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Auditioning to Dance for the NBA
Two hundred girls decked out in Brooklyn's latest fashion—ripped jeans, leather chokers and camouflage crops tops—wrapped around the outside of Long Island University–Brooklyn's auditorium while stretching and checking their reflection in their phones. I knew I was in the right place. I took a deep breath and hopped in line for the open call for the Brooklynettes Dance Team.
The Brooklynettes are the dance team for the NBA's Brooklyn Nets (get it?). The team was seeking out not only gifted dancers but well-spoken, intelligent women who could serve as ambassadors for the brand. Having just moved to Brooklyn and been a part of Temple University's Dance Team, I decided to try my luck.
At most auditions I went to this season, I wore a leotard and slicked my hair back in a bun with some light makeup on. But dance team auditions are much different than concert dance company auditions. Since you're constantly on camera and projected on a jumbo-tron, hair and makeup needs to be exaggerated. Fake eyelashes are a necessity—you have to master how to put them on and keep them on through hours of sweating. I did a natural smokey eye with a neutral lip and had my hair loose and flouncy so that the judges could see how I danced with it (yes, hairography is a thing!).
We were all required to wear shorts and a crop top, but the difficult part was standing out in the sea of beautiful girls and also looking like you blend well with the team's style. I decided on a black and white block-patterned top and black shorts to match the Nets' colors. My outfit looked similar to the 'Nette's dance uniforms.
Over the first two days, we learned an across-the-floor combination, a street jazz combination, a hip-hop combination and an athletic combination. I'd never heard of an athletic combination before, but the name says it all! It consisted of 17 different tricks like head-springs, kip-ups and splits. We must have gone down to the floor and come back up in one count about five different times. (Fitness gurus should start athletic combination classes...it's an insane workout!).
I made it through four rounds of cuts, ignoring the fact that my arms and legs felt like noodles.
By days three and four, there were 35 of us left and four spots to fill. The final round included interviews with the coach, marketing manager and three team captains. The panel asked to hear something interesting about me. Since I knew that they were looking for an answer that would parallel with the role as an empowered female brand ambassador, I told my story of how my career dreams changed from chemical engineering to pursuing dance and journalism.
The final performances included "one-on-one" performances, where two dancers with a similar look and dance style perform together in front of managers, directors, coaches and team captains. We were all given a white sports bra and black spandex shorts to wear so we looked identical. Yes, this part of the audition was intimidating. But I tried to focus more on enjoying dancing with my partner rather than competing against her.
The biggest challenge was waiting. When we began performing one-on-ones, those of us not performing couldn't practice on the sides—and I was one of the last to perform. A lot of the dancers sat down, but I wanted to stay focused so I remained standing. I tried to concentrate on each group, went through the counts in my head and did a few stretches and shakes in between groups to make sure I stayed warm. It was difficult to keep all of the material in my body while getting cold for an hour, and then exerting all of my energy in a two-minute burst.
By the final day, I knew that it came down to who completed the diverse look and fit the brand of this year's team. Although I didn't end up making it this year, I was proud of advancing all the way through to the final round, making professional connections and taking on this audition with confidence after only two weeks of living in New York City.
Now it's on to the next audition.
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.