120 Soldiers: Basic Training

Over 100 people link arms in rows in a large dance studio.
120 Soldiers. I’m in there somewhere…

I’ve always enjoyed seeing conductors at work preparing choirs and orchestras for musical performances, but today is I think the first time I’ve seen a choreographer doing their thing and it’s a joy to watch. It’s certainly the first time I’ve been choreographed. Yes, I made it through the rehearsal of the pre-show pop up performance for Tuesday’s world premiere of Rosie Kay’s 10 Soldiers. What a life-enhancing experience! I’m so pleased to have been able to do it and to enjoy it. This may sound odd but I wouldn’t done if I hadn’t had ME/CFS. When I was well it would not have occurred to me to put myself forward for anything like this. I would have thought ‘That’s not for someone like me, it’s for dancers.’ There are so many things I struggle to do now that I’ll consider anything that is possible.
I don’t want to blind anyone with science here, but the way choreography works is that someone tells and shows you how to move and you do your best to move in that way. I know, crazy isn’t it. With Rosie we also had fun and focusing warm up, walking and marching exercises and some readings of World War I poetry that informed the piece, which really helped to set the mood and feeling for the performance. I also enjoyed having some time to talk to Rosie about the days when we were in the early days of our careers and working together regularly, something that I totally took for granted at the time and treasure such a lot in retrospect. Her no-budget dance film ‘The Wild Party’ was one of the first things I edited and is still one of my favorites. Then there was that time I was concussed but hadn’t noticed, Rosie did and drove me to hospital. Great days.
For me, the big question was, could I even get to the end of a day of dance rehearsal? I started by speaking the person responsible looking after us, Liz Leck, another face from my film-making past. Pretty much the last project I did was for Liz and the Hippodrome’s Education department. She had supported me wonderfully through that, and was similarly supportive today. So in a Hippodrome wheelchair I learned all of the choreography and did practically all the warm up. I only switched to standing for the in situ rehearsal in the foyer. I hope I’m not giving too much away by revealing that the performance involves a fair amount of marching. This does put a strain on the legs but I only actually experience symptoms of this when I stop, so it’s the standing still after the marching that is most challenging. The knees do begin to complain and shake. Happily, using the chair for most of the day meant that I was fresh enough to get through two run throughs and even walk to the bus afterwards.
Thanks Rosie, thanks Liz, thanks to all of you who helped me today and everyone with whom I spoke, especially the person who said nice things about my previous blog! I’ll see you all on Tuesday.

Author: admin