Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Your 4 Year Old Self Was On To Something

Don’t give up on your dreams if you know in your heart it’s what you’re meant to do. I know life is so much harder now and we all have to do the best with what is left after Covid. However, your 4 year old self was on to something. You did what you loved without fear and self doubt. Let's strive for that when we are back in the studio and onstage. 

I didn’t have natural turn out or technique when I got serious about dance in high school. I didn’t get into the dance program at my first choice college. I was cut pretty fast and it was heartbreaking. I choreographed and rehearsed my solo for months and was never given an opportunity to perform it. They slapped a list on the door with the names of who would stay after barre and mine was not on it. But I loved to dance. I loved performing and thankfully grew up dancing at a studio that very much valued performance quality. I sucked up my pride and went somewhere else to major in dance for 2 years. I worked very hard to transform my technique and perform as much as possible with the school's dance company. After an injury, mono (woof), and a rough winter, I just wanted to get to New York City and have a fresh start. I felt like I was wasting time. I transferred to the college that shunned me for dance before. I went for communications after 2 years of being a dance major and LOVED it. I planned my school classes around my Steps and BDC schedules. I trained with Rockettes (shout out to Rhonda Malkin and Melissa Thomas) and continued to participate in summer intensives.

I was pretty shy growing up unless I was onstage. I came in late to already established dance teams and always felt like I should have done more earlier. I didn't do competition team until high school and I didn't do marching band kickline until my senior year. I didn’t have natural technique and turnout, but I had passion. I worked really hard and took classes in all styles. When it came time to go to college, I found a program that had some jazz and tap. However, I had a horrible experience with a modern teacher. It seemed like if you didn't do ballet or modern, you weren't a dancer to him. He actually announced to a room of my peers that “Rachael is stripping now,” when I got my first professional paying job as an AFL dancer. I was working as a dancer while still in school and was excitedly sharing the news. I was proud of myself. Silly me to assume that every dance educator would be supportive of their students. 

I love ballet and modern. They are beautiful and so helpful with technique, but they weren't what I wanted to do professionally. I have zero respect for people who belittle the accomplishments of others no matter which famous company they used to dance with. I wish I had the strength and confidence that I have now back then. His harassment would not have gone over well these days. I'm afraid there will always be people like this though. Years later, a friend of an ex found out I was moving back to New York and told me that the chances of me achieving my dream were pretty low. He had never gone after his dream, but what gave him the right to put limits on mine? There is no greater feeling than finding success in spite of these people. Keep going. Their opinions don’t matter. 
I think we all know by now that I have wanted to be a Rockette since I saw them for the first time at 12 years old. I made it through the Rockette audition 6 times and was invited to a private audition, but never ever got the call. The training and work I put in lead me to booking other dream jobs though. One "no", no matter how big and heartbreaking it may feel, does not mean you won't get to perform on famous stages or travel the world doing what you love. I may even go back and try again. Ha! I'm relentless. 

When I was little, I was convinced I was the next Britney. All I did was sing with my karaoke machine and beg my parents to move us to LA. I wrote songs and recorded singles on cassettes. I knew I wanted to be a performer since I was very young. When I tried to take it to the next level, I got cut at school choir auditions. I was insanely nervous even though all I ever did was sing and choreograph at home. My confidence took a major hit and I just accepted that I couldn't sing. MANY years later, I got the confidence to audition for a local equity theatre. I did YouTube vocal warm ups. I didn’t have a "book" and I had one song prepared. I did well enough to book the job. I met an amazing teacher in the cast of that show who helped to bring me out of my shell through voice lessons that felt like therapy. I created a book and went on to more confidently audition. I performed with that theatre again and hope to in the future. Don’t doubt your ability to tackle something you once thought was impossible. Do put in the work. 

I guess my point with this post is to share that it took me a while to get to where I am. I didn't feel truly confident in myself as a performer until my mid-20s. I know some people may have issue with the whole "fake it til you make it" thing, but I really think that is what you have to do sometimes. It helped me grow. What I'm saying is to give yourself the benefit of the doubt and just go for it. I faked confidence at every audition I went to for years until I finally started feeling it. Imposter syndrome is a real thing. My years of not being chosen or not being the best inspired me to work my butt off. I took so many dance and fitness classes that I started to surprise myself when I would be able to hold things longer or turn better at auditions. I started to book my dream jobs. 

If you work hard and have faith in your abilities, you are absolutely worthy of being in the room. You are meant to live the life you choose. Little kids have all the confidence in the world before the world tries to tell them who to be. The opinions of those who don't want what's best for you won't pay your bills. Make your 4 year old self proud.