5 Awesome Things I Learned When I Auditioned for America's Got Talent

All told, we waited over six hours to dance for ninety seconds.
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Teri Wilson
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All told, we waited over six hours to dance for ninety seconds.
Teri Wilson America's Got Talent.jpg

No, I didn’t write as my talent. I’ve never seen faces as bored as those of my dogs as they watch me in action at my laptop. In fact, one of them fell asleep just now.

I danced for my audition. I perform regularly with a small, local dance company. And while I’m no Misty Copeland by any stretch of the imagination, I do love it. So when my dance teacher mentioned that America's Got Talent was coming to our hometown and suggested that we audition, I signed right up.

Before AGT rolled into San Antonio, they contacted all the local dance companies and invited them to audition. We were assigned an audition time of 3:00 p.m., so we (foolishly) thought that meant we had an appointment. 

We arrived at the downtown convention center early, around two o’clock. As expected, the parking situation was a complete and total nightmare. Luckily, my dance teacher had planned for this and arranged for us to arrive via limousine. Okay, technically, her brother dropped us off in his Suburban, but we got there without having to walk 10 blocks in our dance costumes.

Our audition time turned out not to be an actual appointment. Rather, when AGT invites people to audition, they ask them to come later in the day to avoid having everyone arrive right when registration opens at 8:00 am. I’m not sure if this works, because apparently people began lining up at 4:30 am. 

Once inside the building, our first stop was the security station. The guard eyed our sparkly gold dance canes warily, but eventually let us through. We were assigned a number and led to the registration desk, where there was still an enormous line. I shudder to think what it must have looked like at 8. Our total wait time here was over two hours.

It wasn’t as bad as it sounds because people were performing all over the place—singing in line, playing the guitar, doing the splits. A sweet young girl behind me strummed her ukulele, which was covered in wacky stickers.

Registration was easy. I just had to show my driver’s license and sign a 12-page legal agreement that hopefully didn’t prohibit me from writing this article. Then we were directed to the “holding room.”

Me in the holding room before auditions.

Me in the holding room before auditions.

The holding room was very Hollywood. It had a big stage in the center, with a black and white tile floor. Old-school glam make-up mirrors surrounded by fancy lights were scattered about, and there were huge backdrops emblazoned with America’s Got Talent on each wall. It was selfie heaven. 

It was also fun, because every now and then, a production assistant would enter with a megaphone and yell an are-you-ready-to-become-the-winner-of-season-ten style pep talk at us.

We waited in this room alongside hundreds of other hopefuls for another four hours. Yes, you read that correctly. Four. Every now and then, a production assistant pulled us aside and asked us to do some on-camera promo work. 

They filmed us standing in line outside, standing in line inside, and rehearsing our modern fusion belly dance number (without music) on the fancy black and white dance floor. They seemed to really like our colorful costumes.

People were called out of the holding room in batches of one hundred, which gives you an idea of just how many people audition. When it was finally our turn to move on, they divided our batch into singers and dancers. I would estimate that ninety percent of the people auditioning were singers. Out of the one hundred in our batch, there were only three other dance acts. The four of us were led to a small room where we finally auditioned.

We performed for a single talent scout who I think recorded our dance with her laptop. And now we wait. No one finds out the results of their audition on open-audition day. No one dances for Howard Stern. The celebrity judges weren’t even in the city. They just tell you that you will be contacted in March or April if you’ve been selected to move on.

Let me stress that I harbored no dreams of becoming a famous dancer. Or even making it to Radio City Music Hall. Although I would have loved to meet Heidi Klum and hear her say auf wiedersehen. I simply thought auditioning would be a fun, unique thing to experience with my dancer friends. And it was most definitely an eye-opener, in the most awesome of ways. Here are a few things I learned:

Chickens can tap dance.

I had no idea. Where have I been that I’ve never been exposed to dancing chickens? I mean, I’m a city girl, but I’ve seen a few chickens in my time. Obviously they were talentless hacks, because the chickens at the AGT auditions could tap dance. For real. In a long, straight line. They were the Rockettes of chickens. I was quite impressed, even though one of them did get so excited that she peed. Which brings me to…

The guy in the diaper, because laughter is important.

Everyone loved this guy. He was a grown man who wore an enormous plastic baby head and an actual, real diaper. I still have no clue what his talent was, but everywhere he went people cheered. Now that I think about it, I’ll bet his talent was cheering people up who’d been waiting all day to perform. Making people laugh is an admirable quality.

Flexing, or "bone breaking," is way more impressive (and terrifying) in person

If you’ve watched any dance or talent-based reality show, you’ve seen these guys—flexers—street dancers who perform amazing contortions with their upper bodies. It’s awesome to witness on television, but seeing it live takes it to a whole other level. Once our dance company finally auditioned, we performed in a room with three other dancers. One of them was a flexer. What he could do with his body was unreal. I found myself almost unable to watch, no matter how badly I wanted to.

Creative people are the best people in the world.

Among the people I met while waiting to perform was a guy who could solve the Rubik’s cube one-handed, behind his back…(wait for it)…in less than 30 seconds. Everywhere I turned there were people singing and playing the guitar. It was like being serenaded on all sides. I loved it. There was a priest magician. And a drag performer whose silver sequin jumpsuit was right out of my dreams. His stage name was a popular toothpaste brand, and he’s a former soldier. We are Facebook friends now. Obviously. Creative people never cease to amaze me. They’re the best.

No really, they are.

The waiting was exhausting. It really was. All told, we waited over six hours to dance for ninety seconds. Ninety seconds is the maximum audition time for everyone. No exceptions.

Think about what it would feel like to wait over six hours with a bunch of strangers in a doctor’s waiting room. Not fun.

But this was nothing like the doctor’s office. Spontaneous performances sprung up anywhere and everywhere. All day long. Some, like the rock band comprised of little kids a la Jack Black’s School of Rock, were amazing. Others, like the camo-clad hip-hop grandma, were silly. But every one of them was received with boisterous cheering and applause. I never saw anyone lose his or her temper or act snarky in any way. People were genuinely kind and supportive of one another.

I don’t know why I expected any less. These were the dreamers -- people who came from near and far to wait all day long with tap-dancing chickens to perform for less than two minutes. Dreamers believe in themselves, and they believe in others. They’re brave and bold. They’re wacky and wonderful. They’re my people, and I adore them.