Agencies are a go-to for most entertainers. While they don’t guarantee work, the exposure to casting calls and auditions they provide give you a better chance to be booked, so it’s a very sought after method for finding industry jobs. You can submit to agencies directly, or sometimes they have open-call auditions to scout new talent.
Recently, Clear Talent Group had such an audition, and it was one I had not initially planned on attending. Since I lacked much audition experience and had just started a new project (details to follow!), I thought I could use the research…and so I went.
I have to add a disclaimer: I in no way, shape or form have ANYTHING against Clear, or any other talent agency for that matter. I think they’re pretty good at what they do in fact. They wouldn’t have much of a client base otherwise…right? OK. Cool.
The perfectionist, a nerd, and a wardrobe
Before I even get into my experience, let me give you some back-round information…
I mentioned in my previous post that I began my pursuit of dance as a career fairly “late”. I use this term loosely, as this is really only an industry standard because of society’s views of beauty and age. We put great value on youth and vanity and so that’s what is portrayed in the media. Yes, an 18 year old dancer probably has less wear and tear on their body than a 30 year old dancer, so there’s an issue of career longevity that is brought into question. But there is so much wisdom and experience that I feel is sometimes lost on the youth, a sense of authority that comes with having “been around the block” that most young people are just afraid of. Something, that often comes with failure. The result becomes an immeasurable amount of young entertainers that are literally at each other’s throats, vying for the public’s attention, competing for the roles that are glorified by Hollywood and Broadway, petrified they might fail. You can imagine how that would be difficult for someone who didn’t exactly have a head start. Someone..like me.
“..Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy..”
I’m not really sure why, but I was so nervous. There was no part of me that believed I went to that audition to get signed, yet the possibility was there. I was still terrified of what I might experience. Walking over to the sign-in line, I began people watching to keep me calm, and noticed a few interesting things. I decided to do what any self respecting, nerdy, A-student would do: I took notes! Like actual notes…in a notebook…with a pen. I know.
Here are some of my findings:
- Upon walking out of the elevator and into the crowd of dancers, I instantly felt old. There had to be 400 people at the audition, and maybe a handful of them were about my age. I began to feel a little out of place.
- I was apprehensive about what I looked like. I wasn’t sure I had the “right” look, and so I began to scope my surroundings and rate myself against any differences in those appearances to mine. I became more concerned with how the agents would see me instead of how they would perceive my dancing.
- There was no emphasis on the mens’ appearances. I saw guys there in everything from sweat pants and T-shirts, to leather patched jackets and hats. I saw first hand the double standard that exists between how women in the industry are perceived as compared to men. I definitely had a problem with this.
- Everyone had their own rituals they would perform to get ready. Some people stretched, some people had their earphones in and were dancing and getting in the zone, others just listening to their music silently. A lot of people though, found one or two other people they already knew, and were talking in groups waiting to be called. I think these are all good ways to tame your butterflies. Although I kept mainly to myself, having people I knew there certainly helped me feel more comfortable.
- The combination was not hard at all, which made me feel a bit more confident. I was in the second to last section called, so by the time I got into the audition room things were moving REALLY fast. My lack of flexibility and ability to do tricks (as always) made me feel a little like it was pointless for me to even be there. BUT(praise break!) I WAS proud of how quickly I was able to pick up the choreography…and do so in heels!
- The agents were introduced in the beginning. There had to be about seven people in the room observing. Some of them I noticed, were really into what we were doing. One guy went out to take a phone call. Others stood and said nothing, and a couple didn’t seem like they were paying much attention. Most of the work was left to two people sitting in the center, one of them being Luam, a world renound choreographer. They observed the groups, and called those that stuck out to them to stay for callbacks. They didn't have any notes, there were no cameras. You performed the combo one time in a group of 6, and if you didn’t freestyle like it was the last party you’ll ever attend, or do something compelling with the choreography, you were pretty much left in the dust.
You can guess (or maybe you can’t) it wasn't exactly the greatest experience.
In case you missed it
What was happening here? I entered the Pearl Studios building that day with a clear agenda: My plan was to experience a big audition, get some valuable information I can use to develop my project (can't wait to share!), and to meet some new people and make connections. Why then, did I still feel as if I was actually competing and going for the gold? I still fell victim to the scrutiny of the agents despite the fact that I was mentally prepared to walk out of there with nothing. How did I still end up making harsh comparisons and feeling inadequate in my talents? Feeling unworthy of a contract? Worried if I looked commercial enough to book, but edgy enough to stand out? I cared about NONE of these things prior to this day, yet there I was, feeling like I shouldn’t have come in the first place. I gave them all that power.
I often fantasize about moments where young entertainers (and young people in general) stand up to their superiors and voice their concerns and opinions. What if every dancer in one of the holding rooms came together and decided to walk into the audition in their sweats? Let’s say ALL the women removed their make-up, put away their heels, and strolled into the studio with hair in ponytails, and heavy combat boots? Say the men supported this movement, and the “chubbier”, less fit of the group took off their shirts to dance? What kind of statement would it make against the terrible norms of the industry? How much power would be demonstrated in that single moment? How would the majority suddenly turn the tables on the few running things behind the scenes? And how many other dancers would such an act inspire? Would others follow suit and take a stand, or would they continue to live in a perpetuated state of cut-throat survival? I wonder if others can see what’s so Clear to me.
But what do I know?
I just move.
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