Even though I knew it was coming, it sort of feels like a dirty trick to end up in a straight show and still have to spend so much time learning dances. But that is what last night was. (And what several more nights of rehearsal will be in the future.)
There is a dance scene at the beginning and end of this play, A Thurber Carnival. Neither are very long, and in my personal opinion neither need to be particularly complex. The are just a warm-up for the audience, not a center piece of the show itself. (Those would be the various skits.) The actors pause during these dance scenes to deliver one liners to the audience. (Some of which none of us even understand.) We need to be careful, in my opinion, of making too much of these scenes, not just because of the dancing, but because of the one liners.
And as far as the dancing, my hope is that it not become too complicated. But to be fair, complicated for me in regards to dance is far below what most people would consider complicated. That doesn't make it any easier, of course, but it does mean that few people truly understand just how unskilled I am when it comes to formal dance.
I was honest with the choreographer about it. I told her I knew no formal dances at all. To her credit the only things she had me do, (just to see what I looked like in doing it.) were basically NON-dances. One was basically me stepping side to side, though I admit I even messed that one up a little bit. The other one was inspired by another non-dancer in the cast...something from a Billy Crystal movie which I have not seen, but was consisted mainly swaying.
We all did some form or another of "The Twist" to her satisfaction. A mini-line dance, ala the Rockettes was also employed, and I confess to having some trouble with that one. But that one I can probably iron out by the time we open, assuming nothing more complicated than that is expected.
Others in the cast with actual dancing training will be doing cha-chas and waltzes and such. Though there are only 8 of us, and this section of the play, (which I consider by far the least funny of the entire production) only lasts a few minutes, there will be a whole lot going on on the tiny stage.
Much remains to be ironed out, obviously, as the scene doesn't yet have music, and the choreographer hasn't officially designed the dances yet. (Or the other things, as she has been given some freedom to assign props, costumes, and character motivations for the scene as well.)
We then moved on to the three fables section. These are not musical numbers, but for some reason I haven't quite followed yet, the choreographer is also in charge of the blocking for them as well. I only have a significant role in one of these fables, however, so I didn't really have to worry too much about the blocking in these scenes, though I will have to do something I have never really enjoyed; go out into the audience for part of the skit.
In the end, the opening dance "number", and the three fables that follow it constitute a minority of what I am doing in this production. I am sure it feels like more now because dancing is involved.Rehearsing other parts of the show will go much more smoothly for me, I feel.
One of the topics brought up briefly last night outside of the dancing situation was the idea of updating certain now dated references. The director is disinclined to do so, and I think that is probably for the best. Something like this is not likely to have a broad appeal to modern audiences, so we might as well cater to the narrow demographic that are either fans of Thurber's works, or who remember the era in which the piece was written, and hence, (hopefully) understand some of the more obscure references. And really, outside of the opening dance, they are not many outdated references anyway.