The New Dance Group
A few young women, each wearing a form-hugging garment that I had never seen before, were already in the studio. The room was long and empty except for a piano in the corner. There was a mirrored wall and benches along a shorter wall beside the entrance door. Folding chairs were set in front of the mirrors. As the room began to fill up, I realized that I was the only male auditioning and the only person not wearing what seemed to be the required uniform. I had on what I had always worn to my sessions with Pearl Cromone, khaki shorts and a textured beige polo shirt. I went to the front of the room and observing myself in the mirrors, began to practice the dance I intended to perform. I noticed the sharp featured woman watching me. She and several other women had come in and sat down. “I’m Judith Delman. Nona Shurman, Muriel Manings, Sophie Maslow, and I will be the judges today. William Bales will give the audition.” The young woman from the office glided silently around the room with a flowing, graceful gait gathering the applications and handed them to Miss Delman. Mr. Bales entered, gave a jovial greeting
to the judges and proceeded to the front of the room. He smiled and sat down. “Let’s begin.” Looking about, I realized that I was the only one standing. I hurriedly sat directly facing Mr. Bales. He snapped his fingers, indicating a tempo to the woman who was sitting at the piano reading a book. She closed the book and began to play. “Let’s take the bounces.” The class doubled over along with Mr. Bales. Peering forward awkwardly in an attempt to observe, digest, and execute simultaneously, I followed as best I could. Panic began to set in as one unfamiliar floor exercise followed another. “Let’s take the exercise on six.” We were asked to assume a flat back kneeling position and then execute a series of hinges and pelvic thrusts. I felt good about my ability in that area only to be challenged next to stand balanced precariously in off-center tilts with high extended legs. We were finally asked to assemble in the corner of the room. “At last,” I thought, “I’m going to be allowed to do my dance for them.” “I always like to see them run. I learn a lot from that.” The tall blond woman was speaking. The others nodded in agreement. I was at the front of the group and sprinted across the room, only to turn back and see the women, paired off neatly in partners, running on the balls of their feet. “Please, can I do it again?” I returned and performed my version of what I had just witnessed. By the time the audition was over, I wished only that a hole would open up in the floor and I could gladly disappear. I never got to show them my dance and I certainly didn’t know any of what had been asked of me. I went upstairs, changed back into my street clothes and returned to the audition room, only because good manners dictated I do so. Miss Delman’s assistant was posting a list. I couldn’t believe it. What had they seen? I was one of seven awarded the 1947 year’s work scholarship.