If You Happen To Be Rich And You Feel Like A Night’s Entertainment

This last week was yet another busy week for me. I’m hoping that next week will be much more relaxed. With the holidays all lined up, I may just get that wish. Perhaps I’ll even give my legs a rest for a few days next week instead of going out dancing in some way every night like I have been doing! There won’t be much practice time between the holidays, so there’s a real chance that my wish will become reality!

Well, what did I get myself into since the last time I posted? I guess I should start by going back to last Thursday night, where I attended a dress rehearsal for the showcase that I signed up to be a part of. Much like the blocking rehearsal that I went to the Thursday prior to this, dress rehearsal seemed to be awfully chaotic. The Art Director of the Fancy Dance Hall – who also happens to be the director of the showcase – did not seem to have control of all the performers during the evening.

But we soldiered on. Because we weren’t relegated to the stay in a room backstage like we will have to during the actual performance, I got to see several of the dance routines for the first time while waiting for my own cue to take the stage. Most of the routines were, as you could probably guess, Pro/Am numbers. There were only three amatuer routines by my count, and mine was one of those. One of the other amatuer numbers was done by the stage manager and set designer, and the third was an older couple whom I recognized, but could not tell you their names for the life of me.
Watching the performance that night, it was still hard for me to tell exactly what the storyline was. There were a lot of extra people wandering around on stage that shouldn’t have been in the scenes, and those people got in the way of some of the dance numbers. Because this was supposed to be a complete run-through, no one stopped the soundtrack to redo any scenes that got messed up unexpectedly. We just continued on as best as we could.

The part of the show that I was in comes near the end of the first half. My scenes went pretty well, with no extra bodies getting in my way that I had to work around. This was the first time that most of the other performers saw the lift that I did with Sparkledancer, so I got a lot of ‘Oooohs’ and ‘Ahhhhs’ from the makeshift audience when it happened, because it looks really impressive. I have done this lift now many times during practice in front of the big mirrors at the Fancy Dance Hall, so I know it looks cool, even with all the changes that we had to make recently to cut down the time.

After my dance number, I went back to rejoin the scene in the background, waited for the cue that marked my second scene. It was a little awkward – I had been told during the blocking rehearsal that all of us in the background scene were supposed to be ‘frozen’ while the new dance routine was happening, but none of the other extras on stage with me were frozen, so I felt dumb just standing there without moving while people tried to interact with me. Weird.

We all took a break after the first half of the show was finished so that everyone could compare notes. The Art Director came and found Sparkledancer and I and told us that she wanted to go over a couple of things for our scene, but Sparkledancer had to leave before the rehearsal ended that night, so we set up a time to get together on Saturday morning. That ended all of my responsibilities for the night. I quietly walked out without telling anyone after watching the first few acts of the second half.

Saturday morning I met up with Sparkledancer and the Art Director at the Fancy Dance Hall to discuss some minor, last-minute changes to our acting scene for the performance that night. Before we got into any of the changes she wanted, I asked about the ‘party’ scene that was happening when Sparkledancer and I get done dancing, where we were all told originally to freeze once the main characters started to wander around. The Art Director told me that she had decided after the blocking rehearsal that the party people freezing in the background looked weird, so she had told all the other extras in the party to continue partying, and must have forgotten to tell Sparkledancer and I. Oops…

We also talked about the ending of our dance routine, and how we returned to the party when we finished. This made it awkward when we were supposed to come back out for our secondary acting scene, since we were already on stage and the new scene has an abrupt change of temperament. Sparkledancer asked whether we should be portraying something while we were on stage to depict where this change in temperament happened.

The Art Director thought about it for a minute, and then told us it would be better for us to actually leave the stage when we finished dancing. Because the characters Sparkledancer and I were playing were part of a flashback that the main character was having, and there is supposed to be a passage of time between the scene where we dance and the scene when we return to mid-stage, the Art Director told us that it makes more sense for Sparkledancer and I to just disappear from the stage for a few minutes.

Sparkledancer offered to also do a minor wardrobe change in that few minute window before we came back onstage to further emphasise the passage of time. That really sold it for the Art Director. So, we decided that we would leave after dancing, and wait while the next dance routine went on. Once they finished and our next musical cue came up, we would re-enter the stage and stop on either side of the main character to do our scene, so it would look like he was watching this second flashback unfold right before his eyes. Dramatic!
Nothing like last-minute changes that I had very little time to practice right on the day of the show, right?

