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My Big Break

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

"to separate or cause to separate into pieces as a result of a blow, shock, or strain"...

Activation Warning: mention of suicide

 

I have been working my whole life to book representation.

I finally got an agent in the summer of 2021. Chosen out of around 1,000 applicants, they took on about 100 of us…and I was one of them.


Wow. Yes.

I was chosen and had FINALLY found support that could help me get into rooms and in front of people I couldn’t access as a standalone performer.

And after over a year and a half of self tapes…my big break finally came...


I realized that I had to step away from auditioning.

For now.

Maybe forever.

But definitely for now.


Because the process of being in those studios…alone…with every demon, critique, past audition experience, body image issue, obsessive tendency and no feedback, shared energy or experience, colleague or friend or reference point during a global pandemic that happened 8 months after my sister’s suicide…broke me.

...

I found myself having full body panic every time an audition notice came in.

...

I wasn’t one of the dancers during the past 3 years that had the means or the space to consistently train. Was I working out and remaining active? Yes, as much as possible. But was I taking classes or voice lessons or workshops? …No. I did not have the resources to do so. Financial. Emotional. Physical. Energetic. Psychological.

...

Self tapes (filmed auditions) for dancers involve a layer that the singer / actor doesn’t need to worry about…space. When an audition comes in, I have to rent space and pay out of my own pocket to learn these dances off tape; oftentimes needing to reverse the choreography the dance captain / choreographer filmed. Within a 2 hour rental, I have to learn the movement, get it in my body, get it looking good enough to film, do my hair and makeup, get into something presentable, film the movement, watch it back, try to make it better and then edit, upload and send it off into the ether. That is not taking into account any sides (acting scenes) or songs that need to be filmed (both of those I do at home) with a ring light and the help of my (non-performer) partner - rearranging our small living room each time to angle the camera against the only blank wall (once we take down our clock).

...

Every time that I reached out to fellow colleagues about how much this process was a struggle for me, with the ask if it was also a struggle for them, the response was consistent; either there was no response at all or a “yeah, ya know” kind of response. And I know that I’m not the only one who has been feeling somewhat insane trying to push my body within an industry that is built on the concept of just “being grateful for the opportunity to do what you love” while completely negating that we live within our art form. Dancers can’t escape themselves.

...

We are taught from a very young age to override our body’s feedback. To bypass the messages of discomfort or pain or fear or struggle, to ensure that we can tell a story, oftentimes one that is not our own, that will provide an audience with an experience. The work is so important. Universally important. Our bodies are the vessels that communicate the things we can’t put into words, the energy of memory, the unspoken parts of being human, the nonverbal experience of being alive.


Artists are the truth seekers and the truth tellers.

Dancers do this through their bodies.

But…when do we get to take up space within our own vessels?


If I’m told by casting that they “really want to see who you are” while also consistently being told and shown by countless teachers, choreographers and producers that “anyone is replaceable”…


how. do. I. show. up.


Where do I exist in this scenario?

Or at the very least…why are we not talking about this concept with each other?

Performers, especially dancers, are not vocal about what they’re struggling with because we have built our lives on playing a part. There is NEVER an off season. Our entire career is based on how we look, how we move, what energy we’re putting out, how much effort we exert and we are praised for masking the pain. We are praised for giving a performance. We are praised for our control, our determination, our ability to adapt, our strength, our beauty, our aesthetic. These attributes help fuel our commitment to the part. It makes us feel like the struggle is all worth it. If we name the part we’re playing, we will have to look at the system that has set us up to abandon ourselves.

...

We are pitted against our friends and have no space for the both/and; reminder that I can be so happy for your contract while also being sad I don’t have one. This is not a lack of support, this is a direct result of a capitalistic system built on winning and losing and free / discounted labor. A foundation of only uncertainty, built on the lie we keep telling ourselves… "when I make it, it will all be worth it.”

...

Over the years I would consistently hear “oh she’s jaded” “yeah, she’s super difficult to work with” “it’s clear she’s struggling, have you seen her body?” “She clearly doesn’t want it bad enough.” “She couldn’t take the pressure.” “She’s negative and bitter.”

...

