Say No to Cher and Yes to Yourself

Episode 21

Sometimes opportunities come our way, and it’s only later that we realize their implications for the rest of our lives. During this episode, your host, Hannah Teutscher, shares one of the crazier experiences of her dance career. While the details of this example might not resonate with your own experience, it illustrates a principle we could all benefit from implementing in our decision-making. Tune in to hear the story of a very exclusive opportunity to audition to dance for Cher turned into a pivotal moment of choosing what’s best for yourself. Tune in today to hear all about it! 


Key Points From This Episode:


  • Why Hannah has chosen to share this particular story with listeners. 
  • The call she received from fellow dancer, Jamal, years ago.
  • Planning for and arriving at an audition to dance for Cher.
  • Where she found confidence: in her physicality, athleticism, and ability to dance.
  • How she knew she was in the right place despite being underprepared and inappropriately dressed.
  • Ways the audition differed from other processes.
  • Seeing Cher and making a case for why each dancer should be chosen.
  • Announcing that she was not right for the position.
  • What was behind her decision to bow out. 
  • The lesson in her decision. 
  • How the experience altered her attitude towards life. 
  • Why it is so important to keep an internal compass focused on the goals we want to have.



HT: One of the assistants to the assistant, I don’t know who it was, came up to me afterwards as I was packing up my stuff, and she said, ‘Well, I’ve been in this for a while. I’ve never ever heard someone say no and say no to Cher and say no to this opportunity. Why?’”




[00:00:24] HT: Welcome. Stick around if you want to learn about the art and philosophy of beautiful movement mixed with evidence-based exercise science. We’ll be having tough and inspiring conversations with other coaches, experts, artists, and athletes. Our goal is to challenge myths, explore concepts, and engage in healthy debate, as we dive deep with intrigue and curiosity. 


I’m your host, Hannah Teutscher. I’ve been teaching dance, Pilates, and yoga for over two decades. What I’ve learned is that movement can be the joy that integrates us all together. When we can trust and express ourselves through our bodies, we are unlimited in our ability to change ourselves and our communities for the better. We as movement teachers and coaches have the power to help people experience this war themselves. Okay, everyone, let’s dive in. Exchanging ideas and changing people’s lives one session at a time, this is The Pilates Exchange. 




[00:01:22] HT: I’m going to tell you this story of one of the crazier experiences in my dance career. I’m going to tell the story because I think it illustrates – sometimes we have opportunities in our lives that we don’t even understand the implications of how big this opportunity is and what that could mean for the entire course of our life. So I’m going to tell you one of these stories which happened many, many years ago. 


I’ve been retired from dance for a while now. Ten years, at least, I believe. So this is way before that. I was middle 20s, middle to late 20s at the time of this story. I got this email from my dear friend, Jamal, who I just adore. He is such a fantastic dancer. He’s just one of those people, that utmost professionalism, amazing artistry, had physical – like everything. Jamal wrote me an email and he said, “Hannah, you need to call me or Skype me as soon as you get my message.” I said, “Okay, that’s kind of high order. I will absolutely do that.” 


We ended up on a Skype call, for those of you who still know what Skype was. It was a long time ago. We could have called probably, but I was too poor to be able to afford a phone at that point in my life. Anyways, we Skyped, and Jamal said, “I have this opportunity to ask a couple of dancers into a private audition, and I think that this is the type of work that you should be doing. I think you have exactly the right mind mindset. You have the physicality. You have what it takes for this gig. And so I’ve already put your name into the pot, and it is a private audition. It’s a small group of people that will be there. Do you think that you could go to LA?” 


I’m like, “Oh, um, um, sure. Tell me more details like in a couple months or whatever.” He said, “Well, you got to be there this weekend.” I’m like, “Uh, okay. What are we doing?” He said, “I’ve submitted you for an audition for Cher.” Like, “What? This is insane.” Now, Jamal had already been – he had danced for Madonna and for Cher and for other really big artists at that time. So this was like, “Oh, my gosh. This is so incredible.” I was so overwhelmed by this opportunity. I literally could not sleep that week. 


I did talk to my boss and I said, “Hey, what do you think about this? May I miss a day of rehearsals?” He said, “No, you need to fly out at the end of the rehearsal, and then you need to come back and be ready to work on that Monday.” I thought, “Well, I mean, this is a opportunity of a lifetime. I have to do this.” So I scraped together some money. I set – I had to – let’s see. What did I have to do? I had to rent a car. So this is all over the Internet. But the Internet wasn’t like – it’s not as easy to do these types of things as it was before. We didn’t have GPS, so I printed out all of the directions on how to get to the place. I had very little information, right? 


