America’s Got Talent, Los Angeles Audition: The Beginning
Saturday, March 6th. At 9am Amrita called me in the morning while I was still asleep. My first instinct was panic! That is my standard reaction any time I get an early morning work call (we usually function late at night!). “So we are going for the America’s Got Talent audition,” was the unexpected topic of conversation.
We were scheduled to be in Portland for the audition the following Tuesday, which gave us a week and a half. We started planning our lives accordingly. And then a few days later, we found out that we had to go to Los Angeles instead, that too in LESS than a WEEK. Seriously! Bright Side? We were planning to do an existing routine from our repertoire – “Jai Ho.” Whew! Even though it was the same routine, Mona decided to ENHANCE it, REMIX it and add some new elements…of course! So we met in the studio and began to work on the task at hand. We could only have three rehearsals as we were completely booked the weekend we got the news. At two rehearsals we were missing dancers because they had classes to teach! So that Friday in March arrived – and our ONLY rehearsal with the whole team. We rehearsed all evening at ICC, meanwhile completing a TON of paperwork that was needed by NBC! As we rehearsed, all the once separate elements came together…our junior Emerging Performers knew exactly when to sprint: Brian was flipping right THERE! So we knit together all the threads and that was it! We were READY. We grabbed a quick bite and the chartered bus to LA arrived.
Our first road trip together and we were SUPER excited! There were mini TVs in the bus and the driver had an MJ dvd (interestingly, he had chauffeured Michael Jackson around a few times!). We grooved to “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” a PERFECT beginning to this road trip. After a while, we were told that the lights would be out and we needed to sleep. Reluctantly we agreed to “rest” and passed out pretty quickly. In the wee hours of the morning, we arrived at the Westin.
After our rooms and roommates were assigned, some of us attempted to hang out once again. Again, we were reminded that this was NOT a holiday and we only had about three hours to sleep.
Saturday Morning! Mona had requested two wake up calls in each room (we were unaware of this!), which were massively annoying combined with the cell phone alarms that JANGLED us awake. At 8:15 am, Chitra was outside our door, super bright and chirpy, asking (demanding?) us to wake up. We crawled out of bed by 9:00am and after getting ready, we met in one of the rooms for breakfast. Nothing was open so early in the morning, so the two dancers’ husbands who accompanied us on the trip walked for 45 minutes before they managed to find us something to eat.
Another quick bite, and we went outdoors to rehearse. We warmed up in an attempt to wake up our bodies that were just not cooperating. We were reminded that being on a bus all night, almost no sleep, and tired bodies were NOT an EXCUSE! As professionals we still had to DELIVER.
Then began the RITUAL of getting ready. Hair being curled, Ruby doing makeup, costumes being handed out, tikas being pinned, the USUAL – which usually takes a few hours with 22 dancers! Finally at 2:30pm we went downstairs to take the AGT shuttle to the theatre. The shuttle had to take three or fourrounds because we were an ARMY.
We arrived at the legendary Orpheum Theater. After a security check (and a few raised eyebrows at the amount of fake bling in our backstage costume bag!) we went into the holding area, and immediately setup for a b-roll. This was followed by a lot of waiting, handing over of paperwork, last minute touch-ups and preparation – all which had to be done in silence as other groups were being interviewed. Finally, at 6:00pm we went backstage. Nick Cannon came and chatted with us which was really fun, and Reena even taught him one of our moves! More hanging out, holding hands, waiting, focusing, energizing, preparing. And all the while we could hear other groups being BUZZED on stage – right above us.
The fear those buzzers are able to inspire is astounding. We waited in trepidation, as people were buzzed left, right and centre. Finally after moving from room to room and in front of rolling cameras for hours, warming up for the hundredth time, it was suddenly our turn. We walked up to the stage, slightly nervous (except the junior kids who always seem fearless and excited!). Another quick b-roll with Nick Cannon while we were waiting in the wings.
Then, there they were right in front of us— Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel looking EXACTLY how you see them on T.V., but much more INTIMIDATING. We introduced the group and what we did. Piers said “We [the judges] love Bollywood” (but, knowing his reputation, it was hard to believe him). We took our places. “Jai Ho” began. Immediately, even before the first “Jai Ho”, the audience was on their feet, clapping and cheering. We saw a COLLECTIVE wave of people just stand up and start dancing! There were people jumping and cheering in the aisles, the balcony, and everywhere we looked. It was incredible! The energy we received from the audience was unforgettable. Being on that stage was an experience in itself. Anyone who has been at the Orpheum knows the GRANDEUR the theater exudes. The stage was flawless, the floor impeccable, and it was such an honour to dance on it.
We could have danced for what seemed like FOREVER but 90 seconds is all we, and all other acts got. We finished and flocked to the centre of the stage, waiting breathlessly for the verdict. We had done what we came to do; the rest was beyond our control. Three yeses from the judges and we were jubilant. “See you in Vegas,” Piers said. We exploded with JOY.
Suddenly the entire competition became so much more REAL. Deeply content, we trooped back out, grabbed our bags and boarded the bus. It was time to go home and begin the magical journey of America’s Got Talent. There was a lot to be done; and we were READY.
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