I did something unforgettable in the spring of 2013. No, I didn’t write an earth-shattering exposé about the plight of refugees in the Middle East. I wish that I had done something that was memorable in such a positive way, but this was unforgettable in the worst way.
I was a freshman in college and had heard that there were going to be dance auditions for an upcoming concert that the school’s student body put on each year. Feeling a rush of energy from the Mountain Dew and bowl of ice cream that I had consumed a few moments ago in the cafeteria, I decided to show up for the audition.
In case you don’t have an accurate picture of me during my freshman year, let me clue you in…
I arrived at the dance studio dressed for the part of an extra in a searing documentary on the mistreatment of Walmart towards its employees. I was wearing slip-on Sketchers, my second best pair of Wrangler blue jeans, and a secondhand, ratty brown hoodie.
I didn’t know how to style my hair so I would glob “extreme styling glue” into it as a means of shaping it into what would later turn into hardened spikes. It looked like a medieval torture device and gave the impression that I planned to use it as a weapon if anyone tried to mug me.
As for my physical appearance, I hadn’t dreamed of losing weight yet, so I was a plump person who struggled to breathe after minimal physical exertion.
Combine these lovely attributes, and you have a person with the hair of an early 2000’s Nickalodian dropout whose fat cheeks were flushed from the attempted dance moves. It was not my best era.
I felt a warning go off in my brain when I entered the studio and saw a horde of perky people wearing loose-fitting dance attire, but I pushed ahead and made my way over to the sign-in table. An incredibly energetic redhead welcomed me to the audition and had me write my name and email address on the check-in sheet. Once I had finished signing my life away, I headed to the back of the room to stand awkwardly while I waited for the audition to begin.
I had come into this whole scenario thinking that I would be a great dancer because I had practiced Zumba moves with my sister on many occasions, but I soon realized the vast difference between swaying my hips to the song “On the Floor” and taking part in an actual dance audition.
My first clue came from the fact that the earnest participants were all stretching before we began. I had never stretched before my livingroom Zumba sessions, so I did my best to blend into the beige studio walls while I watched the products of Dance Moms prepping for their big moment. It was at this point that I considered leaving the audition, but my chance was squandered when the tryout instructor got everyone’s attention.
She told us that we would be going through an “easy” group routine to warm up and then would work on more difficult moves afterward. I shuddered at the ominous warning but did my best to put on a brave face. Within a moment, the instructor (whom I shall refer to as “Beyonce’s Backup Dancer” or “BBD” for short) started the song “SexyBack” and began the torture.
She had her back to the group and was executing some incredibly complex looking moves without giving any instructions. At first, I thought that the whole group was as lost as I was, but they had evidently done this hundreds of times before because they were following BBD’s lead with ease.
Not wanting to make a fool of myself, I tried to follow the leader. This resulted in me being between five to seven steps behind the group the entire time. I never knew the song “SexyBack” to be exceptionally long, but it felt like it was the length of the original Pride & Prejudice as I struggled to keep up.
When the song finally came to a close, BBD whipped around with a manic smile on her face and clapped a few times while telling everyone that they had done a “GREAT job.” I tried to force a smile while gasping for air, but it came across like the strangled expression of an abducted person in their ransom video.
In what seemed like far too short of a time, BBD told the group that it was time to move onto the next portion of the dance audition. She informed us that we would individually demonstrate the moves that we had just learned in front of the entire group. I saw looks of delight from the former Toddlers & Tiaras stars because they saw this as their golden opportunity to wow both their peers and the judges.
The first person made her way to the front of the room and began what looked like a perfectly executed J-Lo dance routine to the song (which I had learned to loathe by this point). It was in this moment of watching someone whom I was sure danced professionally wow the audience that I knew that I needed to leave the audition.
The only problem was that I was situated in the back of the room on the side opposite to the only open exit. This meant that to leave the audition I would need to cross in front of the entire group to make my way out of the seventh circle of hell. This challenge kept me standing in place for a few moments, but even that fear of embarrassment didn’t stop me in the end.
By the time J-Lo finished her routine, I knew that it was time to leave. So without saying anything, I shuffled out of the room in front of the entire group. Like a person trying to “follow the light,” I did my best to keep my eyes focused on the doorway while I walked past everyone. BBD may have said something to me as I hurriedly puffed past her, but I was too focused to hear anything other than my laborious breathing.
When I finally made it out the door, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and began developing a cognitive distortion telling myself that none of the people in the room would recognize me in the future. I was wrong.
The following week found me buying french fries in the snack shop, and it was there that I ran into none other than the energetic redhead from the check-in table. Compelled by what I can only assume was pity, she came over to me, looked me in the eyes, and told me that she hoped I was doing well. It was as if she was consoling me after a tremendous personal loss, and I didn’t know how to respond. I at first considered feigning a dissociative fugue state but realized that this would be a hard ruse to keep up for my remaining three and a half years of college. So I instead opted to murmur a “thank-you” and head to a table to wolf down the fries.
If I can impart any wisdom to you, my dedicated readers, it is this: if you are by no means coordinated, do NOT participate in a dance audition. The fame of participating in a student talent show may seem alluring, but trust me when I say that dance skills will NOT materialize just because you’ve taken a leap of faith.