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‘Transplants’ and Implants: NY vs. LA

August 31, 2012

Apparently, I’m what’s known as a ‘transplant’. That is ‘someone who has re-located from New York to LA (or the opposite)’. Thinking about it, I realized that I have been ‘transplanting’ every year for most of my adult life. It is, most probably the result of the nature of this industry and the fact that I am a typical Gemini;
• Gemini’s like to expand their horizons whenever the opportunities arise.
• Gemini wants to see the world, experience everything, and literally “learn something new every day.”

Regardless of my personality, New York and London have instilled in me a continual sense of urgency. New Yorkers have to turn up 3 hours early to sign up for an audition, we get aggravated if we have to wait for the subway for more than 3 minutes and, as advice columnist Michael Kostroff writes, ‘By the time people reach the front of the Starbucks line, we expect them to have their money out and know what they want. Or get the hell out of our frickin’ way.”

In LA, people are ‘nice’. The sun is shining, you can always see at least one palm tree and everyone is ‘in the business’. However, they’re also ‘flaky’. Another ‘transplant’ was telling me that his next-door neighbors always end the conversation with, ‘you should come round for dinner’. They have probably spoken more than 2 dozen times, and yet dinner has never happened and probably never will. Words seldom relate to actions.

Driving in LA is scary and necessary. LA drivers like to cut across 3 lanes of the freeway without indicating, finding a parking space requires stealth, speed and a purse full of quarters. Plus, the TomTom likes to test me now and again by telling me to go straight ahead when I can only go right or left. For a girl without an ounce of a sense of direction, it sucks. Gone are the days of reading, playing Words With Friends and Bejeweled and going through sides on the subway (admittedly standing up, clinging onto the pole for dear life, wedged between a homeless man and a hipster with a guitar case).

The apartment is clean with modernity. Our voices echo in the extra space. We can stand on the balcony in March. We can drive 20 minutes to the beach. Even with this, an agent and future contracts, there are definitely times when I miss New York. LA makes me feel idle. There was a time when there were no audition notices that a) did not overlap with Legally Blonde, b) did not end with the phrase ‘No pay’ and c) fitted my profile/ type. At least in NY I could feel sated when I was getting up early, learning routines and being seen by casting directors, even if I wasn’t booking every job. Maybe I miss the familiar, packed holding rooms of Ripley-Grier and Pearl?!

After over a year of sending, researching, editing and re-sending cover letters, resumes and headshots to agencies in New York, I get to LA and in the first week have a meeting with the biggest bi-coastal dance agency and get offered a contract…….the Lord works in mysterious ways. I’ll take that as meaning that I’m on the right path!

Survival Jobs/ Background Work
In New York I could book background work on a TV show twice a week. The casting notices ranged from ‘hipster’, ‘big business type’ and ‘book party attendee’ to ‘club-goer’, ‘bar patron’ and ‘dancer’. All things I could realistically be. In LA, it’s proving more difficult. Especially as the casting notices range from, ‘Miss California beauty pageant competitor’ and ‘sassy, overweight diva’ to ‘reality show seeking singles’ and the footnote ‘nudity required’. So, it looks like I need to get fake boobs, put on 200lb, pretend to be single and get naked. Hmm…

I mustered up the courage to take my un-contemporary self to a class at Edge (albeit level 2 jazz). Firstly, class in LA is cheap! To be honest, the worst part was waiting outside the studio while the previous contemporary class was still going on. It was ram packed full of girls who looked like they could all reach the finals of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ tilting and arabesque-ing in what can only be described as ‘the type of contemporary dance I hate’.

I was relieved that after some breathing, hissing and stretching my oh-so-tight hamstrings, the LA Lakers cheerleader actually taught us a rather nice lyrical routine. With no surreal, crazy hidden interpretations or awkward, staccato leg lifts, I almost felt comfortable in the pleasant class of 8 (I guess they are the benefits of taking a newer class in the morning).

I dragged my friend along to a 42nd Street Original Choreography Masterclass (there is hardly any musical theatre in LA and this seemed like a once in a long-time opportunity). Some parts felt familiar from a New York ‘Merry-Go-Round’ audition last year, (this class would have been extremely beneficial back then). It was good to whip out the tap shoes, put on a musical theatre face and not feel the pressure of a casting panel whilst learning a worldwide recognized routine from a musical extravaganza. Plus, we managed to meet some mutual friends of friends and make some good contacts!

When I first moved to LA, I took my bag of leotards and La Ducas to my first LA audition; A Chorus Line for 3D-Theatricals. It was the strangest feeling to
1) be DRIVING to an audition
2) be leaving for an audition at 4.30pm
3) still be there at the callback at midnight on a Wednesday
4) get seen instantly
5) be in a room of only 30 non-equity people including both men and women
6) be the only person who, apparently, did not already know the routine.

After mapping the route on my iPhone, it told me that it should take 33 minutes to drive to the audition studio in La Mirada, Santa Ana. Fortunately, I left early and after 1 hour and 30 minutes of traffic, I finally arrived just as everyone was warming up and they were explaining the production (conversely, it only took me 30 mins to get back home). I got called back to sing, then had to prepare some sides and songs for the part of Bebe for the next day…Result.

Having returned revitalized and ready to get back in the game from ‘The Illusionists’ Tour, I backcombed my hair and dug out the knee-high boots and booty shorts to audition for ‘Rock of Ages’. It didn’t start off well when I realized that this was non-equity (not listed on the audition notice I saw) and I technically can’t do non-equity gigs because of various union rules. To summarize,
• LA dancers actually warm-up (I’m talking ponches and full ballet barre) in the holding room (yes, we all fitted in with more than enough space).
• The sign-up was at 10.30am, I got there at 10am and was in the first group of 20 people. No NY 4am wake-up calls in sight.
• The casting was in a picturesque church in Hollywood (although we did still dance in a large proper studio with mirrors). No cramped elevator ride to a shoebox studio on the 14th floor of a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan.
• There were more than ample chairs set up in the holding room but everyone sat or stretched on the floor.
• Everyone knew each other. Now, I know in NY there are the familiar faces that come and go during audition seasons but this was on a whole new level!

I still have a lot to learn and explore about LA (having been away on contracts for most of the short time I have lived here). I’m still working out what it’s like to be a British musical theatre dancer in a commercial LA world. I’ll let you know when I find out!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    August 31, 2012 4:30 pm

    Quite a difference from the East Coast! Loved the MGRP shout-out 🙂

  2. Yaeli permalink
    August 31, 2012 11:19 pm

    Stll Truckin here in NYC, love the info , and insight! ….Looking forward to experiencing the “transfer” successfully myself!

  3. September 4, 2012 7:58 am

    Loved this peek into life on the other coast! 🙂


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