Janet Jackson, here I come
Whenever I hit a nightclub dance floor back in my early 20’s, I would completely shut off from the rest of the world.
Paired with my ego and arrogance, I would take every club by storm. I believed I was the BEST dancer in every room even though at that point I hadn’t had a single dance class in my life. I’d learnt from the very best … Drag Queens and gay men. I loved it!
Having never had any classes, I would always rely on my natural body movement and then copy whatever the latest fad was (Vogue was a favourite) I would hold back at nightclubs until one of my favourite songs came on. I’d then push through the crowd and take centre stage. I was so free from fear of judgement at that point. Something I still wish I could do.
I always knew women were making snide remarks about me and trying to shove me out of the way when I danced. I knew that there would be sniggers and comments like ‘Who is this idiot?’ But I also knew that I could dance. I never believed in dimming your light if you were good at something (years later, that’s exactly what I did) Australia is very much a culture of Tall Poppy syndrome, so being confident in my abilities was grounds for bullying.
There was a particular group of girls who would always snarl and laugh hysterically at me, and they were the ballerinas. They were also incredible dancers in a nightclub environment and I also love to watch and steal things from them. The appreciation was never returned.
I was still very much a country girl at that time. I thrived on living on our farm with our horses, dogs, chickens and my mum and dad. Our farm was situated a huge two hours from Sydney so I didn’t really go very often as It was considered a weekend trip away.
One day I was sitting at home watching a TV show (I have no idea which one) and it was announced that Janet Jacksons Choreographer, Anthony Thomas was coming to Australia and was looking for Australia’s best nightclub dancers for a competition. Only 20 dancers would be hand-picked by Anthony himself and there would eventually be one male and one female dancer that would win the ultimate prize of a workshop with Anthony and a coveted position in one of his new music videos.
The day of the auditions, I was on the first train to Sydney with the funkiest outfit I could find and that never-ending confidence and attitude.
Anthony Thomas was going to travel around the entire country in search of his top 20. I was at the Sydney auditions in a nightclub called Kinselas (Which later on I’d become very familiar with) It was packed to the rafters. There were uber cool people everywhere. For the first time, it made me feel totally out of my element. There were dancers doing warm up’s and people with far more attitude than me. It made it even worse that I was there by myself and had no friends to push me through the process.
Everyone was told that they were going to turn off the lights to create the nightclub feel (it was daytime) and they would be playing all of the new release music of the time. We would then be dancing freestyle while Anthony walked around and assessed the talent. Quite simply, if he thought you were in, he would tap you on the shoulder.
I had no idea how many dancers had already been chosen from the other states so it was even more important that I tried to stand out. The music came on and I was like a bull at a gate. I danced so hard and so fast that I ran out of steam really quickly. As I was resting, I saw a few girls making a beeline for me. I recognised one of them and I was happy as I thought I was now not alone. That was not to be.
The girls were the nightclub bullies from my local area. They scowled at me and one of them said “what on earth are YOU doing here? You’re not a dancer’. It was horrifying and I honestly thought about walking right then and there but a storm came over me. I was angry and hurt and I was going to prove them wrong.
I started dancing in between the hundreds of other people. I saw Anthony pick an amazing hip hop dancer who blew my mind. It was very hypnotic surrounded by incredible talent all sweating and puffing but giving it everything they had. I relaxed a little and slowly got into my comfort zone when suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. I initially thought I’d imagined it, then I believed it was the ballerinas trying to play a joke on me. As I turned around to look them in the eye, there standing in front of me was a giant of a man and all eyes were on me.
I’d been picked. It was me. I’d done it. I was now in the top 20. It was one of the best feelings of my life.
Five of us had won places from Sydney and now it was our chance to shine. We now had to dance on stage, in front of the crowd that we had only just been competing against. I think I danced the best I ever have during that one song. And as I looked down, standing there were the ballerinas in complete shock and awe that I was on the stage and they were not.
I tried not to be a cow, but under the circumstances they deserved it. I had a huge grin on my face and I pranced to the other side of the stage in all of my glory. I secretly wanted to spit on them. Or walk past them at the end and say ‘THAT’S what I’m doing here bitches’ It really was like something out of a movie.
As the song finished, we were surrounded by media for interviews. Reality TV was not around during this time but this was exactly what it was. It was a reality dance show at its finest.
I found out all of the others dancers in the competition were trained. I was the only pleb, non-leotard, spandex wearing outsider. Never someone to waste a moment, when I was interview by SBS I constantly mentioned this fact so that NO ONE would forget.
On the night of the grand finale, I boarded my train back to Sydney in clothes that my mum had helped me pick out (she had a great deal of style) After we had been chosen, we were given a tape (Yes, I’m old) to go home and practise our routine to. My song was “Promise of a new day; by Paula Abdul (Who he’d also worked with) herself. I really struggled with my style of dance to get a great routine down and my nerves started to kick in. I spent every waking hour of the next few days rewinding this damn tape!
I was the last one to perform and luckily, I’d been able to watch all of the other dancers perform. I was in awe. These dancers were seriously going to whip my ass. It looked as though most of them were already dancing in music videos.
Once my music started, I did everything I could to wow the judges but I knew with very little technical dance experience or choreography, I didn’t really stand a chance. I was happy with what I did, but I knew deep down that I wasn’t going to LA. I didn’t care. I was so honoured and excited to have even come this far.
The winners were announced. They were inspiring to say the least. One of the girls went on to become a Reality TV star with the band Bardot and I’m 100% sure, most of them went on to become stars in their own right.
This was one of my proudest moments. Whenever I dance these days, I remember the pure joy it brings. It boosted my confidence no end and many years after this, I became a ballroom teacher, professional Salsa dancer and a back-up dancer in drag shows.