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Thread: Pantomime

  1. #11
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    definitely take the challenge!
    I sure that it will be a great lesson for you

  2. #12
    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    Well, the panto is this week! Most of you won’t be interested in this, but I’ll indulge myself and write this anyway, just so you know how it’s all gone.

    The remit was: two female bellydancers, and two pirates disguised as bellydancers, one of which was to look competent, while the other would dad-dance. I heard nothing until I was told to attend a rehearsal at the start of January. So I toddled along, not knowing the level of dancers, the music, nor the length of the piece. Having got there, the two women hadn’t turned up, and the pirate and musical director were too busy with other rehearsals. Not quite a wasted journey, though, for a whisper evidently went around the room that ‘That bloke over there is a bellydancer’, which came as a surprise to some as they ‘Didn’t think I’d look like that’!

    Undaunted, I attended rehearsals the following week, but this time not only had the two ladies not turned up, they’d both pulled out of the production! They said the parts were too small to warrant their commitment, leaving the producer pulling his hair, and me wondering whether to call on a couple of dancing friends to help. This time, however, I did get to hear the musical director’s musical choice - a piece based on ‘Beyond the Sea’ with overtones of the ‘snake charmers’ tune. The length of the piece would be up to me.

    So back again on the third week, having vague ideas of what moves to use, but with no expectation that anyone would actually be there to teach them to. But two ladies had volunteered to step into the breach – Hooray!! And the pirate was there – Hooray!! And one of the ladies had bellydanced before – Hooray!! And as she explained to the pirate, “Don’t worry if you can’t do it, we’ve had children so its natural for us” – Huh?! I had to point out the incongruity of that statement in light of the fact that she was taking bellydance tuition from a bloke.

    The rehearsal was fun, especially working with the musical director, because as she played she responded to what I was dancing, as I was responding to what she was playing. This was like a drum solo, but translated to an electronic keyboard! So we came up with the bare bones of a routine, about two minutes in length. So should I teach the moves first, or just plough straight on with the choreography? The dancers had already been following me (with varying degrees of facial confusion and embarrassment), and on being asked, said they’d rather learn the choreography and be corrected as we went along. This was their normal way of learning a routine, and as we only had four weeks to go, with limited rehearsal time, I though it more realistic, although not ideal. But we did decide that the next rehearsal would be an hour long, which might just give me time to teach a little technique.

  3. #13
    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    So the next week we could start. I turned up, finally knowing the music, the dancers and the length of the piece. Now for the teaching. Trying to teach individual moves and technique straight off proved unproductive. The pirate was extremely embarrassed about moving his hips in any direction, particularly when being watched; one of the women thought she was being more flexible than she actually was, or was moving when she though she wasn’t (without a mirror this proved hard to combat); and the third person was so enthusiastic about it all that she was showing the others how to do it before I’d even shown her myself! It seemed easier to keep control and keep them focused by running through the routine first.

    That worked a lot better. I couldn’t see them dancing behind me, (Where are they boys and girls? They're behind you!!) but they were not slow in asking about weight distribution, which foot to step on, how to do a particular arm move, etc, which was great, as I had to think myself and make sure that what I said really was what I was doing! It showed that they had danced before. They seemed to pick the routine up really well, so I sat and watched them do it on their own. They certainly had the choreography within twenty minutes, but transistions, technique, timing, hand and arm positions? – pretty good considering, but still some way to go. The producer then announced that all that he wanted was for them to look ‘professional’ on stage, and "To look as if they knew what they were doing". In three weeks? I think he’d been watching too much ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. We went over the routine some more; the moves, timing, positioning, etc., and checking on the understanding of what they were doing. Then the rest of the cast started to turn up, early. Lots of kids, who were amused to find us bellydancing. So we ran through the routine once more for them. Our first performance! And no one fell over!!

    The following week we had two rehearsals (Hooray!), albeit very short ones (Boo!). But the pirate didn’t turned up to either. (Oh, yes he did! Oh, no he didn’t!) And we had wardrobe issues. The costumes the dancers were to wear for the show included belts that made hardly any noise at all – stiff thread with coins so light they hardly moved, and spread so far apart that they hardly touched the coins on either side. The belts I’d let them practise in were my own, from Egypt, with a heavy noise and lots of sparkle. The dancers rebelled and refused to wear the stage costume belts. They wanted to be able to hear themselves move. Even the wardrobe mistress agreed the costume belts were a disappointment; perhaps someone could sit by the stage and jangle something as the dancers moved inorder to simulate the effect? I’m not sure she was getting the point.

    But another problem was the female dancers not taking a bow at the end and leaving the stage in a hurry. They were so relieved to finish the routine, they just wanted to get off. I suggested that after the bow, they start exiting with walking hip lifts which would turn into the ‘Morcombe and Wise’ dance and the music would change to ‘Bring Me Sunshine’. At least they were now confident they’d finish on something really familiar and receive a positive response from the audience, which they could milk. Everyone seemed to relax after that, slow down, and find the whole thing more fun. Maybe not 'professional', but with two weeks to go they began to look like they knew what they were doing (or rather, they knew what they should have done - which is half way there).
    Last edited by Duvet; 02-11-2013 at 10:36 PM.

  4. #14
    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    Last week was the final week of rehearsals. But our practise slot was cast wardrobe fitting time as well, so not much time or space to practise. The pirate turned up this time, and tried on his bellydance outfit - bra and harem pants. He looked quite good, except his bra kept falling off! His hairy chest accentuated the whole comic effect just right, although he felt he needed to shave his shoulders (!?). Lots of kids again, trying on costumes and taking photos of him in his outfit. He was getting more attention than the Dame!

