Thursday, April 3, 2014

Conquering Competitiveness

Finally, a chance to perform your dream role has arrived! Whether it’s Giselle, Kitri, or Juliet, you’ve longed for this opportunity since the day you met your first pair of pointes. You think, no, you know that you can nail the part. The only problem is… so can your best friend.

Audition time! Photo taken from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. 

So my company has several shows a year, to be specific, three: one in the spring, one in the summer, and one in the winter (ps: it’s Nutcracker). But we also have a not-so-official performance halfway between the spring and summer shows. This show is a student recital, and is exclusively for dancers high school age or younger so they can show off their fabulousness without being overshadowed by older, perhaps more experienced dancers. Usually the best parts in this recital go to the seniors, although this is not always the case. You may be wondering what this has to do with the dramatic scenario I’ve just set up above, but don’t worry, I’m gettin’ there.

This past week when I was called in to sub a class, I noticed that two of the girls whom I know to be best friends, let’s call them Drizella and Anastasia, were not being quite as chummy with each other. After the class I observed a conversation between them that went something like this:

Drizella: I’m so nervous for casting for the recital!
Anastasia: Oh my gosh I know. But I feel like you’re going to get Cinderella.
Drizella: Oh my god no, I feel like you are!

Photo from Google.
Commence incessant giggling and shallow flattery during which each girl comments on how the other is going to get the lead role but each is secretly hoping they’ll get it themselves. I know this is what was happening because my friend, I have been there. Auditioning against friends is something I feel is pretty relevant at least to my experiences, but not something I could find a lot of resources on. This blog post is aimed a little more at younger dancers, but really for anyone going through any audition process.

My friend and I. We used to rival each other for parts all the time. Photo from me!

As auditions roll around, you may find yourself up against friends you’ve danced alongside for years. I used to feel jealous of girls I thought were better than I was, or guilty towards girls I thought I was better than. Even though you know you shouldn’t, it’s hard to keep from comparing yourself to your competition—sometimes it’s pretty frickin' impossible. Do not fret, my dears, for this is completely normal and sometimes even good. An ambitious attitude is healthy in moderation. What’s important to remember is to channel that competition into, not away from, your focus, and to not let your studio relationships become strained. In the end, whichever of my adorable students gets Cinderella won’t really care if she has to dance that part without the other cheering her on.

A (sort of crappy) shot of me during the RCB's production of Macbeth a couple years ago. 

It’s tempting to distance competitors, but they can actually give you one thing that no one else can: they’re going through the exact same process as you. Coming together and exchanging ideas for character development or tips on how to extend your developpe would benefit you and your rival, and give you an edge over other competitors. Having talented friends grow alongside you actually pushes you more, whether consciously or not. In fact, some of my closest friends are ones who I’ve gotten beaten down for parts, or whom I’ve triumphed over. These are the people who know what you’re going through.

Of course, sometimes tense relationships are inevitable. If you find there’s an irreparable rift, it may be time to move on. This doesn’t mean you should cast them aside; rather, remember that a success for one dancer is a success for all, proof that it can be done. Above all, no matter who’s chosen, keep a professional and respectful attitude during and after auditions: it makes an impact on your director and it just makes the overall performance more fun. Personally, I'd rather be a stepsister!

The silly stepsisters and Cinderella from the English National Ballet. Photo taken from ENB's site.

PS- Here’s a list of audition tips that I think is awesome. Feel free to share audition stories below!

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