One performance down, one to go…
This first showcase I had signed up to perform in this month turned out to be very different from any other dance showcases that I have either performed in or gone out to watch, as I found out during the dress rehearsal last Friday night. Before we started the run-through, Lord Dormamu gathered everyone out on the floor to spend a few minutes talking about what they had envisioned for the performances at the Fancy Dance Hall, and how this first event would hopefully be the start of a tradition for them. He and his team had imagined a night that emphasized the ‘Show’ part of the showcase, complete with set pieces in the background, other ‘actors’ on stage during some of the performances, and songs that transitioned from one into the other with no break in between – building something more like a musical rather than just a dance recital. This was why the dress rehearsal was such a big deal – the dance numbers had to flow from one into the other seamlessly, so everyone had to know their place in the rotation and get out to the floor at the right time, or else you could disrupt the show and every act that would follow until either the intermission or the end, depending on where the act fell. So, you know, no extra pressure on the performance or anything, right?
First though, before we started our rehearsal of the show, the director wanted to run through the curtain call that would happen at the end of the night. The director wanted to have all the performers walk back out on to the ‘stage’ from wherever they happened to be after the last act finished up – some people were planning to hang out backstage, the last act was just going to stay on the dance floor, and some people wanted to go out into the audience and sit with family members during the intermission. We all were given four eight counts of music to make our way back to the front. During those eight counts, each person was to take seven steps and on the eighth we were supposed to rock our heads back, until we all got to our assigned place on the stage where we were supposed to line up. Once in line, at the end of the fourth eight count, we changed over to clapping in time with the music as we shuffled from side to side. Here a recording was started that read off the names of all the performers, letting each person walk down the stage when their name was called out, heading toward the audience before going to the end of the line on either the right or left side of the floor. The whole idea for the ending was reminiscent of an old TV show that I bet you’ve seen before.
With that out of the way, we were all given a ten-minute warning and then we were going to do a dry run of the actual show. Sparkledancer and I got elected to go in slot six of the first act, so we were going to be done super early in the evening. Since we were entering and exiting the dance floor from the upper-right corner (from the audience’s perspective), we would be stuck backstage until the end of the first act. During the dress rehearsal, I took the brief intermission we had between acts to find a seat out on the fancy bleacher-like seating that they had rented for the event so that I could watch the performances that were in act two for myself. I figured that it would probably make more sense for me to hang out in the back on the actual night of the performance, since my costume would probably be distracting to people who I would sit next to, but since there were only staff members sitting in the seats for the rehearsal I would be OK. After all the acts finished up, even though some of the other students who had dance in the first act had already left for the night, we had another practice go at the curtain call before we all got to go home and rest up.
The run through of our number that night was the first time pretty much everyone who was around (outside of Sir Steven and the lady that had sat in on one of our lessons) had seen us go through our routine, and it was definitely the first time everyone had seen it with Sparkledancer and I in full costume. The dance went great. There was only one spot during the first transition from Lindy Hop back to Quickstep where we tripped up a little, but we didn’t do anything that looked out of place, so you could hardly tell that something had changed unless you knew the original choreography of the routine. Even though the crew putting together the bleachers and mounting the cameras were supposed to be working while we were practicing, they stopped what they were doing to make noises when I lifted Sparkledancer off the floor and clapped a lot when we finished up at the end. One of the instructors who was also performing in the showcase must have thought our routine was pretty amazing, because he was grinning and chuckling every time we caught eyes for the rest of the night, and he gave me the ‘thumbs up’ several times (I’m pretty sure English isn’t his first language, so maybe he thought that was an easier way to communicate with me?).
The actual night of the performance was a lot of fun, even though for me it was long periods of inactivity punctuated by a few minutes of excitement. After the rehearsal the night before the staff found a big television and installed a camera pointing down to the stage portion of the floor, giving those of us waiting in the back room the ability to see what was going on in the performance (though the video was a bit choppy streaming from the wireless camera to the laptop they had set up) without sneaking glances through the curtains that were blocking off the ‘backstage’ area from view. That way there was no confusion about which number act was currently performing – you could just check the video to see who was on stage and look at the schedule to see where they were in comparison to when you were going onstage. It also had the added benefit of allowing me to see large parts of the first act, which I wasn’t able to watch during rehearsal since I was stuck backstage out of the way before and after my performance.
I was required to be at the dance hall really, really early… like two hours before the start of the showcase. That sounds like a lot of time to hide out backstage doing nothing (which it kind of was…), but it was probably a good thing that I did get there so early. While most people were getting their hair and costumes in order backstage, the dance floor was completely empty, so Sparkledancer and I got to run through our routine a few times. Also… I ended up having a bit of a wardrobe malfunction pointed out to me. It turns out that the pants I was wearing for my costume, which were some black Latin-style dance pants that I got long ago for one of the first competitions I was ever in and I hadn’t really looked at until the dress rehearsal the night before, had a split seam in a very… unfortunate place. I have no idea when that happened. The undergarments that I was wearing were brightly colored, so they kind of stood out if you were in a position to see through the hole. Luckily Sparkledancer had some emergency thread and a needle I could use to sort-of jury-rig the hole shut, and there was a general store next door to the dance hall, so I was able to get some black underwear to match the black pants, just in case my rushed sewing job didn’t hold until I got home.
