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Chapter 4, Nae Nishimura: My Audition Journey Part 1

Dancer with the Norwegian National Ballet

I’m a dancer who’s never won any competitions or renowned awards and because of that I always thought that was my weakness. However, my three-month audition journey proved to me that if you work hard and try your best every moment of your life, with your love for dance, your work will be recognized. My audition journey has made me the dancer I am today, giving me the strength to be where I am right now. Now, in my sixth season as a professional dancer, I was recently cast as Gamzatti in Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadère – sharing Natalia Osipova’s costume from the Royal Ballet, dancing one of my dream roles! It was an unbelievable experience for any dancer, especially one who’s never won any trophies. 

Ballet has been a big part of my life ever since I started dancing at the age of three. In the beginning, it was just a fun way for me to express myself but as I got older it grew into a real passion. I attended YAGP as a teenager in Japan and was so deeply inspired by the experience because I had dreamed of studying at a renowned international ballet school. Though I always progressed through to the finals, I never made it to the NYC Finals nor did I receive any offers from the participating schools. And just when I was about to give up on dancing, I attended one last workshop which turned everything around and I received a scholarship to The Australian Ballet School.

After I graduated from ABS, I started to craft my audition tour in hopes of finding a contract with a professional company. I knew that auditioning would be my biggest challenge yet so I did my best to contact as many companies as possible, totaling over 35 companies. While some companies replied immediately, some others took weeks if not months, and some just never responded. In the end, I had a shortlist of auditions lined up before I left for Europe and the US.

My first audition was in Zurich and I can still remember I was so excited to dance in that beautiful theater but also being super nervous at the same time. There were also many familiar faces that I recognized from my time at YAGP which didn’t help as it made me doubt my dancing capabilities. And, of course, with that mentality, I failed. I’m sure the audition panel could sense my lack of confidence.

The next audition was then a week later but I was already growing impatient as I was desperate to find a contract as soon as possible. I became even more driven in my search and started contacting all the possible ballet companies nearby, emailing, and calling them asking to audition or to attend company class. It was scary and nerve-wracking for me at times as I often found it difficult to speak English. The perseverance paid off and I ended up with a fully-packed schedule of auditions. Overall, I did 18 auditions along with several company classes and I traveled to more than 20 cities, including Madrid, Amsterdam, Rome, Tallinn, Monaco, Montreal, Boston, New York, Washington D.C, to name a few!

Nae's audition calendar and schedule

It was a tough experience going from audition to audition daily, putting all this effort in— with no guarantee of walking out with a job. It was when I hit the sixth rejection that I began to doubt whether I should continue to chase this dream. Was I even good enough to be in a professional ballet company? I remember crying on the phone to my mum after an unsuccessful audition and she just continued to encourage me to keep going and that “there are thousands of companies in the world. You’re just going from place to place to find the one where you belong.”

Those words kept me going and I traveled to more auditions and cities. I started to realize that auditions aren’t always about your technique. Being a ballet dancer means being an artist, and you have to express something in your dancing. By that stage, I had done 13 auditions in Europe and even though I was on my way to the US for some more auditions, it was incredibly discouraging as I had received no offers. I was at an emotional low drained with exhaustion, and since I was traveling alone, it made it even more difficult as there was no one to talk to let alone vent my frustration. I started to regret the entire audition tour and felt awful having spent thousands of my parents’ dollars for what seemed like an impossible dream. 

To be continued...