That brings us to Saturday night, the first performance of the showcase. And quite the performance it turned out to be! Both nights were sold out shows, which was nice, but I didn’t have anyone that I know coming to the show, so I was really just performing for performance sake. That’s OK though. I felt good about how my particular routine(s) went both nights. The dancing was solid, my ‘acting’ parts hit all the necessary cues, and I felt good about everything after I finished.

The overall performances of the whole show felt wildly different between Saturday and Sunday nights though, and I feel kind-of bad that the audience on Saturday night didn’t get to experience the quality of show that we had on Sunday night. That is the risk you take with running your showcase more like a musical instead of a dance recital – if things go wrong during the show, it impacts something larger than just one dance routine. In a normal showcase, if someone messes up while dancing, once their act is done you get a brand new show that starts with the next act that takes the stage.

It wasn’t just me who felt like Sunday night went better than Saturday night. One of the male students that was doing a couple of routines during the show told me during intermission Saturday night that the show felt to him “like a freight train hitting a marshmallow.” That is a pretty amazing description, and I wrote it down that night so that I wouldn’t forget. 🙂

So what made Saturday night feel like that? Well, these are the things that I either experienced or witnessed:

  • Just before my initial entrance to the stage, there is a part in the show where a group of kids were supposed to enter from stage right with a piece of furniture. The main characters then react to the teenagers being there, and it’s mentioned in the soundtrack. Saturday night, the kids were behind the curtain waiting, and then missed their cue. Rather than rush out to be on stage slightly late, the five of them dropped the piece of furniture and ran back to the green room, leaving the main characters on stage interacting with empty space. D’oh!
    There is a part near the beginning of the show where, to make a joke, the Art Director had wanted to have a random character walk across the stage. Apparently no one had been told to take up that particular part for Saturday night, so when the music changed in the soundtrack and the voice-over made the joke about the random character who should have been walking across the stage, there was no one there…
  • One of the characters was supposed to enter the stage with a large prop hanging over his shoulders. The Art Director had promised that there would be a stagehand around who would help him get the prop off his shoulders before his dance number, since the prop was heavy and noisy. Saturday night no one was there, so he ended up struggling as fast as he could to get it off, and he just dropped it in the back of the stage so he could go dance. It made a lot of noise, and was sitting there for quite a while before a stagehand finally collected it to take it off stage.
  • The green room that was set aside for the performers to hang out in when they weren’t onstage was not well controlled. Everyone was loud, and no one wanted to keep the door shut. I kept trying to shush them, and I shut the door whenever someone came in and left it open, but that didn’t help very much. Having been in a number of performances in my life, I know what it’s like to hear noises coming from backstage when you are the one on stage trying to do your bit, and I felt bad.
  • I have to say that the worst offenders of being a ruckus backstage were the ladies in the formation number. All of them were full of nervous energy before taking stage to do their performance, so they were really chatty, and they kept walking through their routine while counting loudly. After they finished performing, they came back to the green room and kept talking about how awesome they had done very loudly.
  • Neither the blocking rehearsal nor the dress rehearsal had been done with the black curtain up that was used to surround the stage and hide the backstage area. On the back of the black curtain, the entrance had been marked with a big ‘X’ in masking tape, but there was nothing on the front side that showed which curtain was the one you should go through. Saturday night, a number of performers exiting the stage (including myself and Sparkledancer) chose the wrong curtain to exit through. Because the curtains were all pinned together and tied to the posts, if you chose the wrong curtain you ended up breaking something or you got stuck trying to create an opening to go through. That probably looked really bad.

Sunday night came around and we got a chance to do it all over again. The night went a lot better. Everyone seemed much more relaxed that night, which I think really helped. Perhaps going through the show on Saturday night helped relieve everyone’s nerves? The crowd also seemed much more responsive to all the jokes and to what the dancers were doing, and that definitely made the performance more entertaining. I think that the Fancy Dance Hall is planning to give all the performers a DVD of the show, and I’m secretly hoping that they recorded Sunday night’s performance to create the video off of.