This is not like a public audition where you can look at the website and see all this information. All I had was the place where I needed to be and the date and the time. That’s all the information that I had going into this, besides the fantasy that was in my head of what was going to happen at this audition and what it could possibly mean to be going on tour with like these amazing art– Cher is – she’s an incredible artist. The thought of travelling around the world with someone of her caliber and dancing was just mind-blowing. That’s what was really taking away some of my fear of doing – getting all the way out to LA. 


Anyways, I arrive in LA. I have sheets and sheets of paper of trying to find like riding in the – driving the rental car with all of these printed-out directions in LA, which I hadn’t ever driven there before. So it was like four-lane highways. I was so stressed out, you guys. I was a mess, besides all of the nerves of going into an audition like this. I show up at the audition, and it was a small group of people. I had never been to an LA audition before, but I had been told there could be upwards of 800 to 1,000 people at any one of these big auditions. 


This one was probably, I would say, less than 40 people in the room. So we were sort of like in a waiting area to go into it, and people are just – I was so out of place. I was really in over my head. First of all, I’m not a very big person. I’m very short. I’m about a little less than five foot three, and there was these magnificent creatures walking around. These women were like five foot eight, all legs. They had fishnet tights on. They had heels, which made them just gigantic. They were towering over me, these long gorgeous hair, decked out in makeup. The men were equally chiselled, just like these specimens of human beings just walking around. 


When I showed up because, again, I didn’t really have information going into this, so when I showed up, I have some bike shorts. I have my very best leotard. I have some – my jazz shoes. I got some ballet shoes. I got – I think I brought my mascara. That was it. I totally left out the sequins and the sparkles. I’m like, “I didn’t know. I really didn’t know.” So I was overwhelmed. I was still excited, but I was definitely feeling like, “Oh, wow. What did I get myself into?” 


One thing that I’m very confident in is or was I was confident in my ability to dance. I was confident in my physicality, my athleticism. I’m confident in my ability to learn fast and to uphold professionalism. So those are things where – I mean, even with all the makeup and the sequins and the fishnets and all that stuff, I knew that I was in the right place, even though maybe the costume was incorrect. I had to keep on reminding myself of that because it was scary, and I love auditions. I think I’m one of these dancers that – one of the rarities where I really thrive in high-pressure situations. Yes. 


We go into the dance studio, and there’s a desk at the front. It’s a huge studio, and there’s a desk in the front, and there are a team of people that are sitting there. They have our resumes that are in front. They had made photocopies of all the resumes and headshots. I don’t even remember if I brought a headshot. I can’t imagine I did because I don’t think that I had any at that point. Anyway, so the team of people is sitting in the front desk. So probably it’s the production manager. There was definitely the rehearsal director. There was a choreographer there. My friend, Jamal, wasn’t there. So I knew no one in the situation. I tried to be chatty and talk with some people, but they were very, let’s say, in their world, in their own audition world, which I also totally respect. 




[00:08:52] HT: When I started teaching, I felt underprepared and overwhelmed. I needed to learn how to plan my training so that it made sense. But I wasn’t sure what was working and what wasn’t. So many teacher training programs leave out the actual art and business of teaching. This is why we created Train the Trainers. 


Train the Trainers is designed to give you the tools you need to create a powerful learning environment for your students. Gain access to the vault of our collected knowledge where you can learn everything we have to teach you. Whether you are a freelance teacher or a studio owner, get constructive feedback on your teaching with actionable tools you can apply immediately. We can’t wait to be part of your teaching journey and to help you grow in your business. Welcome to Train the Trainers.




[00:09:39] HT: We get into this beautiful studio, and we don’t take a class. I was used to, like you do a ballet class altogether. Then there’s usually the first eliminations. Then you learn some choreography and then the second eliminations. It just sort of goes down as the group whittles down. But this was set up really differently. You went in, and you started learning choreography right away. I had already warmed myself up so that was fine, but it was definitely a plunge. It wasn’t like a plunge into cold water. It was like a cliff jump into freezing cold Arctic water. 


We start this choreography, and I’m feeling good. I’m feeling strong, even though like everyone else is gigantic, and I’m this little, little person just trying to dance around the room. I felt like I was doing pretty strong. I didn’t feel like – I don’t know. It didn’t – all of it was exciting. There was something about it besides the extraneous details. But there was something about it that didn’t feel like me, right? I started to have this inkling like maybe this is not right. I don’t know. 


