Many of those who know me are probably not aware that I was once on a dance scholarship with the Nat Horne Theater Company. Yep, tights, dance belt, the whole thing. Nat Horne, a celebrated Broadway dancer and teacher, was responsible for many of the tenets that I lived my performing life by to this day. Up until the time I was given the scholarship I had mostly trained in mime, clowning, circus skills, and voice (no dance belts required). Mr. Horne’s training gave me the center and strength to bring all of these other skills together.
Now, when you are in NYC you audition for things. A LOT of things. Sometimes two or three times a day. Many of the roles you audition for are not exactly right for you. (Sounds better than “you are not right for them”, doesn’t it?) However, there are some roles that you feel uniquely qualified for.
One such occasion was when the three originators and Broadway cast of Mummenschanz, an amazing mime and mask show that was playing to sellout crowds, were looking to replace themselves in the Broadway show so they could tour the US. I got really close on this one, losing out only because I was not able to effectively communicate with the French only speaking members of Mummenschanz during the audition. We both knew a little Spanish, so we managed to squeak by with that.
But the one I came the closest on, without actually getting, was for the innovative and brilliant dance company called Pilobolus. They were looking to replace two of their original members and held auditions in NYC. 600 people auditioned and 30 of us were invited to bus up to their studio/home in Connecticut for an intensive day of auditioning. Dance belt? – check! They had us work on some of their established pieces, and every half hour or so would ask each of us to do a one minute improvised dance - without music. Let me tell you, a person runs out of moves after the first three improvs and you actually begin to create dance. This was their plan, for the members of the company were also creating the dance pieces. After 10 hours of physically challenging and exhilarating auditioning there were finally two of us left for each of the roles they were looking to replace. They thanked us and packed us up on the bus headed back to NYC. The very next day, and this is unusual when it comes to casting in NY, one of the company members (not a second assistant casting director) called me at home. She explained that they were going with the other dancer and that the reason I didn’t get it was that my face was too expressive and they felt that I would stand out from the other dancers.
I don’t have that dance belt anymore, but I still have that rubbery, expressive face that kept me out of Pilobolus.