The Road To Malaysia, Pt. 1
5 years ago today, I was on a weekend adventure in Langkawi, Malaysia with a cast and crew who would share an unforgettable experience and become my family. I received a photo bundle from one of them this morning-- we've been reminiscing all day.
The three months I spent working for iLuminate at Genting Resort outside Kuala Lumpur, completely changed my life. It was a time in which the environment and people around me caused me to come swiftly into alignment with my better self.
The road to my audition for iLuminate in New York was serendipitous. I had spent the past six months on a cruise ship, all kinds of conflicted and miserable about my career--feeling way too emotionally involved with cruise ship life, and really tired of married 'swinger' life--which involved almost predatory levels of forced pursuit, and which was fueling my partner's complicated sex addiction. (A detail that is impossible to 'sprinkle lightly' into a blog, and for that, I'm sorry). I was questioning everything about my life: was my marriage capable of lasting? Was I capable of dancing or singing anywhere but cruise ships? Was my soul broken from all the secrets and festering relationship problems?
I felt like I didn't know myself anymore.
With that in mind, I planned a courageous trip to Salt Lake City after stops in Alberta and Texas. My husband and I would road trip from Vegas with long time friends. I would attend the Cirque Du Soleil audition with one of those friends. We would get in some much needed time on land and I would get a fresh check-in with my dance career. In my last month on the ship, the plan was helping. I spent dozens of hours crafting a solo piece and training both my body and mind. I worked my improvisation muscle, in front of ship passengers and watchful gym crew. I focused hard on my stamina, which can ebb and flow with long term contracts.
The road trip was really nice. It was amazing to see the house my best friend grew up in, in Orem, UT, and to be with my good friends on land. The Cirque audition started out phenomenally. I surprised myself with easy technique in the first combo, and a uniquely amusing improv. Both my friend and I made the first couple of cuts and would return the second day.
Second day was a mess. My confidence waned as the choreography piled on, and a second round of young dance prodigies (who got invited after the first wave of cuts) began to dominate the room. I had been so disciplined and diligent up until then, but the tide of shitty self talk was unstoppable...
You're too old.
You're not good enough.
You haven't trained enough.
You will never make it in these young, confident kids' shadows.
I held it down through another cut, but began to quake in the holding room as texts from my husband flowed in. Texts, not about dance or Cirque Du Soleil. Texts about our next sexual exploit. I was furious with him, and he pushed back with his own fury, fueled by unhealthy patterns that I had allowed to run rampant for years.
I became hysterical. We were down to maybe one or two cuts in an arduous two-day audition I had spent months preparing for. My friend helped me slow my breath and calm down, but the tears began to flow, and before we even entered the audition room again, I knew I was lost.
The twist in my already humiliated wound was that the last combo I learned before getting cut... I had actually done before, and gotten kept. I already knew I was good enough to make it, but I sabotaged myself, blinking through bleary eyes and failing to retain or perform a combination that required 'finale-level' joy and pep. I must have looked like an emotional wreck barely holding on. My friend got kept and we had to wait to get a ride home, so I grabbed my stuff and walked, sobbing, to a nearby park where I let the grass hold me up. I cried and cried. I had no idea how I ended up in this place, in this heavy, toxic relationship with someone I really loved. I had never felt so ashamed. I called my mom and told her almost everything. I couldn't bear to say out loud that being a swinger had taken over my life. That part would have to wait.
Something clicked in me that evening, as the audition adrenaline waned and my rage and humiliation bottled themselves into numbness. I feigned okey-ness on an evening out in Salt Lake. My husband, who had comforted me hours earlier with a promise of ending all the sex talk and plans, continued bringing up his fantasies and indecent proposals. He couldn't contain himself even on a casual night out with our closest friends, post audition meltdown. Comments on our friends as potential threesome fare, scrolls through nasty local Craigslist ads--he was riled up and it didn't matter how I felt. I finally saw it all for what it was: unhealthy and not my objective or responsibility.
I checked out.
I flew back to New York early. Dropped my suitcase and cares on the floor and got started on audition prep. I took 2 classes and a workshop and began to audition for everything without mercy. I already had 2 callbacks for regional theaters when I waltzed into the iLuminate audition, expecting to flounder. The breakdown called for hip hop, jazz, salsa, thrash contemporary, and pointe. I pictured another Cirque situation, but this time I was asking for it--I knew if I drilled enough auditions I would get my confidence back as a dancer, and I had left all my fear back in Salt Lake City.
The rest is history. I stayed the course, believed in myself, observed and executed pretty well, even with a few curveballs thrown (slippery floors, styles I wasn't well versed in, not bringing my pointe shoes and having to submit a video audition from home).
I laughed when I booked it. I knew nothing about iLuminate or Malaysia. I was blissfully unaware of what I was in for, and just proud to have put myself out there. That week, I also booked the 42nd Street tour, which fell into place mere weeks after our return from Asia. One week of me opening up to my own power set me up with non-ship employment for over a year. It also set me on a course for an entire life overhaul. No big deal.
*Read all about Malaysia magic and mystery in Part 2--tomorrow. :)
*Piano practice post 42nd Street Callback & the suit in which I would come to know myself.