artistic director’s Serbian accent as he thanked me, “Number Seventeeeeen” again and again to make my mother laugh, and we started to imagine what the dressing rooms at PPAC might be like. I repeated my version of the audition for my (patient) mother every night, while we waited one very long week for the casting to be available. Seven days later, auditionees were instructed to call the studio to see if we’d made it onto the list (#itwas1999). I stood by the phone in the kitchen with bated breath while my mom called in. A strange sort of blue took over her entire face. She hung up, shook her head, and hugged me.
I remember quite clearly the next two hours of sadness. I ran straight for my swing set in the backyard, flopped onto my favorite swing with the padded blue chains and white rubber seat, and cried. I’m sure there was some dramatic singing of a ballad (I think I was pretty into this one at that time), and lots of sad, slow swinging. My mother followed me out to the swing set and, earning the place she defends to this day as my #1 supporter, cried right along with me. We hugged and dangled from that swing like a couple of soggy sponges until the familiar high-pitched growl of the landline telephone shrieked from the house. My mom ran in to put it out of its misery and returned moments later with that golden light back in her face. “You got in.”
Apparently, half of the cast list had been misplaced. I’d been “in” all along. But those crucial two hours when I thought I hadn’t made it taught me a very powerful lesson. In those few hours, I grew my thick skin. Though it looked like a pity party (well, it was a pity party), those tears would be the fuel in my fire for a career in the rather merciless world of ballet. To this day, my mother and I still half-jokingly chant, “Don’t count your nuts before they’re cracked.”
Never take anything for granted. There is really no such thing as a “given”. As a reward for sticking it out through this brash life lesson from the leaky eyes of an 8-year-old, I give you this very derpy me, in my first role with a professional ballet company: