Bill T. Jones, choreographer for Fela! The audition was held at the Alvin Ailey studios (my old stomping grounds), which was an unusual setting for a musical audition in the first place and an indicator of things to come.
First they split the audition by having the "Harlem Beauties" come in the morning and the "Priest's Girlfriend/Caucasion Streetwalkers" come in the afternoon. Yes, they really did split the audition along those lines. I arrived in the morning, being the Harlem Beauty that I am (sorry couldn't help myself) and got a chance to catch up with some of the kids from Ailey which was really nice. The girls at the audition ran the entire spectrum. There were girls from The Ailey School there, girls from the Alvin Ailey company (!) and then girls that I usually see at musical theatre auditions. Given the population I was extremely curious what I was in for.
The equity girls were called into the room and greeted by the fabulous Bill T. Jones himself. He was extremely kind and ridiculously fit! He started the audition by having us learn two phrases, as we repeated the phrases again and again, he would lead in the front and then switch one of the phrases and we were to learn it and repeat. It was actually really difficult because while you were dancing you were expected to be watching and learning at the same time, then to dance it right after. We were all struggling! I thought that that was probably the first cut, but it wasn't. It was the warm up! He then, had us all walk through the center of the room at the same time. We were to just keep walking and going through the center of the room. So that he could see how we moved. Then finally we learned a combo. It was very much modern dance, had no counts, and though the music was in eights we were not to dance with the music!
Sigh, I hate being out of place at auditions. It rarely happens to me, but when it does the feeling is discouraging. Now this was not like the wicked combo, where I was having a hard time getting the movement in my body. I learned the combo fine, but the timing was just not something I could adjust to. My body needs counts! So we did the combination once and Bill T. Jones goes around making cuts by shaking hands and telling people thanks for coming one by one, and he doesn't eliminate me! Whew. But the girls that he does cut, he asks if they would like to sing on the spot in front of everyone while doing some movement across the floor... um what? I'm not even sure if that's OK with equity? These poor girls after being cut then have to sing their songs in front of us all, while making up their own dance. Yikes! We then do the combination again in groups and this time I'm given the boot along with others, but he didn't ask us to sing and I probably would have declined anyways. What an experience!