I was killing it in the dance. I was doing – feeling really strong in the dance section, in the first section. Then we had some improvisation that we had to do. That was also fine. That’s someplace that I also feel pretty strong in. So we did some improvisation, and we went one by one, this whole group. I have to say that this group of people, the other auditionees, they were super supportive. Everyone’s clapping and cheering for each other. You could tell that everyone was at the higher end of professionalism. Probably these people have been doing this type of gigs for a while. 


We went through several pieces of choreography. We did improv. Then we had a little break. When we came back from the break, like somehow the tension just mounted and mounted. In walk Cher just like that. People start freaking out, like crying, screaming, and just having full-on bananas. I guess I – I’m a fan, definitely a fan of hers. But I don’t know her material. I don’t know the extent of this – she’s an icon, but I don’t know the extent of every song that she’s ever saying, which was also obvious in the choreography because everyone knew all the words to all the lyrics. I was just holding on. I got my five, six, seven, eight. I was doing it that way. 


Cher walks in. She sits down. Then we came to the part where you go down the line with the small group of people, and you introduce yourself and say why you’re right for the job. This is a very unusual situation. This is not how I had ever been in an audition before. Usually, you get to maybe the very end, and maybe you’d have a conversation with the director and if you’re lucky to get that far. That would be the end of it. 


We start going down the row. I was about middle of this row. You say, “Hi. My name is blah, blah, blah. My age is blah.” Then you go – yes. You say why you think you’re right for this job. So we get down. I’m listening to all these incredible people, every person. The team that’s in the front, they’re shuffling through the headshots. They’re shuffling through the resumes, and they’re taking notes on each person, like they did throughout the entire audition. 


We get to my turn, and I said, “Hi. My name is Hannah. I am really thankful to be here. I’m so honored that I was able to dance for you guys today, and I’m not right for this job. So I’m going to withdraw from the rest of the audition.” Everyone looked at me. There was an audible gasp from the front of the room and from the people around me. Maybe it was the rehearsal director, the one that he said, “Well, that’s the first. Okay, thank you very much.” Then he went to the next one and next one. So I went down the line, and then we wrapped up that session, and everyone started to pack up to leave. 


One of the assistants to the assistant, I don’t know who it was, came up to me afterwards as I was packing up my stuff. She said, “Well, I’ve been in this for a while. I’ve never ever heard someone say no and say no to Cher, say no to this opportunity. Why?” I said, “I don’t know. It just didn’t fit me. It didn’t fit who I wanted to be. I wanted the opportunity when I was there and dreaming like that week before, just a bundle full of nerves thinking about what it would be like to be on a world tour with a musical artist of that caliber and dancing day in and day out and getting paid to dance at that point. I hadn’t been – well, I had been paid, but it just was pretty crap, so to not have to worry about money for a while.”


I mean, all of that was dancing for not a thousand people but just like 50,000 people. I was in awe of that. But when I was there, and I was dancing, and I was feeling the movement on my body, it didn’t feel me. It didn’t feel like I could be authentic in there. I’m sure I would have done a good job. I’m confident in that professionalism that I would take in. But I just – yes, I couldn’t. I couldn’t go on to it. There was a whole another day of auditions. So who knows if I would have gotten any further anyways? 


Sometimes, you need to say no. Sometimes, you need to say no to Cher and say yes to yourself. No. I mean, but sometimes you need to say no to a glitzy opportunity in order to follow what you believe is right for yourself. I kind of want to believe that had she known what that meant for me being that she is such an independent woman, I’m sure she would have cheered me on. But it was a big catalyst for change in my life. It was a catalyst. 


After that moment, the courage that it took to say no to that opportunity and say yes to myself, I made so many drastic changes in my life that propelled me to where I am today. I have to say I don’t regret any one of those because I started to really lean into what I want. Where do I see myself in next year, in 5 years, in 10 years? What kind of dance makes me happy? What kind of artistry do I feel like I cannot even excel in but that has an impact in the way that I think I could have an impact in this world? Things can be big and scary and intimidating, and that’s fine if we’re following the path of our hearts. But we really do need to keep that compass focused on where we want to go and the values that we hold. 


That is my Cher story. I hope that it gives you – I mean, you might not relate to the details of the story in your own life, but you do – I’m sure each one of you understand. You feel it in your own bones when opportunities come up or ideas come up. Even though it’s big and scary, you want to try it. I think we should always try for the big and scary things. But following the compass, following your values, following your big picture, I hope that that’s what I empower you to do today. As we’re starting into this New Year, I’m wishing you a compass, big dreams, and lots of luck.




[00:17:42] HT: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. A great cost-free way of supporting us in the podcast would be to give us a five-star rating. You can also look down into the show notes and grab any one of the free resources for teachers. I hope to see you next week on The Pilates Exchange. Happy teaching, everyone .





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