“Shit!” Kam couldn’t help letting one or two vulgar words slip after the morning she had. Okay, that was a lie. She cussed like a sailor every day of the week, so the shitty morning really didn’t affect her vocabulary. She leaned over her bathroom counter and grabbed a cotton swab to get the extra mascara off her cheek. Her hands were shaking so badly she couldn’t even put her make up on correctly. She shook her head and tried again, praying that she could get it right this time—she was running incredibly late.
After a few more failed attempts with her make-up, Kam finally got the look she wanted, threw on her hot pink leotard and black spandex shorts and headed to her car, dance bag in hand. Within minutes, she was sitting outside her best friend’s house honking the horn. She knew Ellie always had a tendency of running late, but this was not the day to do so. This was the most important audition of their lives. Okay, so maybe that was a little dramatic, but since they were only eighteen, Kam figured they could be a bit dramatic now and then. Finally, Ellie made her way out of the large brick house, slowly meandering to the car idling at the curb.
“Come on, E! We have to be checked in within the next half hour!” Kam lectured as Ellie lazily threw her dance bag into the back seat and took her time settling into the passenger seat and closing her door.
“Calm down, we have plenty of time…in case you haven’t noticed, the venue is like, ten minutes away from my house. It’s no big.” Ellie rolled her eyes and buckled her seatbelt before checking her make-up in the visor mirror.
“Actually, little Miss Time-management, the convention center is at lease twenty minutes away without traffic, and there are going to be tons of people there, so there will be a ridiculously long line. Plus, we still need to stretch and get ready.”
“Dude, Kam, you really need to calm down. Take a deep breath. Drink some hot tea. Meditate.” Ellie closed her eyes crossed her legs in the car seat, and made that somewhat annoying “ommmmm” noise that people do when they pretend to know what they’re doing. Kam couldn’t help but shake her head and smile—sometimes her best friend was a nutcase.
“Seriously, stop,” Kam said, hitting Ellie’s left knee that was curled under her body, “that’s really dangerous. If we get into a wreck, you could lose your leg. And then you couldn’t dance. Then where would you be? You can’t risk that—we’re going to one of the most important auditions ever and you’re a good enough dancer to win it all…I don’t want you to risk losing all of that just because I may or may not be a shitty driver.”
“Well,” Ellie countered, “maybe you should watch the road as much as you watch me and we won’t jeopardize our future dance careers. It’s not that hard to stay out of a traffic jam. You need to calm the eff down. Seriously, you’re stressing me out.”
“Sorry, I’m just really freaking out about this. This is our chance, you know? I mean, I promised my parents that if I didn’t do well at this audition, I’d go to school in the fall. I don’t think you understand how important this is to me.”
“Honestly, K, I don’t understand why you’re so against starting college. You know you can dance for colleges, right? I mean, you’re super smart, it does seem kind of a waste to not even think about any school. There are some out there with really great dance departments.”
“Absolutely not. I want to be a professional dancer, not a part time-college dance team member. Plus, professional dancers are usually our age when they make it…or fail completely. If I go to school in the fall, I might as well kiss my dreams of being a professional dancer goodbye. I have to do well at this audition. It’s practically life-or-death.” Okay, with this one, Kam knew she was being more than just slightly overdramatic. She wasn’t sure what caused this uncharacteristic drama queen attitude. Usually, she didn’t have a flair for the dramatic, but something about this audition and the high stakes brought out the Blair Waldorf in her.
As they pulled into the convention center parking lot, Kam had to force herself to breathe—she was sure she would pass out before she even had the chance to dance on stage—maybe the large chai latte with two shots of espresso wasn’t the best choice of beverage this morning.
“This is it!” Ellie squealed with a smile before jumping out of the car and grabbing her bag. If only Kam could be as excited as Ellie—honestly, Kam had been scared to death for the past week. She stayed in the dance studio for hours each day after class, working on her solo piece and changed the choreography at least ten times. Slowly, she took a deep breath, grabbed her bag, and followed Ellie’s lead.
