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What it's like to Audition for a Dance Company...
By Edie, Salsa FREAK

The Salsa Brava Dance Company, based in Los Angeles, CA, needed dancers to fill spots for their prestigious dance company. So they decided to hold their first-ever official "audition". Members of Salsa Brava Dance Company have appeared on VIBE, performed for numerous commercials and films, and are in constant demand for Hollywood and stage performances. So when I found out about the audition, I decided to give it a shot - if anything just to write about the experience.

They announced the audition online, and told as many people as possible. Well, needless to say, word got around, and about 20-25 people showed up for the try-outs. There were about 6 men, and the rest were women. We were told to be there at 4:00pm, with resume and picture in hand. The ladies were supposed to wear a skirt.

Well, I busted my butt to get there on time, wore a skirt, managed to find a decent 8 x 10 of me, and type up my resume. I've seen professional headshots done, where the resume is printed on the back of the picture. I assumed this was the way to do it, but didn't want to run the risk of melting my picture through my printer. So I printed the resume on a regular sheet of typing paper, and scotch-taped it to the back of my headshot. "This will have to do." I thought to myself. I placed the headshot in a manila folder, threw on my fishnet stockings, dance shoes and dress. On my way out, and halfway to the studio, I realized I forgot to put on UNDERWEAR! Oh my God! So I did a U-turn and blazed it back to my apartment. Realizing I could be late, I broke every freeway law getting there. I slid right in at the 4:00pm deadline.

I probably figured they were looking at promptness as one of their decision-making criterions. Like a job interview, you don't want to be late for an audition. Being on time demonstrates professionalism, responsibility, and dependability. However, when I got there, they couldn't start the auditions until about 30 minutes later when all the stragglers "straggled in.

We were asked to wear a skirt. Out of all the women that were there (about 15 or so), I think there were only 2-3 of us that wore a skirt. Another sign of irresponsibility - or maybe they just weren't aware?

Joby and Luis explained to all of us that they were holding this audition to choose one woman, and two men. I looked around the room, and realized that only ONE of the 15 or so women would be chosen. "wow..." I thought. "This should be interesting."

They had all of us line up together and learn a freestyle shines routine. I'm convinced that if you don't go to their classes every week, you're basically lost. At least that's how I felt. I haven't been to their classes for a while, and found it difficult to quickly pick up what they were showing us. The shines routine was simple, but just tricky enough to keep us thinking and occasionally messing up. They had us perform shines I've never seen before. It was really quite a challenge.

They then placed us in groups of four or five, and had us do the routine on our own. What a let down. I forgot the routine in the middle of it, and messed up numerous times. One thing is for sure, you've got to be prepared to feel humiliated - like you're a beginner just learning again. The hard part is, that you look and feel like an idiot in front of other Dance Company on-lookers who are helping in the decision-making process. Fortunately, they made us feel better in the end, when they told us they are looking for "potentials" in this audition, and not "perfection".

We then partnered up for a patterns test. This was a lot easier on the woman than the guy. I just basically had to follow the lead. It was a real problem if you were a woman, and had a partner that wasn't paying attention during the demonstration. If he messed up, you messed up, and you don't have a snowball's chance in hell of covering for him. This was the part that was the most difficult and frustrating for some women. If, by chance you had a killer partner that "got it", you looked great. This area is very difficult to judge.

We were then asked to partner dance free-style - meaning dance like we would in a nightclub situation. I was the most comfortable with that, because that is what I'm used to. What is difficult for street Salsa dancers, is placing them in a class, and having them do a routine. "Telling" a street dancer to do a series of pre-defined moves is a new experience for them - especially if they've never really taken any classes. I saw some incredible Salseros look like fish out of water trying to follow the patterns and shines (myself included!)

Overall, the experience was good. Humbling but good. It gave me an appreciation for the amount of work involved in putting together a choreographed performance to an entire song. The shines we did only lasted a minute or so. It's an entirely different story putting something together that is almost five minutes - and danced to precision with a group of professional dancers. I've performed with the Salsa Brava company in the past, and believe me, they work very hard and command perfection.

