Day 14: That Terrible Time I Tried to Be a Hip-Hop Dancer

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!


2010 was the year of applying to everything. Every audition or job opportunity that remotely fit my abilities was a chance for me to at least give it the old college try.  Many times, this landed me in auditions and interviews that were significantly over my head.  One of these times, I was called to audition for a hip-hop flash mob to take place in Times Square for the launch of a new video game console

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am not a hip hop dancer.  Up until that that time, I had studied ballet, jazz, modern and tap on and off since childhood, and to be fair, I wasn’t half bad.  But when I tried to attempt any type of dance that required you to relax your body (as hip hop often does), I struggled. I really really struggled.  I’d look like a broken tin man trying to dance.  But hey!  This casting director called me directly to tell me about this massive cattle call.  What could go wrong?

First of all, I was told to wear “hip, urban wear,” which not only confused me, but once I saw what people wore to fit this category, seemed vaguely offensive.  Most people (primarily young white girls like me) looked like they were wearing what they believed 90s rappers wore.  Eep.

When I entered the room, a phenomenal choreographer explained the project and taught a one-minute combination. I realized within the first 15 second that this audition was comically over my head–and many other’s heads as well.  I decided in that moment that I had stumbled upon what was essentially a free dance class with an inspiring teacher. I made the best of it.  I found a few other lost souls who were only making half the steps and we stuck close to each other.  It was clear, and confusing, that this was a total mish-mash of people.

We went into the next room to audition for casting and were split into groups.  I watched the well-costumed, phenomenal dancers perform their hearts out and the group supportively applauded as each group cleared to the side. Then my group went, and oh, we tried, we really did.  I smiled as big as a I could and finished strong, as I was always taught.  But the rest of it was a mess of arm flailing and head bopping.  I headed toward home with a laugh and a little pride that I hadn’t run from the room in horror.

Then a few weeks passed and I got an email.  I had been cast.  I believe my first reaction was, “But why? Why is this happening?”  Did they really need that many performers that they couldn’t find enough hip hop dancers?  I mean, it didn’t pay particularly well, but then again it was also only a two-day commitment. Nevertheless, I prepared for my one day of rehearsal, and hoped we wouldn’t be attempting the combination from the audition.

When I arrived, the hub bub in the room was not far off from my surprise of being cast.  It seemed like all but maybe a handful were surprised they got a call at all.  And then I heard the funniest–perhaps untrue–but most amazing rumor of all–that an entire stack of “yes” people–those who had been cast–had been accidentally discarded by casting, with too little time to hold another session. And so, they were forced to take a massive amount of people from the “no” list.  So here we were, a whole slew of mediocre dancers shoved into Chelsea Piers to learn an epic hip hop routine for a very expensive launch that would include special singer appearances and pyrotechnics.

The morning trudged on as we struggled through the steps. The age range ran from 18 to 65, and ability level range from professional dancer (that were instructed to help the others) to “I took a dance class in 2nd grade.”  The poor look of dread the choreographers faces was painful, and all I wanted to do was say, I know!  I wish I could fix this!  Send me home!  I eventually got to the point where I wasn’t totally bombing the main routine, although my body felt like it was ready to crumble.  My real prowess began to shine through when they broke us into groups for the harder part of the evening, a very funky small-group combination involving a mix of hip hop and latin ballroom.  Let’s just say they put me in the back.

The big night came, and any organization or information about how the event would proceed was out the window.  It was every man for himself.  They gave me some giant hoop earrings to make me look “more urban,” and I went off to a corner to practice.  Since this was only about four months after meeting Ben, I strongly encouraged him not to come. But as a loving, easygoing guy, he was there will bells on, standing outside of the Times Square Starbucks like a champ.

I recently watch the video on YouTube, and I noticed something pretty brilliant they did while filming.  The front group–surrounded by its own crowd of audience members–was made up of the super dancers.  My group, my poor, poor group, was in the back section, barely picked up by cameras. Smart move, team. The front group looks sassy, well-rehearsed, and professional.  But the reality in the back section, was a mob of elbow-wielding pseudo-dancers, huffing and puffing through this combination of madness.  It was like a runaway hip-hop train, and all I could hope was that I was deep enough into the crowd to hide behind the good ones.

The night ended and I limped home with Ben.  I believe I got a hot dog from a stand to feed my embarrassed soul.  I learned my lesson that day.  You don’t need to be good at everything, and you definitely shouldn’t submit for a position if you can’t pull it off, because you may just get cast.

7 responses to “Day 14: That Terrible Time I Tried to Be a Hip-Hop Dancer”

  1. Well, your niece just started taking hip-hop at age 13 and she’s loving it! Hopefully when she gets older she will end up in the front row of the movie! Thanks for inspiring all the grandkids with your acting and your writing and your being a really nice aunt!


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