    Due to lack of space we retreated into the neighbouring chapel. The pirate had obviously been practising, as, despite missing two weeks, he knew the routine better. I’m not sure how the chapel congregation would have felt about three bellydancers (one a man in drag) dancing amongst the pews, whilst I watched and directed from the pulpit, with the musical director accompanying the dancers on the chapel organ. But it did give a chance to practise what to do if something went wrong (ie you ran out of room, something prodded you from behind, or you walked into something).The pirate’s mistakes were really a bonus, as they were funnier than trying to be serious and get it right. His facial reactions were too comical not to miss.

    But I did miss the first stage rehearsal, due to being misinformed about the schedule. I was disappointed, but was told the dancers went down well with the desired effect. It sounded like a success, but I wouldn't know until I saw them at the first dress rehearsal.
    Last edited by Duvet; 02-13-2013 at 02:16 AM.

  5. #15
    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    Its all over now. The panto as a whole was lovely. Cliched, awful acting, bad jokes, forgotten lines, and finished on a really good number that left you feeling you'd seen a grand show. Perfect Panto! I, however, was preoccupied with the bellydancing.

    The ladies did end up wearing my coinbelts, and the costumes were great, but they wore yasmaks! Really big yasmaks that covered all of their face, came down to the navel, and detracted from the moves. Not a good choice at all. They got through the routine fine, despite the musicians loosing the music - but they kept on regardless. At least in that way they were 'professional'. But they'd barely had three hours of my time, and unfortunately and not surprisingly, it showed. But, what they did was fine for panto, and they looked like they were enjoying themselves (as far as I could gauge - the yasmaks meant you couldn't see the faces!). However, the worse bit for me was that the dance did not fit the context of the scene. Despite the director choosing the music and agreeing that the routine was what he wanted, seeing it in context I was conscious it had completely the wrong energy.

    The pirates' dancing...hmmm. Again the yasmaks were too big, and hid their hairy chests and facial expressions, which were comic features lost. And neither were wearing a coinbelt (so to my eyes they looked 'naked'). The audience found two blokes in drag hilarious (as expected) but both pirates looked too embarrassed, and it froze them in getting on and dancing. The pirate doing his own thing was great at times, but kept loosing energy and freeflow. But what he did do he hammed up to good effect. The other pirate (who was meant to be doing the routine) looked lost. He was thinking too much about what to do and wasn't funny to watch. Perfectly understandable considering the lack of input he'd had, but it would have looked better if he had just been left to his own devises.

    Despite my reservations however, it seems the audience enjoyed the bellydancing slots. I guess thats the most important thing.

    I'd love to be able to say that I taught the dancers a fantastic routine, made them look professional and recieved tons of compliments. I can't. I taught them a routine, they were as good as you could expect considering, and I've had no compliments, but lots of thanks. I've enjoyed being involved and would do it again (or should I not? I'm not sure I achieved anything by being involved).

    Certain things come out:

    1. Make sure the piece fits the context. Obvious, now! And I do it when working out the running order for my own shows/performances. Despite reading the play, I hadn't picked up that the music I had been given didn't quite fit the scene. I allowed myself to be led by the director, when I should have thought about it myself.

    2. Make sure there's enough practise time. I really should have got some ground work done in technique, but I lost the first two weeks, and the remaining time was too short to get technique and the choreography in. Three hours was a ridiculous amount of time to give me, considering I'd been initially asked over eight months ago. Yet the trouble with getting more time to teach properly is that the time spent on the piece becames disproportionate to the length and importance of that piece in the whole production, and the amount of time people are willing or able to give.

    3. Vet the costume. Fortunately I was able and willing to lend them my coinbelts, but the huge yasmaks just spoilt the outfit, and I would have chosen different moves that wouldn't get the arms tangled up!

    4. Don't sweat it. It's panto. While I want them to look good because it reflects on me, I have to give priority to them enjoying it, and whether it looks good for the panto. On those accounts it was a success.

    5. I need more experience in teaching. Ironically, this was part of that experience.

  6. #16
    Member Pleasant dancer's Avatar
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    That sounded like fun, despite your reservations. Don't sweat too much on the things like music not fitting the scene, I doubt very much if the audience noticed (at least those that knew nothing about the dance!).

    A good few years ago I danced in a pantomine with my (then) teacher and 2 other students. We were asked to dance for 2 - 2.5 minutes (!) We already had a class dance to Setrak's Farhab Shabab (folky style number) which is about that length. So, we danced in full glitter and bedlah to a really folky piece of music!! Worked a treat. Audience thought we were wonderful (and a welcome relief from all the naff jokes, bad acting etc that characterize panto)

    The important aspect was that as we could already dance we were in charge of what we did. My teacher also taught about 15 little girls a simple veil dance as part of the panto. Think it was Ali Baba (can't remember!) must look out the programme...

    We had great fun, although 4 performances in a row, including a matinee was quite tiring, all that makeup and glitter etc for a short 2 minutes piece, twice on Saturday! I have real respect for professional actors who do 6 shows a week!

  7. #17
    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    Oh my, has it really been four years since that experience?!!

    And I've just had an e-mail from the same company asking for help in this years panto in February! Well, nice to have been remembered. Shall I take the plunge? I think I will. "Oh no you won't!" Oh, yes I will!, etc.

  8. #18
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    If ya had fun last time, why not?

  9. #19
    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    There's a few things I learnt from last time, and I'll incorporate them into this upcoming experience. It will be fun!!

  10. #20
    V.I.P. Ariadne's Avatar
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    Good luck Duvet. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

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