I have been hiding out writing as many of my crazy NYC dancer stories down that I can think of. It's been really fun. I wanted to share this one!-KC
The next day I received a phone call from a casting director regarding a dance job I had applied for on one of endless streams of casting websites that I click, click, clicked every morning with my morning cup of green tea.
He was looking for the featured dancer for a music video that was shooting in Brooklyn the next day. He had seen my photos on my submission and wondered if I had any background in 1970’s go-go dancing. As a rule of thumb in my career- I had a background in everything, honestly I was at best a good dancer. But depending on who was on the other end of the casting phone call I would completely morph myself to having whatever skills they were looking for. You need someone who could do pointe work? I hadn’t touched my ballet shoes in almost 3 years, but I was still an expert who “almost” danced with the National Ballet of Canada, lie. You needed someone who could do lifts and partnering? I did one boy/girl jazz duet at dance competitions, so obviously that qualified me as a pas de deux expert, lie. Jobs for me were so few and far between that when landed on my lap, I had to do my best to be whatever it was that they needed. I didn’t care WHAT they wanted, I had to convince them that they wanted me.
So I did what I did best, I faked it till I made it. Almost instantly, I had studied fosse extensively and was very versed in all things with the 1970’s feel when really I was born in 1982. I had no idea what I was talking about. He seemed intrigued. He said that this was great and he said he would email me the address and information for the shoot and asked me to be there at 10 am the next day. I asked him about rehearsals and other dancers and he told me that I didn’t need to rehearse because I was going to be the only dancer. I couldn’t be more excited! I didn’t even have to audition. My very first official music video and it was a solo! When the email arrived I found out who I would be dancing for, Kayne West. This was many years before I would be dancing beside Taylor Swift and comforting her the night when the combination of these two stars on the MTV stage would cause an uproar. This was long before I knew what a golddigger was. I had no idea who this was. I call my mom.
“Mom! I booked a music video! I am going to be dancing for KAYNE (I pronounced it KA-IN-YEA) WEST”
“who is that?”
“I have no idea! It shoots tomorrow, amazing right!”
We celebrated my doing un-specified choreography in an unspecified music video for an artist I had never heard of like I had just won an Oscar.
The Next day I hopped on the subway and headed out to Brooklyn, when I arrived to the station, I treated myself to a cab ride from the station to the shoot. Mostly because I had no idea where I was, and also because I wanted to seem important when I arrived. When I did arrive in my cab, no one was outside to see me being important. I paid the cab driver and looked at the door with the numbers that matched my email. I started to seriously doubt that this was actually a job, there appeared to be no one inside. I knocked on the rusted, graffiti covered door and heard nothing. Finally after enough time had past for me to plan how I was going to tell my mom that the video had turned out to be nothing, the door opened. It was a dude with a headset. I told him I was a dancer in the video, he looked confused and told me to come with him. I followed him around the set while he asked every single person, "do you know where I put this dancer?" PUT THIS DANCER. It felt the same as if he was asking the crew where the dumpster for the trash was. This was not the glamorous version of my music video debut I had envisioned. Finally, the dude put me in a tiny little dressing room and told me to wait there. SO, I waited for what seemed like hours. Finally, the director found me. He introduced himself and brought me to set. He showed me a giant white shadow box and had me step inside. It was made of white paper and lit from behind so that when I was inside all the camera could see was my silhouette. It became clear why I had booked this job without an audition. It didn’t matter what I looked like, because you weren’t going to even see me. I was going to dance inside a box. I came out of the box and waited for shooting to start and watched a giant entourage of huge men surround a tiny little guy wearing a Letterman sweater. Apparently Kayne West had arrived. Once he got onto the sound stage the guy who had been standing in a giant bear costume for the last 45 mintues in the heavy stage lights moved out of the way and got out of the bear suit. Kayne put the suit on and it was time to shoot. Where the heck was I? I was Dancing in a box for a guy rapping while wearing a bear suit? Was this what showbiz was always going to feel like? Confusing and overwhelming?
This was the first time I could ever remember learning one of the lessons of my entire dance career. Dancers lived at the bottom of the showbiz pond. On top were the stars and somewhere down at the bottom with the silt and sludge were the dancers and production assistants. No one of set knew my name, brought me water, cared that I had been dancing full out in that tiny box completely overheating for the last 2 hours without a break. I was far too scared and overwhelmed to ask for anything I might have needed. In between takes I would just take deep breaths and pray that it would all be over soon. I was released from my box and nothing was ever said again to me. I walked around set and tried to find the man that I had spoken to on the phone, I asked everyone if they knew where we got paid. I told them I was told I would get $150 at the wrap of the shoot. No one seemed to know. When I finally did see phone call man he told me that he was so sorry but had forgotten to get cash to pay me, he took down my address and promised to send out a check tomorrow when everything calmed down. I agreed because I trust everyone, I am Canadian, I don't even lock my house. I learned that day the reason it is called show business. If it was going to be a good time and people were going to throw money at me after I completed a job it would be called, show fun.
Everyday for the next two weeks I ran to the mailbox to see if I had been paid. For me at the time a check for $150 was a tiny life of dance life salvation. The check never came. That day I learned the reason that Kayne’s “golddigger” wasn’t messing with a broke...broke. He kept that $150 for himself.