Kam hated to admit it, but Ellie was right. After they checked in, they had plenty of time to stretch, warm up, run their dances, and mingle with other contestants before taking their seats in the giant auditorium to watch the first routines. Once they sat down, Kam and Ellie spent the first few performances critiquing the dances, dancers, music choice, choreography, and wardrobe selection. Of course, for the primary audition, there was no costume department—no one was dressed perfectly for any specific routine; but at the same time, Kam would die before showing up to a professional audition wearing an electric blue leopard print sports bra with the same print on spandex booty shorts and cat ears. That’s just weird.
After a few critiques, Kam realized that she and Ellie were not the only ones laughing. A distinct male chuckle sounded every time she or Ellie commented on an outfit or horrible song choice. She and Ellie had been huddled to her right, whispering over the mutual arm of the chair; she hadn’t even noticed that a guy had sat down to her left. She stared at him for a second, wondering how long he had been listening to their comments about the competition. Apparently, she stared a second too long, because he quickly caught her eye and extended his hand.
“Hey, I’m Walker. I have to say, Siskel and Ebert have nothing on you two.” Walker smiled, and Kam couldn’t help but realize how out of place he looked. She was sure he was here because he lost a bet. He definitely looked more like a basketball or football player than a dancer. Her first clue that he was lost was obvious: he was much too tall to be a dancer. He had to be at least six feet tall (which, in the dance world, practically made him a giant). The second clue was that he was wearing an All-American letter jacket from a school she didn’t recognize. Last she checked, they didn’t give out letter jackets for dance. He was obviously in the wrong place.
“You know this isn’t the regional basketball tournament, right? I think that’s taking place a county or two over. This is the audition for a reality dance competition…” She didn’t mean to be rude, but she figured he was a little confused. Quickly, his eyes widened and a look of false shock spread across his face.
“You mean this isn’t a basketball game? NO WAY! Seriously, how dumb do you think jocks are? I can tell the difference between a dance audition and ten guys running around a court with a ball.”
“Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I just mean you look kind of out of place here. Are you sure you’re auditioning?” Kam’s arm almost went numb because Ellie kept hitting her for every inappropriate and rude comment that escaped her lips. She really didn’t mean to be rude. She was just shocked that someone like Walker would not only be a dancer, but be auditioning for the show.
“Yeah, pretty sure. I mean, I choreographed a solo and everything…” Walker narrowed his eyes and nodded a few times.
“Sorry my friend is being kind of a bitch,” Ellie said, glaring at Kam. “She’s kind of nervous, and sometimes that makes her, well, a bitch.” Ellie extended her hand past Kam, to Walker. “I’m Ellie, nice to meet you. This is Kam….she’s a bitch.”
“Thanks, El, I think he heard you the first three times. He gets it.” Kam turned to look back at Walker. “I’m sorry, again. Nice to meet you. If it makes you feel any better, I promise to not channel Joan Rivers when you audition. I’ll keep my mouth closed. Promise.”
Ellie snickered next to Kam, which resulted in a dirty look in her own direction. “Sorry,” Ellie said, “I just can’t imagine you keeping your comments to yourself if his routine sucks…no offense…I’m just saying, worst case scenario and all, there’s no way you’d be able to shut up.”
“I resent that! I’m sure Walker is a great dancer. I will absolutely be able to keep my mouth closed.”
“Well, as fun and insulting as this conversation was, I’m on deck. I guess we’ll see what you have to say about my routine…” With that, Walker stood up and walked to the warm-up area right offstage.
A few minutes later, both girls watched in silence as Walker’s tall frame took position at center stage. Soon, a few staccato notes were played, followed by the solid buzz of an electric down beat and a few other notes that somehow morphed into a melody. The girls focused their eyes on Walker, not sure what to expect.
