As an aspiring ballet dancer in my twenties, my dance friends and I traveled to New York City just about every weekend to attend open auditions for various professional ballet companies around the country. We’d see the same faces each time, the red-headed girl with super flexible legs, the tall brunette with gorgeous feet and of course that one dancer that matched me turn for turn as it would seem – Becca was her name, I’ll never forget her. There was always a little bit of friendly competition, and a lot of mutual respect amongst all of us. We were after the same thing… the coveted “call back”, which could lead to a contract… a paying job that would make our dreams come true. Sometimes we’d find ourselves at the same diners after auditions and swap stories about our dance studios and apprenticeships we may currently hold. “What’s it like in Tennessee? Who is your director down in Atlanta?”
Most of these companies may have only been looking for one dancer, but who knows. They were clear about height perimeters, and that was all we had to go on. So, we drove the 5 hours, stretched out in the crowded lobby, pinned our numbers on, and gave it a try.
One of these was for Ballet Arizona, and the turnout for the audition was enormous, with well over 100 dancers. This would soon become 60 after the first cut. “If I say your number, that is all for today. Thank you for coming”. We all nervously waited and quietly sighed with relief as our numbers were passed over. As the dancers exited the room, gentle smiles of encouragement were given, and then onto the next round. There was no time to feel bad, or say “hey chin up” to anyone, it was important to remain focused and stay in the game. After a few more combinations at the ballet barre and two more cuts, we were down to about 30 dancers, and I’m thinking to myself… “Keep it together Marianne”, as my friends were all excused. I wanted to hug them, but they turned back and gave me a look of approval as if to say “It’s yours now, go get it”.
I made it through the next few cuts, and found myself as one of the final four that remained. I could get this one. My friends gazed in from the studio window, hands clenched, hair unraveled and dance bags zipped up.
The director asked us each to perform a very technical sequence of fouette turns. Being an extremely natural turner, I was filled with confidence and excitement. I’ve got this. We performed the steps in pairs, and I was partnered with Becca.
Following a very long, excruciating pause, and whispers amongst the Ballet Arizona leadership, the other 2 dancers were dismissed, and Becca and I were asked to do it one more time.
To this day, I’m certain I performed beautifully, and I’ll forever cherish the moments from that experience. The friendships, the anticipation, the drama of it all.
I also hope that Becca enjoyed her contract. She earned it.
Marianne Kelley – Ballet Arizona hopeful, 1993