Australia was exciting….getting off the plane from the coldest winter in Victoria in decades but mild by Canadian standards. FYI – The Canadian standard is gauged by anywhere East or North of the lower mainland of BC. Palm trees and warm. Crocodile Dundee and Men at Work had just opened up Australia to Canada, the world and there I was. The Road Warrior was one of my favorite movies at the time as well. Arriving in Australia was amazing. People that sounded like Paul Hogan and driving on the other side of the road. Sun, surf and of course night club dancing. Really exciting times.
Peter and I couldn’t find work. We stayed with his very generous mother but I wore out my welcome. I was hungry and didn’t know what to do. Peter’s sister, Melissa, saw an ad for a dance audition at Dreamworld, a theme park not far away. “You’re a dancer.” “That’s right. I’m a dancer”…(Think….Leap! and grow your wings on the way down).
We brought our bikes down with us and were in great physical condition so I did the natural thing and cycled to the audition…..through 90 minutes of a tropical downpour. I was soaked. I left my bicycle unlocked outside the auditorium and sloshed my way into the cattle call (a cattle call is a large audition with lots of people – like cattle in a paddock).
When I looked down into the amphitheatre I realised that I was over my head but decided to stay and give it a go. I am getting tense in my stomach as think about this event . (I find it very interesting that I have such a visceral reaction) As I walked into the crowd I heard a man saying that he just finished dancing with Janet Jackson….I was waaaay over my head.
I stood in the back and tried to learn the choreography. I didn’t understand the language(not the Australian dialect – the dance vocabulary) they were using. When the choreographer said “attitude” I thought emotional attitude. (So I would put a dramatic look on my face)Later in life I learned it meant a bent leg. At one point I knocked over a ladder. Embarrassed and ashamed I choked back the tears and the enormous urge to run. I committed to staying and completing the audition.
In a dance audition, dancers learn as a group and then get put into smaller groups for the producer, choreographer, and director to view them closer and see who has the skill, looks, and height they are looking for. Australian dancers are usually short haired, tall and highly skilled. I am 5’7, had long hair and had virtually no formal training. An audition is a really competitive environment and I was at a huge disadvantage. I thought was a dancer going in and realised that I was wrong but for some reason I didn’t quit. As Les Brown would say “You gotta be HUNGRY” and I was…both literally and figuratively.
I remember the terror of being downstage(close to the audience) and trying to follow the dancers around me and sneaking myself upstage (further from the audience) so I could see. Fumbling through what I now see as very simple choreography. I remember that I was even in rubber soled deck shoes that were my dancing shoes. An enormous faux pas for an event…I still didn’t leave.
Then came the trick section. I was physically very strong and had tricks…that were sloppy because I taught them to myself. I had this habit of trying stuff in front of audiences that I hadn’t done before. I remember starting a tumbling run of a row of back hand springs (I had done a couple before but not a row) and almost falling off stage into the audience.
Then we were all brought together, thanked for our time and were more or less told “Don’t call us we’ll call you….