Nothing would have prepared them for what they watched on stage—not only did Walker have a great sense of musicality, but his technique was flawless (Kam couldn’t help but be jealous, and her technique was always the best in her classes), and he could easily jump (what seemed to be) about five feet off the ground. Kam sat there, mouth agape, unable to look anywhere but at this perfect audition. And jeez, was it perfect. The music was great (edgy but accessible, popular without being cliché), his technique was to die for and his appearance was almost god-like (seriously…she wondered if he had to pull a Dorian Grey to be so attractive and so talented all at the same time; it was sickening, really). Kam had to admit it: this guy really caught her attention—especially after completing seven flawless fouettés and landing on one knee at the end of his routine, perfectly in time with the music. Damn, he was good. He could probably win the whole competition.
After the dance ended, Walker came to the end of the stage, standing in front of a single microphone. For a few moments, the only sound echoing throughout the auditorium was the sound of Walker’s sporadic breathing, trying desperately to return to its normal pace.
“So, Walker,” one of the members of the judging panel finally spoke, “what genre is your background in?”
“Well, I’m classically trained in ballet,” Walker replied, “with a few seasons on a mostly contemporary competition team.”
“Very interesting…are those the only styles you have experience in?” The same judge asked.
“No, actually, I have participated in just about every genre at one point or another. My mother owns a dance studio, so I’ve been training since I could stand—that includes training in tap, contemporary and all of its sub genres, hip hop, ballet, ballroom—you name it, I’ve probably danced it.” Walker smiled and shrugged his broad shoulders, giving off a total “boy-next-door” stereotype look.
At that moment, Ellie leaned towards Kam’s seat and whispered, “You know, it’s a good thing you don’t go for the all-American guy, right? Otherwise, Brad the Bastard might actually have some competition…” Kam snapped herself out of whatever daze she experienced while watching Walker. “What are you talking about?” Kam asked, trying her best to seem uninterested.
“Oh, come on, K.” Ellie countered, “You’re practically salivating. Seriously, you might want to close your mouth before he comes back over here. You’ll embarrass yourself.”
Kam just rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Okay, fine,” Ellie said with a sly grin, “You can pretend all you want that Mr. Tall, Built, and Perfect doesn’t make you want to dump that douchebag your dating…you aren’t fooling me for a second.” Then she faced forward, squaring herself in her seat. Kam could barely hear the few words she said under her breath: “It’s called denial, you might want to get acquainted with it…”
Before Kam could respond, Walker was back in his seat to her left. When she turned to congratulate him for making it to the next round (obviously), she was met with a knowing smile.
“So,” he prompted with raised eyebrows, “How’d I do?”
“Impressive,” she said with a slight grin. “Congrats on the next round… I’d love to stay and chat about how incredible you thought you were, but I’m up soon. Gotta go.” She slid past him and walked towards the preparation area to run her dance before she had to be on stage.
Kam stood center stage, all eyes gravitating towards her in the cavernous room. Though she’d been a nervous wreck all day (hell, she’d been a nervous wreck for about a month while preparing for this audition), as she stood on stage waiting for her music, her mind was empty. Calm. Serene, even. She stood in first position with her arms crossed at her chest, face turned to her left shoulder, tilting down slightly. As she heard the first notes of the piano in the song—Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” (she thought it was fitting)—she slowly planted all of her weight on her left leg as she lifted her right leg through developpé into a turned out penché, taking her time through the full eight-count. The next eight count was all about muscle control—in a way, the beginning was the most trying part of the choreography: a lot of slow movements that really tested a dancer’s muscle control. She kept perfectly still, only her right foot moved, slowly flexing for four counts, then going back to pointe.
Kam let out an inner sigh of relief—that was the part she kept messing up in rehearsals. She continued on, using the next eight count to turn her hips from turned out to directly under her as she grasped her right ankle with both hands moving into a straight scorpion. She made sure the keep her breathing deep and steady, just because this was the slow part of the dance didn’t mean it was easy—actually, thinking back, Kam had no idea why she put such hard tricks right at the beginning of the solo…that probably wasn’t her best choreography decision. At the end of the eight count, Kam let her right leg fall back to the ground, hook behind her left foot, and let the momentum turn her body over her right shoulder. From there, she slowly arched her back until her hands met the floor, arching her back and bringing her legs up into a double stag handstand. After walking on her hands for an eight count, keeping her legs perfectly in place, Kam set her feet back on the ground and stood up to face the audience (and judges). She let herself make eye contact with each judge for just a few seconds before resuming choreography—she built in this little pause, knowing how important it is to let the judges really see you and not just do tricks.
