No One's Youer Than You: What Are You Doing With Your Life?!?!
I know I haven't been writing recently, and for that I'm sorry. As you may have seen, I was on a cross-country road trip to move my friend Steven out to Los Angeles, after which I returned home to Alaska after 4 years! There was a lot going on in my mind and I found it hard to write. I felt like I was all over the place and even the intro for my last post was hard to write because I felt so burnt out.
You also may or may not have seen on social media, or heard through word of mouth that my time with the Richmond Ballet as a Trainee has come to a close. How do I feel about this? Well, let’s just say it’s a bitter suite feeling.
Why bitter suite and not bittersweet?
The last thing I performed in the Richmond Ballet Studio Theater was choreography by one of my closest friends, Zane Ellis, for the New Works show. New Works was an incredible performance to be in because the company members (and Trainee Zane) created new choreography on the dancers they had chosen earlier in the year. If you're interested to read an audience member, and myy good friend Mac's perspective, click HERE, or if you want to read what it was like to be in New Works, click HERE.
Zane’s piece was titled “Bitter Suite”, and was based off of feelings that have recently been hitting pretty close to home. “Bitter Suite” was all about the emotions a dancer experiences trying to deal with the hardship and heartbreak of pursuing a professional career, and how those feelings can sometimes take over your love for dance. Of course, the love for dance won in this piece, but that’s not always the case.
Let me take you back to the end of January in my world. I had just finished up in NYC, dancing with Complexions Contemporary Ballet during their Pre-Professional Program and I was loving all the contemporary works I had been learning. My mind and body had been pushed to whole new levels and it made me so happy. But audition season hit and my happy feelings quickly ran away to hide under my bed.
Like way under. Like where the cats go to hide when they know you’re trying to kennel them to take them to the vet.
If you’re not a dancer, let me fill you in on the audition process, or at least how I experienced it.
For starters, I compiled a sort of audition packet, which contained my resume, dance shots and a video of my dancing. I then emailed it off to EVERY company that I was remotely interested in. About half of what I sent out, I never got a response to. 50% of what I got a response from was a no, and 50% of the emails that weren’t a blatant no, were a “come to our open audition”.
What is an open audition you ask?
They have also been known to be called cattle calls because people show up in droves to audition. Usually anyone can come to these auditions, and especially in New York City, they’re packed full. One open audition I did on my birthday (and Super Bowl Sunday) had over 500 people at it. I got there over 30 minutes before registration was going to start, only to go halfway up the steps and run into a line of auditionees in the stairwell. Eventually I was able to make it up to register, where there was one woman frantically taking resumes, photos and audition fees, and in return doling out numbers to wear during the audition.
Yes, I said audition fee.
Not only do you have to pay to travel and accommodation costs for wherever the open audition might be, but you also have to pay an audition fee to the company. There are also some companies that require you to send money when you send your materials to be looked at, and won’t even look at your stuff until they have their payment.
But back to my birthday audition.
I had several friends who were also at that audition, they showed up just a little later than me, and were stuck in a line going OUT THE DOOR, up several flights of stairs. This is outside in NYC on Feb 5, (now you know my birthdate, I expect presents next year) so it was QUITE chilly. Muscles are DEF going to be ready for a ballet audition class.
Now because there were so many people, and the studio was pretty small (one of the smaller audition studios I’ve been in), they could only do 80 people per class. That’s pretty small by audition class standards, but we were still crammed like sardines in a can for barre. They also told us that they were going to be making cuts after barre, then bringing people back in after they’d gone through the other 420 dancers. You really knew you had to show your stuff. The only problem was that there wasn't any space to dance and you were holding on to a rickety unsupportive barre. I was avoiding kicking people in front of me, on the barre next to me and on the barre perpendicularly behind me. This was even during the most basic exercises that are completely under yourself. I was amazed I didn’t walk out with an injury and I was definitely dancing defensively.
After barre was over, they cut the 80 dancers down to 7.
Talk about spring cleaning.
I don’t want to know how many auditions I went on. How much money I spent and how much time and effort was put into these auditions.
The more they went on, the more I started falling out of love with the ballet world. These less than ideal conditions where really getting to me. I’d also been reading and hearing first hand about all the crazy drama in the ballet world about Artistic Directors firing huge portions of their companies, mistreating their dancers and doing other crazy nutso things.
