Saturday, 25 October 2014

Dancing Queen

Attending the Big Reunion Tour in London last weekend brought back a memory so cringeworthy and humiliatingly embarrassing that I had repressed it for 13 years. Looking back on the event, I am now able to laugh at my sheer stupidity and naiveté and I felt that it was a good enough anecdote to resurrect the old blog for...

As a child, I was convinced that I was destined for either TV, the theatre, or pop music. I had never considered the world of dance, as I was resolutely a tomboy and dancing was for girly girls. I would play at being S Club 7 or the Spice Girls, of course, but I was more about the strutting with a stolen board-marker microphone than I was about careful choreography.

However, shortly after starting secondary school, I was made aware of a yearly contest that completely dominated the lives of a large proportion of students every winter: the annual Dance Competition.

When it was first mentioned, I wasn't overly bothered and hadn't realised the sheer magnitude of the event. As it drew closer, though, I realised I was missing out on a vital opportunity to get up on stage and dazzle people (and miss a morning of lessons). I simply *had* to be in that show!

Everyone I knew was already in groups and had been rehearsing diligently for weeks, desperate to transform themselves into troupes of 5ives or Xtinas. This wasn't a problem for me though - I didn't need backing dancers; I was a star!! So I signed myself up for an audition on the first available slot as a solo performer, giving me approximately two weeks to come up with a routine. Easy.

The problem was this: I had absolutely no clue when it came to dancing. The only experience of dance I had had came from aerobics in PE lessons every now and again, and my only exposure was the backing dancers on Top of the Pops. How was I to know that solo dancing was an entirely different kettle of fish? How was I supposed to have understood that solo dancing was more about elegance and intricate, flowing movements and being at one with the music?

To make matters worse, I was actually exceptionally shy and self-conscious, so my rehearsals were limited entirely to one particular five minute slot when my mum was emptying the tumble dryer in the garage at the same time as my dad was out washing the car. I stuck on A1’s ‘Same Old Brand New You’, which was the first thing I had to hand, and began to work out my winning routine. This brought with it problem number two: I had no bloody clue how to make up a routine, short of counting each move for approximately 8 beats. Being so awkward also meant that my movements were about as fluid as a particularly dry sponge and I felt really stupid, even alone in the confines of my room. I decided it would be best to wing it.

The day of The Audition came. What seemed like 1000 students were crowded together in the drama room. Some were warming up, and some were sitting cross-legged on the blue carpet, wanting a good view of the competition they faced. There was a desk in the middle, behind which sat three teachers, and an open space cordoned off in which we were to perform.

Feeling fairly confident (read: naïve), I sat near a group of my friends who were performing a well-rehearsed, complex routine involving chairs to Britney’s ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ for their audition piece. I was the only solo-performer there.

When it was my turn to audition, my heart began to beat a little faster. I knew that despite my obvious lack of talent or practice or stage-presence, I was naturally going to not only qualify, but win... but it didn't stop the nerves creeping through my veins like ice. I faced the back of the room... then changed my mind and faced the judges... then stood with my legs slightly apart... then thought better and put them together... then gave the cue to the kid by the tape deck that I was ready to begin...


Naturally, I had forgotten to rewind the tape, so I rushed over and crouched by the tiny cylindrical tape deck, while the audience muttered.




“Not far now!”


“Aha! There we go…” I exclaimed triumphantly as I made my way back to the circle.

There was a pause where I had rewound that bit too far and then the opening of the song began. You recall, no doubt, that I had no dance actually prepared.

It was awful.

For the verses, I spent my time looking confused, then jumping from side to side for 8 beats, then walking in circles for 8 beats, then jogging on the spot for 8 beats, then punching the air for a few. At the chorus, I remember vividly that I pointed right for ‘another night’ and left for ‘another day’ and shrugged my shoulders for ‘what can I say?’ Then I flailed for something I could do, and went back to bouncing on the spot until one of the teachers said they had seen enough and stopped the music.

Smiling, I bounced (yes, more BOUNCING) off to ask my friends what they thought. To the credit of everyone there, they didn’t laugh to my face. Instead, they said things like:

“I really like that song!”
“That was so brave!”
“A1 are just so good, aren’t they?”
“You’ve never had any formal dance training but you still went up there? Wow.”*

Although I was fairly sure I was being complimented (I wasn’t), I still felt like I could maybe have done better. In English later that day, I asked my friend if she thought I should maybe give the audition another go. She told me that I had probably done the best I could and that she didn’t think they did second auditions and that of course I would get in with my routine as it was.

I didn’t listen.

“Miss… I think I didn’t do very well in my audition this lunchtime. I know I can do better though…! Do you think you could maybe give me a second change at an audition?” I garbled at my drama teacher, who was very obviously trying to leave, at the end of the day.

Perhaps because she was in a rush and didn’t want to be held up with more questions, or maybe because I was a very weird kid with a tendency to start crying, she didn’t put up much resistance before saying that I could have another go – if time permitted – at the following day’s audition.

Given that my parents remained resolutely in the house for the whole evening, I was unable to polish the turd that was my dance competition entry. Still, I remained optimistic that my performance of the previous day had been pretty okay actually, and that this was really more of a safety net in case anyone else had busted some zumba to 911 or something.

The fact that I had rewound the tape in advance was literally the only thing better about the second audition.

Bounce bounce bounce bounce, bounce bounce bounce bounce!
Twist twist twist twist, twist twist twist twist!
Ruuuunnnn innnn aaaaa circleeeeee
Point right
Point left
Bounce bounce bounce bounce-
“OK thank you! I think we’ve seen enough!”

The following week, the list of successful auditions was posted on the wall of the drama room. I was not among them. I started crying and actually went to ask if there had been a mistake.

It wasn't until I was watching the show and saw what a solo dance was supposed to look like that my toes took up their rightful curled position. I never spoke of it again.

*My dancing was described in later years as being like 'a little wooden doll'.