In the ballet world, auditions are a fact of life.
Sometimes you’re competing against thousands of ballet students for a scholarship to a summer intensive, sometimes you’re rivaling hundreds of young dancers for a spot in a professional company, and sometimes your up against 25 of your closest friends and colleagues for a role in an upcoming ballet. Regardless of the exact setting, the pre-audition jitters are universal.
Friday was FBP’s first full day back to work (thanks, blizzard!), and we were welcomed warmly back to the studio with an audition. Of course, this came after I overslept, lost my keys somewhere in my own apartment and almost wiped out in the snow on my walk in. I blame those pesky pre-audition jitters. Nonetheless, not a particularly good start to my day…
Now, the first day back after a two-week
nacho-eating-marathon resting period is a lofty endeavor in and of itself, but dancing your first class back while being stared down by Jorden Morris, the mysterious Peter Pan choreographer whom you’ve never met, is a true challenge. I entered the studio the same way I always do, warmups in hand, back contracted and shoulders rounded to keep the cool draft off my chest, and feet scurrying quickly beneath me. I stretched my quads, hamstrings, calves, hips, warmed up my back, did some ab exercises. Then the waiting began. The ballet mistress and several dancers would be arriving late, the roads were terrible, our director announced. After 20 more minutes of excessive calve stretching and crunches, the last dancer settled into their place at the barre and we began with pliés.
Somehow we all made it through that painful first class back, only to be rewarded with a rather awkward waiting session between the audition and the cast posting. We all shimmied back into the warm-ups we’d shed during class and rolled out, stretched out, ate apples and checked
Instagram important emails, trying to keep things light and ignore the obvious tension in the air. That’s when something strange and unexpected happened. Our artistic director entered the green room and calmly told us that an ex-FBP principle dancer, Jaclyn Ricci, also the younger sister of a current FBP dancer, had passed away the night before. I felt my hand clap over my gaped mouth and I froze for a minute. She was 36. I just saw her two days ago. This can’t be real. The tangible stress in the room was abruptly cut with a collective held breath. A dark cloud hung above us. Then the casting went up.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again; being a ballet dancer is one of the most intense jobs in existence. Far more theatrical than the stories our bodies tell on stage, the day to day life of a professional ballet dancer is never lacking in drama.
I would like to dedicate this post to Jaclyn Ricci. She was a beautiful dancer, warm spirit, and an inspiration to so many dancers, including myself. Her bright smile and poignant sense of humor will live on forever in our memories. RIP.
PS- stay tuned for an update on the outcome of the Peter Pan audition!