The Audition

A One-Act Ballet for a Cast of Six (and Possibly a Pianist)

Yes, friends, I’m deviating from deeply-serious-historical matters to post another of my scenarios.

Between Covid lockdowns during 2021, I had the pleasure of meeting Australian choreographer Alice Topp, when she visited a local dance studio to talk about her career. Alice was an excellent speaker with an endearingly warm sense of humour. And in the course of recounting her colourful experiences and travels as a dancer, she mentioned an audition she’d once attended – in Germany, I think.

Telling the anecdote with wide-eyed wonderment, Alice described the almost instantaneous elimination of another dancer. Scarcely had the poor candidate stood at barre and flexed a finger before receiving the instruction to leave. What had the scrutineer disliked so peremptorily? What talent was never seen? Was it a random, purely gratuitous elimination, prompted by the pressure of a hundred odd dancers to be weeded through?

Alice, so far as I know, has not yet created a ballet that gives rein to the purely dramatic aspects of her art form. But nevertheless, a couple of days later, I was sitting in my study, reflecting on her anecdotes, vaguely contemplating if anything she’d mentioned suggested itself for a new work. Some scenarios have been an agony in my head for years. This short piece—let’s call it a sketch—sorted itself out, beginning to end, in under an hour’s musing in my armchair.

Those of you with a healthy knowledge of the international ballet repertoire will perhaps deduce that The Audition makes a nod to Jerome Robbins’ humorous masterpiece, The Concert. But it also takes inspiration a much less well-known work, Le Concours (The Competition) by Maurice Bejart, a convention-busting send-up of the hard-boiled detective genre and the world of international ballet competitions.

The Audition is essentially a work for six dancers, of any combination of genders, which lends itself to being staged in various ways. I offer one particular version in the PDF below based on a presumed score for solo piano, and reflective of my own preferences vis-à-vis the implied power dynamics of gender. The climax is deadpan; the humour might not be to all tastes. But then I’ve politely sat through some truly dreadful ballets over the years—so now you can politely sit through one of mine. Caitlyn x

PDF of The Audition – A One-Act Ballet

 

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