At the audition, I know all of us tried out felt like we did horribly, but as they said earlier, they are looking for "potential" talent. Overall, the turnout was good, and the experience positive - unnerving, but positive. "We'll call you." was the last words out of Joby's mouth. I guess now, we just wait for that phone to ring...
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Comments

(UPDATE: Joel and I made it!!! Yyyyyyyyyeeeeeesssssss!!!! )

An inspirational letter from Joel de Guzman....Mucho Congratulations to Joel!
He was one of the Salseros chosen for the Salsa Brava Dance Company, and later was part of Team Salsaweb's Euro-Tour, '98!!!
"Dear Edie,
I don't know if you know who I am, but I've written you a couple of times already. Last year around July or August, I had an interest in learning Salsa Dancing. I was interested in starting Salsa lessons so I used Yahoo to find some information on Salsa. My search led me to the SalsaWeb web page.

I vividly remember your story of how you got interested in Salsa and how you started learning from Luis and Joby. I also recalled that you had taken lessons from many instructors. I saw your e-mail address so I decided to write to you and asked for a recommendation for an instructor that had a lot of style and flare. Your reply was to take lessons from Luis and Joby. I took your advise and in August of 97' I started taking lessons with them at the Weingert Center in Lakewood.

It was relatively close to my home and it was all I could afford at the time. I was so excited about taking lessons and was eager to learn. I would practice with my friends after class and during the week so I wouldn't forget any of the moves. By the end of the lessons, which was about six or eight weeks, I can't remember off hand, I had learned a lot, but I knew there was still more to learn. Luis had mentioned that I learned pretty fast and that I would benefit more by taking private lessons, but private lessons weren't quite in my budget.

At this this time I didn't have much money, and I still don't, but I would go to some the group classes that Luis and Joby would teach whenever I could. At least once a week, and on some occasions three times a week, I would practice with some of my friends and would figure out moves on my own. Through all the practicing I did, I gained a strong understanding of the fundamentals of Salsa and was able to go to the clubs and learn some moves by watching other dancers.

I continued to occasionally go to group classes whenever I could until eventually, I came up with the money to take private lessons, and three Sundays ago I started my lessons. During my first private lesson Luis mentioned that Salsa Brava was looking for a couple of male dancers to join the company. He said, "You should go to he audition, it's sometime in March." In my mind I was imagining what it would be like to be part of Salsa Brava .

After that day the thought of trying out for the auditions had crossed my mind, but I was unsure of the what the company was looking for. I didn't think I would be good enough, but if Luis mentioned it to me, it must of meant that he saw something in me. I e-mailed Joby to find out some information about the audition. She wrote back right away and stated that the auditions were on March 8, which was about a week away from that point. As Sunday approached I contemplated whether I would go. During the week I had browsed through the SalsaWeb web page and noticed the advertisement for the audition. My first thought was there might be a lot of good dancers going to the audition if they're promoting it this much. It made me sort of apprehensive about trying out.

By Saturday, the day before the audition, I was thinking I had nothing to lose, except for maybe my pride, and that I would never know unless I tried. Later that evening, I began to put a resume together. It was really late and I was tired so was unable to finish my resume. On Sunday morning I went to my lessons with Luis. Again, he asked if I was going to the auditions. I told him in an unsure voice that I would be going.

After my lesson, I rushed home to finish my resume. I didn't have a picture, but I remembered that there was a Polaroid camera in my sister's room. I stood in front of a door as Clarisse, my Salsa partner, took a picture of me. Then I was off to the Dance Factory.

As I was waiting for the audition to start I tried to relax. It was about 3:45 p.m. and no other guys had showed up yet. Female dancers were arriving already, and I recognized almost all of them from the few clubs that I had been to. I remember seeing you come in and thinking that you were going to judge us, but realized you were trying out when I saw your resume at hand.

I have seen you on several occasion at The Mayan, Downtown, and once at The Boat House. You stated in your first e-mail reply to me to say hi if I saw you at a club and you weren't too busy dancing, but most of the time you were busy dancing and I didn't think you would remember me.

Anyway, some male dancers eventually arrived. I had recognized one of them and remembered him very well from The Mayan, and that he was a really good dancer. I began to get nervous and my heart started racing. From that point I just hoped I wouldn't make a fool of myself. When we started to learn the, I think what you call, freestyle shine routine, I was surprised about how fast Luis and Joby were teaching.

I was the guy in front of you, the bald one, in the first group. I was really lost when we tried to do the routine by ourselves. I couldn't have done any worse than that, so from that point I forgot about being afraid of messing up and concentrated on what I had to do. I got into my Salsa mode and tried to go with the flow.

Close to the end of the audition, I was much more relaxed and was just having fun. The following day, Monday, I got a message on my answering machine from Joby, telling me to call her back. And now, I can PROUDLY say that I'm part of Salsa Brava Productions. All this started with your referral. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU.

Sincerely,
Joel de Guzman"