Dear wonderful clients,
we all have hobbies, and mine is amateur theatre. Earlier this month I auditioned for a role in Wicked, a well-known show about the witches of Oz, being staged by my local musical society later this year. The audition required me to sing two contrasting songs, read from the script and learn a dance routine.
Singing and acting I can handle – I’ve been doing that since primary school – but dancing, well, that’s a whole new kettle of fish. And if it wasn’t for you, my brilliant media training clients, I never would have made it through.
The 90-minute dance audition involved a 10-minute warm-up followed by a fast-paced, modern dance routine taught to the song Issues by Julia Michaels. Up for selection was me and six other auditionees, and we were all being critiqued by the choreographer, director and musical director.
Little did I know, but the competition were all dancers. While they limbered up by doing the splits and other impossible stretches, I humbly wrote down ‘zumba classes’ on my audition form as my only previous dancing experience. As they reeled off all the other shows they’d danced in previously all I could focus on was my bare feet, sadly contrasting with the fancy dancing sneakers they were wearing. And at the end of the warm-up I was gasping for breath, while the others were blithely springing about like baby deer in the sunshine, asking for more. Things were not looking good.
But then the lovely, friendly choreographer began teaching us the routine and for a few minutes there, I was keeping up nicely. Run forward, stop suddenly, right arm out in front. Do a “wine glass” jump, curl right arm around your head then push both arms out in front. Do a fancy move with your legs, turn to face the wall, pivot, do a grand jete, side-step and – oh f**k it, I’m lost!
Yep that’s right, within five minutes of the routine starting, I had an overwhelming urge to sit in a corner and cry. Or run away. Or beg forgiveness for my utter ineptness and leave the rest of the audition to the professionals. And I still had 75 minutes of hell to go.
It was at this point that it suddenly hit me. This is how my media training clients must feel the first time I shove a journalist and camera in their face and order them to answer rapid-fire questions coherently and strategically: utterly panicked.
So, I closed my eyes and summoned all the bravery, humility and determination that I’ve witnessed from my clients over the years, and resumed my place in the chorus line.
The next hour was not one of my finest moments. At one point the routine required us to writhe around on the floor for a few moves but it took me so long to get down there that by the time I’d touched the ground, everyone else was back up again sprinting to the next position. I sprained my wrist doing something that I can only assume was supposed to be a dancer’s version of a burpee, and when the choreographer asked us to ‘feel the music on our faces’ and ‘sell the song with our expressions’, I think the expression I gave her probably isn’t fit to be printed here.
But throughout everything, I gritted my teeth and took inspiration from every client that’s ever confided in me that they feel really nervous talking to a journalist, that they hate the sound of their own voice, that their legs are shaking or that they’re afraid of being laughed at.
It’s because of you that I was able to complete that dance audition. It was your courage that I drew upon. I couldn’t walk for four days afterwards mind you, but I was proud.
So thank you for reminding me that stepping out of one’s comfort zone is bloody hard. It’s risky, it’s painful and it can be a whole lot of embarrassing.
And when it comes to dealing with the media, my job is to be your lovely, supportive choreographer, and teach you all the right moves.