What I Did For Love

The glass panels of the stage door were all smudgy. Alain grimaced as he shoved it open with his left hand, yanking his scarf off with his right. It irritated him to realize that he had arrived so late – well, at least on his terms. He was hoping an early entrance would give the impression that he was dedicated and attentive. Plus, it would give him time to warm up.

"God, I hope I get it," he thought to himself. He hadn't decided to take a gap year for nothing. Although mother had wished for him to go to university in London or New York, Alain understood the importance of nabbing a job in the performing arts world, which is why he wanted to get a few productions under his belt. Nothing looked uglier than an empty résumé, which he would have to submit anyway if he were to apply for university. He had to get this job. He couldn't afford to lose any time. Life from now on would just be show, after show, after show. It would always be constant auditions and praying. He knew he'd hate the empty gaps of unemployment in between.

He peeked into the practice room. At least fifty other people were already present, stretching by the big bay window, or dotted about the room in wary clumps, noses upturned. Alain stepped inside, and the heavy door swung shut with a loud squeak. Every single head instantly twirled around and stared. This was always the part he hated the most in auditions. Just waiting to go in, in such close proximity to everyone else, with all the negative vibes being hurled around the area…it could throw anyone off balance. Alain would need all the focus he could get. He pulled his headband up higher on his forehead, pushing his long black hair out of his eyes. Ignoring all the condescending looks thrown in his direction, he sat down next to the barre and began his stretches.

"Hey!"

He started, and glanced to his left. A slightly chubby, Hispanic girl smiled cheerfully at him. She had her legs stretched out nearly horizontal to each other, stretching her torso nearly flat on the floor, resting her head on her hands. Alain imitated the position.

"Hi."

"I bet you're really good. Just by watching you come in, people can tell. Your movements are really flow-y and all. That's why they got all nervous watching you," the girl told him, tying her frizzy brown hair into a messy bun.

"Oh. Umm…thanks. My cousin used to say I walk like a girl," Alain replied.

"Hahaha! Oh, those civilians…I'm Diana Rodriguez."

"Alain Chen."

"Nice. How long have you done dance?"

"Since I was like, seven. My mom said she signed up for classes so I would find a place to channel all my energy. Soon it became a place where I could really express myself, you know? So, I never left."

"Wow. I wanted to be an actress first." She started stretching her arms. "But I looked around and it was just like, I realized that there was more to it, right? And I wanted something extra to add instead of just acting. Good thing my mom had me take ballet. So here I am, trying out for a musical."

"You're not really a musical person?"

"No, not really. It's nice and all. I liked, what was it – Hairspray. That was so cute. Are you really into musicals?"

"Yeah….well, I really started with ballet, but I was always like prancing around, singing too…so I decided, might as well get that developed too, and that's how it happened. Now, it's like my life. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. No matter what happens, I'll never stop wanting it."

"What I did for love, eh?"

Alain laughed. "Exactly!"

Suddenly the heavy wooden door banged open again, and all noise ceased immediately. A tall, powerfully built man strode in briskly, followed by a shorter, younger, man hurrying behind him, scribbling furiously on a clipboard. The first man scanned the room with stern grey eyes.

"I am Terrence Brent, the director and choreographer of this show," he announced to the hushed crowd of gypsies in front of him. "This is Mike Cilento, the dance captain. He is going to give you each a number. When you have received one, stand in front of the mirror, and we'll begin."

Looking at Diana, Alain said, "Best of luck."

"The same to you," she replied with a grin.

All the other dancers had surrounded Mike, each clamouring for a card. He, obviously flustered, was trying to distribute them as quickly as he could. Alain and Diana hung back, waiting until the crowd had settled down a bit, then came forward.

"Nineteen, Twenty-three," Mike told them. He turned to the front of the room and stood next to Terrence, who was surveying the crowd with a look of indifference.

"Alright, we'll start with a simple routine. Step step, kick touch, down up side kick. Again, step step, kick touch, down up side kick."

The dancers nervously imitated the movements, jerkily and with unsure step. Alain concentrated as hard as he could, pushing all the pressure around him from his mind. He focused on Terrence alone, memorizing the moves. As the minutes passed and they learned the routine, only the sound of the piano and the thumping of leaping feet were heard over Terrence's booming voice.

"Now for the ballet sequence," Terrence called. The gypsies stopped and watched him, panting and wiping sweat off their foreheads. Alain could make out Diana through the mass of people on his right, hurriedly re-tying her bun. Others were swaying slowly on the spot, and like the opposite of an adrenaline rush, seemed to have lost all their energy already.

"Chassé, chassé, turn, out, jeté jeté! Arabesque, step, and twirl, walk, walk, pivot and plié." Terrence demonstrated once again. "I think we all have it down decently. Now, let's do it AWAY from the mirror – girls first, then boys."

It was a gruelling process. Alain leapt, stepped and twirled over and over again. When he was standing, waiting for the next call, he could feel the body heat emanating from all the other boys standing around him. It annoyed him to be in such close proximity, but it couldn't be helped. He watched Terrence and Mike's expressions as each group came before them and did the routines. Their serious, whispered consultations drew attention from every hopeful, anguished soul in the room, each praying to the unknown dance gods to be kind to their feet.

Finally, Terrence stopped everyone. "That's enough for now. Mike will call the numbers of those who have been selected to stay longer. Do not feel discouraged if your number is not called. There will be a production for you one day."

Mike stepped to the front of the nervous crowd. "Number seven. Sixteen. Thirty-two…"

Alain held his breath. "God, I hope I get it. I hope I get it. How many people does he need?" his mind chanted. "God, I hope I get it. I hope I get it. How many boys, how many girls?"

"Twenty-three…" Mike called. Alain looked up and saw a surprised and happy Diana grab her résumé and walk to the corner where the other gypsies huddled together in relief. She shot him a smile and he returned it.

"Forty-one, twelve, twenty-five, and…." The remaining hopefuls leaned forwards with anxiety. "Nineteen."

Alain felt relaxation flow back into his body at that one last word. He quickly slithered through the crowd and found his way to the corner with résumé in hand. He kept a neutral look on his face and avoided those of the ones who didn't make it. He knew they were staring at him with disappointment and resentment. They were thinking, "Hey! That could have been me! Maybe if they didn't pick him, my number would have been called…"

It didn't matter, of course, since obviously, he had been chosen instead. He waited patiently with the others. He had done a quick headcount and realized that, including himself, there were twenty people left. Ten boys and ten girls. But how many did Terrence want in the end?

"Okay, guys," Terrence said, finally turning to them. "Good job, you've come this far. However, the thing is, I still can't use all of you." They stared at him with quivery eyes. "This chorus only requires five boys and five girls. That means exactly half of you will leave today without a part." This comment was met with grave faces. "To make things easier, I'm going to teach you all a short routine. Then, Mike will split you into groups of four so we can pay attention to each dancer without wasting time with individual auditions. This helps us because you will be performing alongside somebody else, so we can compare you to the others without having to divide attention too much. This is also a good opportunity for your teammates to help you as well." The dancers shifted uncomfortably, and another round of wary glances shot through the pack. "You'll have an hour to practice. Mike, give out the groups."

The rest of the story will appear soon! Please review. Thank you very much.