Quickly, Kam got back to the choreography as the music picked up tempo for the chorus. She performed a running prep into a front aerial, followed by arching back with her hands fanning out behind her, directly into the prep for four fouettés, right arm above her head in fifth position, left arm in front of her in first. In the middle of her fourth turn, she heard the music stop, signaling that the judges were ready to make a decision.
She knew that the judges didn’t usually take a long time to make a decision—they had a lot of people to see every day, and it was pretty obvious when a dancer had talent. Still, she was nervous about the fact that she barely got to perform any of her solo, only a few 8-counts. Granted, they were the hardest 8-counts of her dance and depended heavily on technique and talent, but still. She took a deep breath as she headed towards the small microphone that had been put upstage. She couldn’t help but tug on the small, skintight outfit—easy to dance in, awkward to stand in in front of over three hundred strangers.
When she got to the microphone, she reminded herself to take a deep breath and relax. The executive producer of the show spoke first:
“Hi there,” he said in a soothing, calm voice, “Kamilla Tilney?” He said after glancing at the paper in front of him.
“Yes sir, Kam is fine.” Kam had never gotten over the fact that her parents couldn’t spell the name Camilla like a regular person—they had to be “different,” but all that resulted in was people looking at Kam like she didn’t know how to properly spell her own name. Kam was definitely more a fan of traditional names (with traditional spellings), and she was convinced that the spelling of her name made her sound like a wannabe Kardashian.
“Right, then” The producer said with a smile, “Kam. I have to say that your technique is flawless. And you obviously have had a lot of practice and your muscle control is beautiful.”
Kam couldn’t help but smile and nod, whispering “thank you” over and over. She had known that her technique was the best in her class—she had been taking dance classes since she was two years old, never missing a day. She also happened to have perfect feet and excellent turn out, which was the most problematic for young dancers. Of course, Kam had done everything in her power to constantly be the best in class (and she wasn’t always the best; she had a hard time with a lot of the acrobatic tricks, they were impressive, but they took the most time for her to grasp). Her parents, however, didn’t understand why she was so stuck on dance as a career—in their eyes; dance was a pass time, a hobby. Mr. and Mrs. Tilney were also the academic type. It was hard for Kam to explain the artistic lifestyle to academic parents—things just didn’t always translate (like the concept of college). Kam shook her head to get the subject of college and her parents out of her mind—she needed to listen to what the judges were saying, now was not the time to get distracted.
“However, I am worried that all you do are acro tricks” the judge continued. “Don’t get me wrong, they were absolutely beautiful and well executed, but it seems as though there wasn’t a lot of feeling going into the movements.”
Kam nodded, trying not to panic. She had this same conversation with her dance instructor—for some reason, her emotion just wasn’t coming across in her routines, even though she had countless competition trophies just for her acting and emotional abilities. She wasn’t sure what her problem was lately—it seemed as though within the past few months, her emotions and her dancing had a major disconnect.
“Usually,” he explained, “we would ask a dancer in this position to go to the choreography round, so we can see how he or she picks up steps and internalizes them. However, we’re convinced that you don’t have an issue picking up choreo, so we’re going to do something a little different.”
Kam stood in front of them, playing with the seam on her black spandex shorts, absolutely petrified—what were they going to have her do? How could this be happening? She choreographed that specific solo for a reason; it highlighted all of her strengths and was still appealing to the audience.
“We want you to use whatever else you have ready and really sell it to us. Even if there isn’t much of an emotional connection between yourself and the song, make one. Make us feel it.”