When Good Grades and Talent are not Enoughaspiewriter.wordpress.com | Nov 27th 2012
I was a terrible actress. Who needed improvisation anyway? At least I still had my dancing.
I struggled to hold on to that part of me, the one thing that was mine, my identity as a dancer. I knew I was good at it, and I practiced and obsessed about its perfection.
Junior High School was approaching and I was hoping to go to Mark Twain, a Junior High School in Coney Island. It was a school for gifted students requiring entrance (academic) exams, interviews, and talent auditions. In addition to excellent academics, students needed to demonstrate a talent in one or more areas of the arts.
Despite my rarely doing homework, and spending many of my days banished to the hallways, academically, I remained at the top of my class. Thanks to my hyperlexia, by the third grade I had an eighth grade reading level, and by the fifth grade, a twelve grade reading level. Step one: top grades, and high passing scores on the entrance exam; check.
I breezed through the entrance exams.
Step two consisted of choosing two talents; that was tough. Dancing was a given, but I played no musical instruments, was not confident in my singing ability, and my drawing and painting was mediocre at best. That left acting, so acting it was. I had training and experience on stage, and preparing a monologue was right up my alley—no interaction with anyone else needed.
The dance audition was first. I chose a solo piece I’d recently performed from Swan Lake—on pointe. Every step was in tune, every movement graceful, and every pirouette perfect. I nailed it, and I knew it. Smiling judges applauded; I was beaming.
“Now we are going to play a random selection of music for your freestyle dancing. Just do whatever comes naturally.”
What? My heart sank. I stood there staring at the panel of four judges, three female, and one male. No-one told me, I had nothing prepared, no plan, and no idea what to do. I stood there even after the music began.
“You can begin,” a voice came from the table of judges, and so I did.
I began, at the beginning of my prepared ballet routine. I adjusted for the pace and the tempo of the music, which was something out of Flash dance, but that did not make my attempt at freestyle dancing any less ridiculous.
It wasn’t until years later that I understood what was expected that day. That they wanted to see how I would move on a dance floor. When the music started to play, could I dance? Did I have any rhythm?
The rest of the day went by in a teary blur. My monologue was rushed; my face was flushed red from fretting over the dance scene that confounded me. The same unpleasant surprise awaited me at the end of my prepared piece. The instructions: “Pretend you are alone at a school dance.”
I stared down at the polished wood floors, and paced back and forth watching myself turn red in the mirrors before sitting down in a chair against the wall.
I glanced up to see four sets of eyes on me. Twisting my hands in my lap I began to mumble, “I shouldn’t have come here today; I want to go home.”
The call for the entrance interview never came.
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