I also came to a very sobering realization. There was a good chance that if I got a company contract with a ballet company, I would be stuck in the corps my whole career. 8 hours a day rehearsing to be one of many on stage. There always is a possibility that I could start out in a smaller company and rise through the ranks that way, but there are so many little companies in the US, and many are struggling financially. At the end of audition season, I had two offers on the table from two very different companies that I really liked. But it didn’t quite sit well with me picturing myself in either company. There was something else out there that was what I should be doing.
Then one day during an audition trip to NYC, (a new and exciting audition I will touch more on later) I was walking around the One World Trade Center area with Doria and pining away at how much I wished I could live in NYC. Then it suddenly hit me.
Why not live in NYC? I had just had a conversation with a former Trainee who was living in the city, working part time and freelancing, and she seemed so fulfilled and content. Even though I had two offers I could take to secure an absolute upcoming season of dancing, the thrill of the city was so great.
If you’ve read my bio, you know that growing up, I was the kid who did everything. I had so many interests and loved being busy and active in many activities, but those interests had to be curbed when I started dancing seriously. The love for them never really went away. If I moved to NYC, I could pick and choose what I would do. I could participate in dance projects that interested me, get certified in Pilates, and do anything else that fascinated me. Unfortunately, in the ballet world, you have to spend so much time in the studio for your company, even if you're not actively dancing. It can even be next to impossible to explore other big interests in life, and there are so many things out there that I want to try my hand at!
You remember that new and exciting audition I went to? Well that was actually an audition to become a SoulCycle instructor. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it past the first cut, but during the audition I really had an eye opening experience.
The audition was the day after my reflection on my life around the World Trade Center area, so my thoughts were still on moving to the city. The first part of the SoulCycle audition consisted of everyone riding bikes in a chorus line and taking instruction from a Master Instructor while other employees from SoulCycle walked around writing things down about us and choosing the people for the next part of the audition.
I was on bike 17, which is my dad’s birthdate so I thought that had to be a good sign. I was so nervous and felt so out of place because it seemed like everyone there knew each other. But the second I started to ride on that bike during the first audition song, (Side to Side by Ariana Grande, I love that SoulCycle has humor) this crazy incredible feeling of relief and joy washed over me. I was experiencing a feeling of happiness I hadn’t felt in forever, I couldn’t get this huge big grin off my face. Even if I didn’t make it through the auditions, I knew that becoming a SoulCycle instructor was along the lines of something I wanted to do with my life. I want to spread the joy that SoulCycle and fitness brings to me, giving me an escape from all my problems and sadness in the real world. I would love to help people reach their fitness goals, but at the same time give them a fun and supportive atmosphere.
On that bike, in the middle of an audition, I decided that I was going to move to NYC and pursue everything that called me. I would live for myself and to make myself happy, not what I felt like others wanted me to do. For me, that means pursuing SoulCycle Instructorship, a Pilates certification, dance projects that will restore my love for dance and anything else that sparks my interest!
In hindsight, I’m grateful that I didn’t make it to the Instructor training… this time around. If I did, I wouldn’t have been able to finish out my season in Richmond, and that would have been sad for me. I loved finishing the year out with all my friends, and then of course collapsing into tears as the curtains closed.
As much as I loved my time in Richmond, company life just isn’t for me, which is realization I came across very recently. It surprised me at first, but now that I’ve officially moved to the New York City area, I’m so happy with my decision. Granted, I only spent a day in my new place in Hoboken before peacing out on the road trip.
Feeling in control of your future is the most liberating feeling ever. I am so happy and comfortable with my life now. Sure, to some of you this may seem uncertain and reckless to some of you. I don’t have a college degree, nor do I plan to get one in the future (I swear to all that is holy don't push me on this topic, it's something I'll explain at a later date), nor do I have a steady career that I can use to ride up through the ranks until I’m ready to retire with my 401k and health plan.
For me, I need to be in an exciting and ever changing environment. i don’t think I could ever see myself stuck behind a desk all day. This is why I am now a freelance dancer. I'm excited to work with new people on things I never would have thought I would try in my life. I want to rediscover my love for dance and be inspired by this great city and all it's inhabitants.
So I currently type this and share this with you in my apartment in Hoboken, justrightoutside of Manhattan. I went in to the city for a bit today and the whole time I had a massive grin on my face. I felt so inspired and grateful to be living the life I chose.
This is MY life now.
I'm so grateful for all the time I spent in Richmond these last two years, the people I danced with and for, were absolutely amazing and I wouldn't have changed my time there for anything. But now I'm doing my own thang, and I can almost guarantee to you that it will lead to some pretty spectacular blog posts!
Thanks for following along! Your support and readership means the world to me!
Xx Slammin Lammon