End of Term Shows, rehearsals and performances

It’s a long time since I did an end of term show. Alejandra my teacher in Bristol seemed to go off the idea of presenting any shows. I think it was beause fewer and fewer people were willing to do them and the only one that we did was the school Saturday fair towards the end of term. We did a wonderful show a few years back on the dockside in Bristol but other than that nothing. I used to perform a lot with the early dance group Good Companie – all over the UK and Europe. We did historical fairs and events in plays, stately homes, at the Edinburgh Festival. This felt different. We knew each other so well and had delved into historical texts and attended summer courses together so knew the dances and each other really well. No one really knows how those dances looked apart from some rare pictures, and unless someone decided to do one of our dances at a very different tempo – which did happen once – we would rarely see the dances and were in fact the experts.

I have suffered a lot from performance anxiety. I have to be really certain of a dance, and have an unfortunate tendency to translate a dance 180 degrees if I don’t know a performance space or alternatively go totally blank and have to invent steps and pieces of choreography. This is not unusual I am told. So long gone are the days when I would perform regularly – my twenties probably when I did a lot of Jazz Dance demonstrations in London and at University when I danced with Cambridge Contemporary Dance Group.

However don’t get me wrong – I love performing and especially flamenco. It’s just I haven’t had a lot of opportunity. So blow me down nothing for several years and then two come along at once. To say I was excited when I first heard I would be dancing on the stages of both the Sala Paúl and the Sala Companía would be an understatement. I have been coming to the Jerez Flamenco Festival every year for the last 8 years and have seen some of the up and coming and more well known dancers perform in those spaces.

Then reality hit me. I realised that I would be having to attend many practices. In fact this week I have a practise at 7.30 and then have to head straight off to the Sala Paul to perform. I’m not sure that this is wise. I have a feeling that I should be doing costume and make up in that hour beforehand. (That’s confirmed so I will be)

So this week I have practises every day and last Saturday and this coming Saturday. Since I spent many years from the age of 4 to about 25 doing this I have the disciplines – I’m just a little out of practise of being on stage and all the routines that this requires. You can’t count when I nearly ended up in the Matthew Bourne matinée performance of Sleeping Beauty by mistake after taking a wrong turning in the Sadlers Wells backstage area at the Christmas Escuela de Baile course two years ago.

For example there’s the dress rehearsal with all the ensuing chaos. Then knowing whether a table will be here or there, or a speaker set right in the very front. How far do we start in the wings and what is the order of the pieces? Do we come dressed in our first number dress and what is that going to be?

Then there’s the preparation – washing the dress, checking the hair gear – have I got hair grips, flower and what do I do to prevent a piece of hair escaping or my flower falling off in the dance?
I’ve got the ear rings, I’ve got all the rest so now for show number one it’s Show Time. The standard is very high here in Jerez. People see so much really good flamenco it’s much much more professional than anything I’ve seen or done in London in the amateur scene and a lot better than even some of the professional shows even in the UK. There are a couple of teachers who really make an impression in the UK with their end of term shows, but a lot of the pupils don’t know what it means or takes to get to a level of professionalism. I know that sounds harsh, but even I am feeling it and for years I was fully into the semi-professional dance scene.

Bring it on – Sala Paul here I come and see the photo below of the ‘mujeres’ dancing Alegrías. don’t we look great.

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So one show down and rehearsals every night this week for the next one. This time I shall be dancing the fandangos and verdiales and wearing blue and looking much more gitana! It’s a fiendish dance with lots of zapateado (footwork and you have to remember which foot to start off with or you get into a real pickle. Also we have to use the skirt in the right way or it will look awful for the audience. Although I find dancing solo excrutiating, dancing in an ensemble is really tricky so you look like a corps de ballet – all the same. Also I have seen the photographs from Monday and now I understand what Irène has been telling me about my arms and shoulders – I really do need to a) strengthen them and for the shoulders throw them round a lot more to the side. Let’s see how I look in the video of the

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next show.

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