The fix did in fact hold, in case you were wondering, but better safe than sorry, right?
Pants-related humor aside, our performance that night was awesome, if I do say so myself. With all the running around making sure everything was ready to go both Friday and Saturday, I hadn’t gotten to work out like I normally do, so when it came time for me to do my ‘intense two minutes of physical activity’ for the night, I was fired up and ready to go. I managed to keep myself from speeding up my footwork as the adrenaline flooded my system when I got on stage in front of the audience, which was great, but all the extra fuel in my system and my lack of activity going into the performance meant that I picked Sparkledancer up really high off the ground during all the lifts that we did. She told me after the performance was over that the difference in height she felt was noticeable, especially in how long it took her feet to hit the ground again compared to what we had been doing in all the practice sessions. And the crowd loved it! Every time I helped her get her feet off of the floor, they went wild. Almost all of the performances that night were very formal affairs, with everyone wearing dress clothing, or competition dresses that sparkled, with their hair and makeup done just right. In the middle of it all was this one act with two kids that looked a lot younger than everyone else, wearing outfits that wouldn’t have looked too out of place on Halloween night, and me lifting and swinging my dance partner around all over the place. It felt kind of surreal. At the end of the routine, as I held Sparkledancer aloft over the floor, I told her to release one arm and wave to the crowd as I held her back a foot off the ground. Then I swung her up and over my left shoulder and walked (strutted, really) off the stage with her. Just before I reached the curtains covering the stage exit, I let go of her with my right hand and raised my fist in the air triumphantly, holding it there as I walked the rest of the way off stage. After the curtains closed behind us, I gently set Sparkledancer back on her feet.
The best part is, I get to perform the same thing again this coming weekend as well. Hooray!
The one thing that I noticed during the final curtain call of the night was that this event was mostly a show full of professionals performing with each other. At the end of the night, when Lord Dormamu was thanking the Princess and the staff of the Fancy Dance Hall for their work, he had them all step forward. There were only about twelve or thirteen non-instructors left on stage when he separated the group. Since Sparkledancer and I performed together, that means there were only ten or eleven students who put on a Pro/Am dance number that night, out of the thirty-five or so dance numbers that made up the entirety of the show. I mentioned when I signed up for the event how expensive the sign-up fee was compared to the other showcase I am going to be in. I wonder if that cost kept a lot of people from taking part in the event…
On a different note – Standard Technique class this week was also fun (though not nearly the same level of excitement). We had a pretty small group compared to what we have had the last several times I’ve been in class – only four people total, if you count Lord Junior. No one had anything in particular they wanted to work on in class, so we asked Bony to tell us which dance style she hated the least that night (Bony has a complicated relationship with dancing). Based on her feedback, we went with Foxtrot and covered two variations of a particular figure in the hour. We started by looking at a figure in the book, the Bounce Fallaway with Weave Ending. This is a Gold-level figure, but it doesn’t really seem all that hard, if I do say so. The Bounce Fallaway is really a lot like a normal Fallaway, but you are doing the footwork much quicker, so the rise you put in the step on beat two looks kind of like a small bounce. At least, that’s how it looked to me, so I’m going to believe that’s where the name comes from. I could be wrong, so don’t quote me on that. After we all seemed comfortable with the syllabus footwork, Lord Junior changed the ending to make it an Open-level figure, the Bounce Fallaway with Tumble Turn and Feather Ending (that’s what he called it). This is the second time I’ve done a Tumble Turn in Foxtrot, and the figure is a lot of fun. I’ll have to start remembering this figure to use it in my normal dancing from time to time.
Having a smaller class was a nice change of pace. Without so many ladies wandering around on the floor, Lord Junior was actually able to pay attention to what I was doing when I danced, so I got a lot of critiques. I mean, it’s never fun to get critiqued on what you are doing wrong, but the only way you can get better is by having someone point out what you’re doing wrong so that you can correct things, right? Each of us in class was given specific things to work on for the class period. For me, as you probably guessed, keeping my head in the right place was one of the things I got called out on. Stupid head, it has a mind of its own (See what I did there? I’m hilarious!). Another point I was given to work on was my shaping during the Feather Finish we used as a starter step before going into the Bounce Fallaway. Lord Junior told me that I could shape through my body a lot more than I was doing at first. I was told to aim for making it look like I was travelling more sideways with my left side leading, because the effect would be much more dramatic if I could work that in. The third point I was given was to keep my left arm bent at the same angle for the whole sequence, and my shoulders down. This mostly came into play during the Tumble Turn – apparently, from the outside, it looked like as I did the rise in the Tumble Turn, my neck would disappear because I was thinking about the footwork and not keeping my shoulders down, and I was extending my arm during the rotation instead of keeping it bent. So, as we ran repetitions at the end of class, those were the things I worked on. I felt pretty good about the way the figures looked by the time we finished up.
This weekend is going to be another busy weekend for me, full of all kinds of dance things. There’s a dance party on Friday night, a lesson on Saturday afternoon, another dance party on Saturday night, and then Sunday afternoon will be a combination dance party and showcase performance. So much dancing to do! I hope your weekend will be filled with as much dance related stuff as mine looks to be. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it next week!