the most terrifying creative thing I’ve done

Photo Dec 04, 5 42 28 PM

I saw this audition notice for the Dirty Dancing musical on Friday night, right before our You Can Dance Again rehearsal (which, by the way, was at a different location than where we usually are, so I could easily never had seen it).


My heart leaped and I said YES in that moment. I was going to go! It was only a few days away on Monday morning, at a time that I could make work.


And then hours later I came up with all the reasons why I wouldn’t go:


  • It was a cattle call, there will be hundreds of dancers there, and it won’t matter if I show up or not.

  • I’m pre-menstrual and my boobs are too bloated.

  • I’m not prepared enough and won’t have a chance to take jazz class a million times before it.

  • My dance clothes are too schlubby.

  • I have no experience at auditions like this.

  • I’m too old. 32 is “over the hill” in dancer years.


I was pretty convinced I wasn’t going to go and “waste” my Monday morning. A couple of close friends encouraged me, but I still wasn’t going to go.

I thought I was being realistic, but actually I was terrified of going. Because deep down, I really wanted to.


Then a phone call happened that changed everything. Fred Steinmann, an astrologer and intuitive guide who I had met over a year ago at an artsy networking event, had been reaching out here and there to lend some advice from the stars. He was always really encouraging and supportive of my dancing pursuits, and so I had forwarded him the audition notice photo on Friday.


He called me and strongly urged me to go. He sensed that I was doubting myself and about to give up on my “dream.” He shared some pieces of my astrology that made sense. And then he said, “Ya know, I’ve been feeling called to tell you to read The Alchemist…”


WHAT?! I stopped him right there and explained that just 2 weeks ago, I picked up a copy that someone was giving away on the street, and re-read it right away. It had re-inspired me and set off a chain of uncanny events (that I’ll share another time, because this post is already long).


“Yes,” he continued, “it’s like you’re following your Personal Legend and you’re at the moment that you’re about to give up, and I’m giving you the sign to keep going.”


That was all I needed to hear. I changed my mentality from, “I can’t go, because I’m not perfect,” to “I must go because I felt the initial calling and there’s some reason I need to be there.”


Maybe the reason had nothing to do with the audition itself. I just needed to make the journey.


This shifted everything for me -


I drove home on Sunday after a day of family visits in NJ while “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” played on the radio. I made a pact with myself to go to that audition as ME. The me who didn’t spend all weekend preparing, the me with PMS and the same dance clothes I’ve had for years, the me who quit dance as a career when I was 19 but was now 32 and about to step into an audition room anyway.


I got back to Brooklyn in time to get into the YMCA in the last hour before they closed. In the empty yoga studio, half-lit with rows of spin bikes to my left, I danced it out to “Stay….just a little bit long-er...” (from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack) and got pumped to show up the next morning.

Audition Day


The alarm went off at 6:00am. I turned my head to the right to dismantle it and then quickly turned left to get back to the dream I was having. A few minutes later the same thing happened until I realized that it was time to rise. The day of the Dirty Dancing audition had arrived.


[Shit. I’m really doing this.]

 File Dec 11, 11 00 14 AM

I got dressed, finished packing up my dance bag, and walked to the subway before dawn.


Pearl Studios doesn’t open til 8, but I got there at 7:30am to sign my name on the Dirty Dancing Open Call list - I was number 7.


After eating breakfast in a crowded Starbucks next to a group of chipper young dancers who were obviously regulars to this kind of audition scene (cue all my insecurities), I walked into the waiting area studio and put my stuff down in the corner space.


My brain started going into comparison mode…


“They are all so young and do this all the time.”

“She has a really cute leotard.”

“Why isn’t anyone warming up yet?”


And then I got back to myself. Reminding myself that I deserve a place here just as much as anyone else.


The room filled up with more and more dancers as we got closer to 10am. The girl sitting across from me with blonde curls and minimal make-up (like me) was reading Amy Poehler’s book “Yes, Please” and wearing colorful leg warmers. I liked her already. So I let her know “I love your legwarmers.”


I then asked her, “So, do you go to these auditions all the time?”


“Actually,” she said, “this is my first audition back in 10 years. I just started taking classes again recently because I just really missed dancing.”


My heart expanded and my whole body found more ease.

I told her a bit about my story of returning to dance after years away from it and the You Can Dance Again group I created. We smiled, we laughed, we connected. And we walked into that audition room together with the first group of about 30 dancers.


The casting director started reading names from the stack of resumes she held, confirming we were in fact in the room.


“Jessie Grippo?”


“Here!” I said, feeling comforted and surprised when she called me what my family calls me, “Jessie,” instead of “Jess” which is actually printed on the resume.


Then David the choreographer introduced himself and took over. He let us know that they really wanted to see our unique expression and flair - it wasn’t about getting the steps perfectly.




The song we were dancing to was “Stay” from Dirty Dancing - the same song I had danced to the night before, by myself in the YMCA yoga studio.


As he guided us through learning the moves, he kept shouting “DANCE IT OUT!” - another moment of comfort and surprise. He was speaking my language.


And I did it. I danced my heart out. I danced like I’ve been dancing for years, as if all the practice I had put in, every single dance video, had been preparing me for this moment without realizing it.


Once I had finished dancing in the smaller groups of 4 they broke us into, I felt relieved and actually really proud. It was another contrast to how I might have felt years ago - i.e. mad at myself for not nailing every single step or comparing myself to all the other dancers.


I didn’t get all the choreography right. I didn’t do it perfectly. But I danced it out fully and showed up as myself, wild hair and all.


On the way out of the room, I shook hands with the choreographer and casting director and thanked them deeply.


Then something happened that I didn’t expect - The tattooed guy who had been working the music walked by me and said, “I really liked what you did out there.”


“Really?!” I asked, totally shocked that someone had noticed me.


We conversed a bit in the hallway and I told him how it was my first audition ever of this nature. He shared some of the “inside scoop” with me - apparently the casting director and choreographer had noticed me, too.


I was floored and almost started balling crying in that moment.


I honestly didn’t need the validation to feel good about myself. I was already in a state of being proud that I had showed up and danced and had made a new friend. But this added piece of info definitely added an extra boost of satisfaction.

After years of “doing my own thing” with dance, I had an experience in the “real” dance world - the dance world that I’ve feared and resented for years - that made me feel like being me was good enough.


I’m not sure what will happen from here, but I am so so grateful that I decided to show up for the thing that scared me the most.


And I am even more grateful for the people in my life who gave me the nudge to not back away, because without them, I certainly wouldn’t have followed through:

Sometimes we need a metaphorical Patrick Swayze to remind us that Nobody puts Baby in the corner.


So, if you don’t have anyone in your life reminding you to step forward, speak your truth, do your dance, or try something new, let me be the one.


Dance it out. The world needs you to.


You might fail, you might succeed, but what’s most important is that you dare to try.


Curious to hear what this brings up for you - so please leave a comment below and let me know.


to having the time of your life,



p.s. Thought it was important to mention that a few years ago I did skip an audition. My “dream” and desires were different then, as was my level of confidence and experience. It was more important for me then to really focus on the creative work I was building on my own. I was happy to make the decision to say no. This time it was different.

So all that to say - be true to yourself in what you really want to go for. Don’t go to the Broadway audition if it’s part of an old, stale dream you think you “should” pursue. But by all means, go if it is what most lights you up.