I did create one issue for myself on Sunday that I’m not entirely proud of, even though everything worked out in the end. I swear that people were saying on Saturday that Sunday’s performance started an hour earlier, so I had planned out my whole day around showing up an hour before the show started so that I could warm up and be ready to go. What I didn’t know was that the show actually started two hours earlier than Saturday’s show… when I walked through the door of the Fancy Dance Hall an hour before what I thought was the start time, the audience was already all seated and waiting for the show to start!

Luckily, I had some time before I was to get on stage, and I didn’t really miss anything. They were running a few minutes behind, trying to find more seats for the over-capacity crowd that had bought tickets to the performance. Sir Steven and Sparkledancer gave me relieved looks when they saw me stretching out my shoulders backstage since I was finally there. I guess next time I should make sure to check the official documentation to learn the start times rather than rely on hearsay.

To avoid dealing with the noise issues of the previous night in the green room, I spent most of the night when I wasn’t on stage plopped down against a wall behind the curtain that surrounded the stage area rather than in the green room. This also let me sort-of watch the performance as it went on. With the lighting being used to illuminate the dancers, I could (mostly) make out what was happening through the black curtain that separated the stage from the backstage area.

A lot of people could see me sitting there as they made their way to enter or exit the stage for their routines, so eventually more and more people also decided to hang out in the backstage area where I was rather than going to the green room. I eventually lost my view of the stage because these other people began standing right up against the curtain to peek through and watch, and I couldn’t see through their bodies. Oh well… I guess I’ll have to wait to get my copy of the show on video to actually see what everything looked like.

Everyone managed to make all their cues that night. I heard that those kids that had missed their entrance on Saturday night had gotten a stern talking to from their instructor about abandoning the show after missing their mark, so they were all extremely ready to get on stage Sunday night. They almost went out too early because they were so ready to go! Luckily one of the girls in the group held everyone else back until she heard the right cue, so they managed to be on time.

Near the end of the show, Sir Steven came out of the green room to hang out in the backstage area as well. He must have been feeling pretty good about how the show was proceeding that night, because he started to do something rather silly. Walking along behind the curtain, he stopped himself in front of where a few of us were sitting on the floor. Taking the hat that was a part of his costume off of his head, he stuck out one of his legs and placed the hat upon his foot. Waving his hands around dramatically for a moment, he then proceeded to kick the hat up into the air and attempted to catch it upon his head.

This maneuver did not go well in all his attempts. The hat went flying over his head and onto the floor behind him. Everyone watching tried to laugh as quietly as possible as the hat missed landing on his head over and over, since there was a performance going on only two dozen steps away from us. After the third time he launched the hat off of his foot and couldn’t get it to land where he wanted, he set the hat on his foot for one more go. Faking a wind up of his leg once, and then twice, he lowered his leg as if to launch the hat with even more power than he had before.

Just as he started to bring his leg up to kick the hat upward, he stopped his leg when it was parallel with the floor, and then reached out to grab the hat with his hands, rolled it down his arms and set it smoothly on his head. He then slid his fingers along the brim to look cool, smiled at all of us who were now gathered to watch this, and wandered off back toward the green room. Just as quickly as this backstage show had started, it was all over, and all of us sitting there were trying as hard as we could not to break out laughing too loud to be heard by the audience.
And that was the showcase! I will say that it was entertaining. As I’ve mentioned before, I never really felt a deep connection to the performance, so I mostly felt like an outsider observing the makings of this show from behind the scenes. That’s a weird way to feel since I was one of the acts in the show. Would I do another performance like this? There’s a chance that I could be convinced to do another in the future, but I can’t say that I will go out of my way to sign up for one. I guess it depends on what the theme of the show is. I won’t be signing up to do another show like this any time soon though. Maybe I will do one in 2019. Maybe,

Now that the show is done, it’s time to get back to my normal training for future competitions. I feel like a lot of my practice sessions the past couple of weeks weren’t as focused on my competition routines as I should have been. Though, I will only be able to get so much training in until after the new year – Sparkledancer told me that she is traveling after Christmas to visit family, so I won’t be able to practice with her until after she gets back. We did set aside some time this weekend to practice before she leaves, so I’ll have that time under my belt at least!

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