Audition #17: Laban conservatory

I was really looking forward to this weekend workshop.  This marks the first of my conservatory auditions.  Matthew Bourne went to the B.A. program at Laban, so I figured it was worth looking into.  After learning more about the programs, I decided to apply for the one year program, but was also considering the M.A. programs.  I registered for this in advance.  This workshop/”audition” was also a “pay-to-play” as we call it.  Meaning, I had to pay an audition fee.

I did my research ahead of time and was shocked at myself for even considering taking a year off of living in NYC to pay tuition and living expenses in pounds sterling.  But the campus is beautiful, as you will see to the left.

I got an email a few days before the workshop that there would be a reception for Laban staff and faculty and if we would like, we could come and meet our workshop teachers in advance.  Sounded like a good deal to me.

I showed up Friday at 6:30 pm and was the ONLY workshop attendee/applicant to crash the party.  Awkward!  I didn’t know anyone there, but luckily one of the contemporary dance teachers (who would be teaching class for the rest of the weekend) grabbed me and introduced me to a few people.  I met a girl who had danced in Transitions Dance Company.

Probably the best part of the evening was meeting a dancer from Merce Cunningham who got to work with him and his company in the final stages of his career right before he died.  So awesome.  She was such a sweetheart and said she “saw a fire in me.”  She didn’t start dancing until she was 16, and she didn’t start dancing with Merce until she was 30.  It gives me hope, although I feel like I started dancing at 14 but really at 24… Ugh.  I’m not gonna go there.

So after an awkward Friday night, I arrived Saturday morning hoping that I had not left the wrong impression by being the only one to show up at the reception.  I arrived at 10 am and there were a handful of other female dancers sitting in the studio at Merce Cummingham Studios.  Everyone was very quiet and serious.  Either they were in the zone or like me, they just had no idea what was going on so they did the only thing dancers know to do in these situations – warm up.

I found a place on the floor and did the same.  Of course I was a wreck.  My hips were too tight to even get into a reasonable split and my shoulder was aching.  I was worried after Friday’s audition how my shoulder would fare this weekend.  I watched as the workshop leaders I had met at the reception the night before arrived.

There weren’t really introductions although I did learn that there was a girl there from Utah, one from Arizona, and one from Chicago.  Some seemed to be from the area, but I was surprised how far some people had traveled for this audition.

We started the workshop/audition with the head of the M.A. in Choreography, who led us through some somatic exercises that reminded me of a standing and moving version of Alexander Technique that I had done my junior year abroad at LAMDA.

This kind of work always trips me up.  I’m not sure if I’m supposed to have massive epiphanies or a spiritual experience of some kind.  I’m always worried I’m not “relaxing enough” or “doing it right.”  I get the idea that it’s doing by NOT doing – i.e. not straining or tensing muscles unnecessarily in order to complete an action – and I get that it’s supposed to restore alignment.  But the fact that it’s so QUIET and treated with such SERIOUSNESS, made me unsure what exactly I was doing.

Next, the contemporary dance teacher who I met the night before comes up and we get moving a little more.  She teaches some contemporary dance phrases.  And, of course, just my luck, one of them involves HANDSTANDS.  I can’t escape them….  I tell her about my shoulder and she gives me an adjustment.

All of this was easy enough, except for the handstands part.  We ended again with the teacher who started and work our way down to semi-supine to end the day.  After a quick lunch, we come back and they talk to us about the various programs they offer and wrap for the day.  I’m not excited to learn that most of the M.A. programs are research-based and don’t include much dance technique.

The next day is a little longer.  I’m hopeful that it will be different.  Nope.  We do pretty much the exact same thing with minor variations.  At least during the contemporary portion we learned a combination, which was fun, even though there was a HANDSTAND, and then we did a little jumpy thing across the floor.

After lunch today, we were to have one-on-one interviews with the workshop staff to talk about which program would be the best fit for us.  For me, it was either the M.A. in Performance with the Transitions Dance Company or one year Independent Study.

My shoulder was very sore at this point, but I could tell at least it was not worse, just inflamed.  I was feeling a little disillusioned and aware of my age vs. the conservatory opportunities available to me.  I had no idea what the other technique teachers at Laban would be like compared to the teachers in NYC that I had come to know and love.

By this point you are probably noticing a slight paradigm shift in my thinking between this workshop and my other audition posts.  This weekend, in a sense, was much more about me auditioning THEM to see if they were right for me.  Very different from the point of view I’ve had for other auditions.

I went in for my interview and had a nice conversation with them.  It didn’t feel like I had been auditioning as much, though they said the one year independent study program would be a good fit for me.  When I mentioned the M.A. in Dance Performance, I was given some feedback – mainly that I “had a good foundation, but would need more performance experience before I could compete with the other dancers auditioning for Transitions.”

This was a blow to my ego, but I can’t disagree.  I’d actually say this is a very acute observation.  Though I was also told it seemed I “carried a lot of tension in my upper body”, which went out the window once I told them about my shoulder.

So I find myself in a catch 22.  How do I get more performance experience when I’m not booking from my auditions?  How do I create my own opportunities with an injured shoulder, at least for now?

I did get one promising email back from Judy Oberfelder:

Hi Katrina,
I did want to write you separately and let you know that I sensed your frustration not being able to go for broke with this movement–which is pretty wild. You seem very strong and smart and we should stay in contact.. I ended up only inviting a few people to the callback to try out partnering with the other three dancers.
I’d love to work with you on the film/installation project though. I’ll keep you posted as ideas for this expand.
Best wishes and take care healing,

How completely sweet.  Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all.  One way or another.

I have been at PT all week working on my shoulder.  I’m taking two weeks off – luckily timed with Thanksgiving – and I’m going to be blogging about my progress healing from this injury, as well as the work I do while I’m not in class.  Tonight my repertoire includes no-impact cardio, stretching, and a core strengthening class.  Thank goodness I didn’t get rid of my gym membership yet.



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