As a 36 year old woman now…

A 36 year old dancer now…

A 36 year old artist now…

A 36 year old person now…


All I can think about is how:


I have thanked abusive teachers after a class because “that’s what you do”. I have made myself sick to try to fit into costumes that I have never and will never wear (because my smallest isn’t small enough). I have stood at the front of rooms during countless auditions and workshops and master classes assisting grown adults as they made fun of children’s bodies, excitement and efforts…viewing them as dumb or naive to even try. I have seen dancers run on treadmills in between shows because they “needed to be on a fitness plan” to ensure they maintained the weight they were hired at. I have seen pregnancies be hidden to not lose contracts. I was told there were walks upstage (with backs turned to the audience) choreographed into routines for 14 year olds to ensure the director could see “how fat their asses are”. I have been snubbed by countless former students in audition rooms because they were kept and I wasn’t and after contracts were booked and signed, I was ignored by them…the little girls (when I met them) whose bleeding feet I helped clean, bandage and tend to. The girls who I pulled aside when I would see tears starting to fall to give them a chat (away from anyone who could use their vulnerability against them) to share my “not good enough” anecdotes so they knew they were not alone in their constant self questioning. I have been othered by friends and colleagues because they joined the union and, clearly, couldn’t relate to me anymore. I have performed on broken, bloody toes, my pelvis 4 inches out of alignment, lower back spasms, rib displacements, nerve damage, bursitis, impingements and sciatica. I have danced tired and sad, during and after major loss or disrupting traumatic events. I have worked for years to get “back” into the industry after two major (potentially) career-ending injuries.

…and late night last Saturday during the time I was supposed to be filming an audition for the ensemble for “Funny Girl” National Tour, I called a friend who I knew I could be fully honest with.


I can’t play this part like this anymore.


I cannot uphold the expectations that have been placed on me, that I have done my best to embody, for countless years of my life that are based on how other people perceive / see me. So many years of my life I have been told that I wasn’t fulfilling my potential as a performer. That I had to change.

...

And the compounding culmination last Saturday night, March 25th, 2023, was that I couldn’t live up to the expectation of the performer I wanted to be. The performer I’ve been told far too many times that I “have within me but you’re just not there yet” with no support surrounding any authenticity of the process to get “there”. I am putting the weight down of others’ expectations of me that I’ve embodied as my own. The energy of the old “fake it ’til you make it” concept that has proven time and time again why it makes my stomach churn; because I have heard countless stories of dancers “making it” and then realizing what “it” entails. The space between perception and reality…what we want vs what is…what could be vs what was…what it should be vs what it needs to be…none of those match up.

...

Artists are here to be truth seekers and truth tellers and they shouldn’t have to disappear to tell a story.


There is never an off season.

We need to be able to unmask.

We need to be able to inhabit our own bodies.

We need to be able to listen to our bodies, especially when they are telling us to stop.


My body is not a graveyard for everyone else’s unfulfilled dreams.

My body is not a vessel to only tell the stories that look good.

My body is my home and my work and my purpose and my vessel for expression.


So this is my big break…

“a pause in work or during an activity or event…”

Not because I’m unmotivated, not because I’m jaded, not because I’m tired, not because I don’t want it bad enough, not because my dream has died, not because I’m ungrateful, not because I’m older, not because I couldn’t take the pressure…


…because I can’t override my body’s feedback anymore.


Years and years and years of deafening outside feedback that I have embodied, adjusted to, applied, resisted, taken in, fought back against, felt good about, craved, hated, loved…that has made me question my worth, my value, my talent, my voice, my creativity, my weight, my body, my dreams, my commitment, my grit, my mindset, myself…


…that almost severed the quiet whisper of my heart…

I’m right here.


Always.

Full and loved.

Honest and enough.

Ready when you are.


Trust yourself.


Let’s re-member together.

 

Need a reset?

That was an intense share, I know.

Please use the resource below to bring more safety into your body.

The practice of SELF HUGS

 

Can you relate to this post?

  • 0%As a dancer: Yes

  • 0%As an artist: Yes

  • 0%As a person: Yes

  • 0%As a dancer: No

You can vote for more than one answer.


 

I want to give a deep, loving, soul-filled shoutout to my partner, Jonny and my three powerhouse soul sisters who have held me in and throughout this unfolding process; Jess, Deborah and Amy.

Thank you.

For reminding me of just how powerful I am. For walking me home over and over again.

Your support has provided a safety net of divine love during this free fall.

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