Rehearsals, Reputations And Ruffled Feathers, Part 1
When most young performers are starting out in the industry, a lot of focus is put on getting a job; the audition process, making sure you’re in peak physical fitness, networking, etc. But what happens after you get the job? In my opinion, how you conduct yourself in the work environment is just as, if not more, important than doing a good audition because it’s often your attitude that will directly impact your career longevity.
Obviously, you need the talent to get the job but if you’re difficult to work with, guess what? No one will want to work with you! Your contract will not be renewed and the only thing you will have earned will be a bad reputation…
Flashback to April 2001, Miami, Florida.
Rehearsals were beginning at Carnival Cruise Lines head office and the cast were getting to know each other. There were 4 Aussies (including me), 3 Russians, 1 South African, 1 New Zealander and the rest were British. 4 men and 10 women in total. When we went around the group stating our names and ages, my response “I’m Natalie and I turned 19 last month” was met with groans and eye rolls. I was young, enthusiastic and as they say in our industry ‘green’. Fresh out of full-time training, I thought years of slogging it out in class and performing at local events had prepared me for life as a professional dancer and of course, to some extent, it had; however nothing can ever really prepare you for life upon the wicked stage like being thrown head first into it. It was sink or swim (pun intended).
Since a lot of us were new to CCL, our dance supervisor (the person responsible for teaching us the choreography and casting the show, among many other things) spent the first day putting us through our paces. We started with a warm up, corner work and then learnt some of the group numbers in the show so she could get a sense of our technique and style, in order to cast us in our ‘track’ (the routines in the shows we would be appearing in).
Tip No.1 – When in rehearsals, you better work!
While some of the casting is dependent on height, it’s crucial to pull out all the stops during rehearsal, especially if you’re new to the company.
Some tracks are better than others and you won’t have a chance of being cast in a featured spot if you spend the first few days marking everything until you find your feet. You have to show up, ready to sweat.
The first non-group routine I was cast in was a fun number nicknamed ‘Tomatoes’, so called because the costume (which was entirely red) included a helmet style hat, that bore some resemblance to a tomato. Despite the nickname, I was pretty happy as there was only one other female dancer and the male singer on stage. I imagine both of us girls were selected because of our similar height and body type but whatever the reason, I didn’t care, it was a featured spot and I was chuffed. The routine directly after Tomatoes was a partner routine involving 4 boys and 4 girls. It was high energy with grande jetes, high kicks and a side split at the end. When the cast was announced for this routine, one of the girls (let’s call her Veronica), was not shy in expressing her disdain that she had been cast as a swing.
For those who are unfamiliar with the role, a swing is someone who has to learn multiple tracks so that in the event someone is sick or injured, the swing can cover them.
In addition to learning each dancer’s individual choreography, swings also have to learn each dancer’s traffic (how they enter, exit and move around the stage) and be ready to step in at a moment’s notice. During cruise ship contracts there is a high probability that you WILL perform your swing track as rough seas increase the risk of injury, therefore, being cast as a swing could be seen as a COMPLIMENT as it means you are versatile and can work under pressure. Veronica, however, did not see it this way. She couldn’t understand why she was “only a swing” as she claimed she was more flexible than the other girls in the routine and in her eyes, she could have executed the routine better than them. As you can imagine, this did not sit well with the rest of the cast or our supervisor (once she got wind of it).
Tip No. 2: There is a time and place for everything
As rehearsals progressed, it seemed as though every time Veronica opened her mouth, out came another negative comment about the choreography, another complaint about the casting choices or another insult directed at a fellow cast member. Nothing and no one was off limits. Her negativity was draining, her arrogance was confronting and she was downright rude! She made no effort to blend in with the rest of the cast during group numbers and constantly talked down to everyone, even those with more experience than her.
Tip No. 3: Don’t get on the bad side of the person casting the show
It was quite obvious to everyone (but Veronica) that her bad behaviour was not going unnoticed by our supervisor and she quickly earned herself a reputation as someone you did not want to be associated with. When it came time to block the numbers, our supervisor began positioning Veronica towards the back of the routines, despite the fact that she was one of the shorter girls in the cast and this only enraged Veronica more, leading to more complaining. It was a vicious cycle.
Little did we know everything was about to change in a way none of us could have predicted…..
*Disclaimer – Veronica’s name has been changed
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Published in collaboration with Shift: Movement Science and Gymnastics Education