I promised I would describe the interview I had with Mr. Michael Uthoff, the Director of Dance St. Louis– so here is some gossip mongering for you! (My favorite!)
First, I woke up late and scrambled to pick out clothes that say ‘I’m young and fashionable, but also classy and oh-so-serious’. I don’t remember what I wore, so I guess it wasn’t very impressive. The DStL headquarters are downtown, a place I despise going because I never know where to park. I ended up in a lot that said ‘PAY THE MACHINE!” but I couldn’t find said machine, just a beat-up looking shed with no windows, person, or foreseeable way to pay for the spot I was occupying. So I did what all smart people do, and ignored the rules and decided to risk having my car towed. How would it have looked if my car was in-fact dragged off, and after my interview, I went back and begged for a ride home?
Anyways, it was drizzling, but you have to stand outside the building and press an intercom button announcing your presence and reason for being there (I am Jess and I’m here to annoy you!) A man came down to let me in and we made strange chit-chat on the way up in the elevator- something about the weather, and then New Orleans, I don’t remember how that topic came up, maybe something about architecture. Then I was led into the main office- an expansive room where Mr. Uthoff sat behind a desk.
He got up to greet me and in true gentlemanly fashion, helped me with my coat (since years of dance training has not helped me manage a graceful manuever out of outerwear, true story). I expected that he’d want to return to his desk and loom over me with his computer and pencils and whatnots but instead we sat in cozy armchairs near the windows.
When I proposed to Alive that I cover the show as part of the dance St. Louis season, they suggested I try to get an interview with someone from the organization. I had been in contact with the Marketing Director and asked if she could suggest someone that I could speak to. I sort of assumed that asking if Mr. Uthoff or even she would take the time to answer my questions would be presumptuous, rude, and just stupid. The marketing director was incredibly kind in saying that not only was he the one to talk to, but would help set up the interview. While I was in the office, I met several other Dance St. Louis representatives who actually THANKED ME for wanting to write something about them. How crazy is that? It is the weirdest thing to be thanked by people I feel extremely inspired, humbled, and grateful towards.
The interview lasted about an hour and a half, and Mr. uthoff and I discussed everything from the questions I had scribbled down on a pad of paper, to the dance scene in St. Louis, or own backgrounds, aesthetics, hopes for what’s to come with dance in this city, even down to tv shows like so you think you can dance. I feel like I really got to know the person behind the title, and he even seemed interested in who I am and my experiences. It was a pretty no-holds-barred conversation, none of the stiff, polite, trying to make myself likeable nonsense you get a lot of the time in interviews. I love a person who can stand up for what they believe in, especially if quality dance and education happen to be the subjects. I think I got not only everything that I needed to (hopefully) write a decent promotional piece with honest admiration (no forced positivity!) but even, selfishly, to navigate my way through some decisions ahead regarding my own future as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, critic, lover of dance in St. Louis.
So in every aspect, it was an unexpected interview– that it took place at all, that it was relaxed and warm, informative and inspiring. I didn’t think I’d walk out of the office having received a hug and a kiss ont the cheek, or that when I went to the performance on Friday, that Mr. Uthoff would see me during intermission and walk over and again greet me with a hug. I fully admit to demanding said embrace as I was leaving, (‘GIVE ME A HUG!‘ ) but it would have been completely expected that my request be denied, or that I would be ignored or only politely acknowledged at the show. To say that I feel as though I have found a mentor, a kindred spirit, an authoritative yet inspiring figure, and friend feels both humbling and amazingly, true.
So that is that- I hope my tale of this encounter was not too cheesy. I know it was a poorly constructed rendition and who likes reading about those happy moments of someone’s life anyways? Well not to worry dear friends, I’m sure I will have a humiliating experience to share with you before you know it. Actually, one of my students said tonight that my class wasn’t fun- which stings my soul a little, but I think this was a case of adolescence determined NOT to have fun, so I’m trying not be too torn down by the eye-rolling of a pre-teen.
Tomorrow I am auditioning for chorus roles for the summer season at The Muny (one of the largest outdoor theaters int the world!) I performed there many a time as a kid and teen but once you’re in the adult chorus, you actually get paid! (and well!) So I figure I might as well try. They are doing a few shows that I think I could have a shot at-
‘The King and I’– I have actually been Eliza in the ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin scenebefore. I also have a little experience with Taiwanese dancing, which might be of some use. I’m also so pale, I probably wouldn’t even need the white-face geisha makeup.
Chicago– I am really hoping to be int his one. It’s no secret that I love me some Fosse style jazz, and this show in general. I think I will probably try to make my intentions of being cast in this one clear from the get-go, and don fishnets and a zip-up racerback black leotard for the audition. If I’m not picked, at least I’m in the right get-up to be picked as a street-walker. Who wants a date?
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat– the dancing chorus actually does a lot in this one- we did a little in my theatre dance class a butler from this show. I actually hated it, but it requires a big cheesy smile and judging from my re-telling of my interview, cheesy is no-problemo for moi.
I am deathly afraid because they are doing ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ (which I saw on Broadway with the original cast- Sutton Foster, Gavin Creel, ect) and I like the show ok- it takes place in New York in the 20’s which means flapper costumes. If there’s one era I like, it’s the one with the most fringe, feathers, and sequins. unfortunately this is largely a tap dance show and I can’t do much beyond a times step, or a ‘shuffle-off-to-buffalo’. Methinks I may be shuffling off to the reject pile after the tap portion of the audition.
I’m also very nervous about being asked to sing. I am currently teaching a Broadway class and while practicing and demonstrating scales, one of my students said ‘Miss Jess, you’re amazing!‘ Oh how easily fooled they are by 8 notes. Give me a ballad and I sound like a Strangled goose with a frog in its throat. I just have to get through 16 bars, should I be luckily enough to get a call-back to sing, which I am doubting.
I don’t really know the appropriate way to prepare for a musical theatre audition. how much makeup do you wear? (My guess is a ton, but do I have to pull out fake eyelashes? )And is the black leo a good choice, or should I go with an obnoxious bright color; I have a flamingo pink halter with rhinestone that would at least be eye-catching. WATCH ME SCREW UP!
As for now, I’m just going to update my resume and sit back with a cup of mint tea and a book.
If you’re curious about how the audition goes, no need to set up an interview, I’m sure humiliating or successful, I’ll tell you all about it.
Have a good start to the weekend! Oh wait, I don’t give orders I ask questions…..
I mean, Won’t you please have a good start to the weekend?