Last night the choreographer came to teach us all the dance for the Fezziwig party scene in A Christmas Carol.
I know. Loyal blog readers who kept up with my experience in A Thurber Carnival are probably already cringing as the prospect of reading about my experience with formal dancing. But rest assured, this experience was not like the previous one. For several very important reasons.
To begin with, I have known this choreographer, as well as her daughter, for several years now. Though I have never really been instructed in dance by her, she has been part of the same theatre scene in which I have traveled for years. Just being familiar with her as a person helped.
Secondly, she did something from the very start of the session that the previous choreographer would never have thought to do; she told us to make our own decisions about how our characters would enter the dance. In other words, she showed some respect for the acting part of all of this. Instead of presuming she had the authority to make acting decisions for us, she let us think about those moments. It was refreshing to be in a dance scenario where I knew that I was respected as an individual, as opposed to being treated merely like a large chess piece for her to enjoy in any way she pleased any given moment. (Which is what Thurber's dance was, in the end.)
Perhaps the biggest change of them all between the choreographer of this show and my previous show, was that if something wasn't working, she was willing to change it somehow. In other words to actually observe and teach, instead of letting her ego issue commands, and bitch when the vision in her head didn't pan out. (And she didn't blame us when it didn't.) Night and day compared to the last choreographer with whom I had to "work".
Don't get me wrong. I am still overwhelmed, nervous, and unlikley to master all of what I need to do for the dance. Not with technical correctness anyway. The very concept of formal dance still is a nerve wracking one to me. But at least this time around there is humanity and respect involved. That makes my worry easier to handle. (Though I did have to ask people to please be quieter during the instruction. Nobody seems to ever understand that I need to concentrate on those things. Dance rehearsals to a lot of people are an excuse to screw around, for some reason.)
Aside from the dance, (which actually did go better by the end than I thought it would), we ran Act One. That continues to go very well. A few snags here and there, but by and large the first half of the show is becoming quite polished already. Very few line calls this time from anyone. None from me this time.
I do need to slow down a bit. I always have the tendency to speak a little too fast, but for whatever reason some of these lines increase that tendency. Is it because some of the characters, like Fred, are so boisterous that I feel a subconscious need to go quickly? Is it the latent familiarity with some of the lines? I am not sure, but I have made an effort in the last two rehearsals to slow down. Especially with Fred.
Some sound cues were in place last night, as was some spike tape, though we didn't need the latter last night. But we will on Wednesday, and I am relieved that it is there. I don't think I ever placed the furniture in the correct place during my set changes, no matter how many times I tried to commit it to memory. The techie stuff in this show is throwing me. I hope that the far more frantic Act Two will become smoother with every repetition from here on out, now that books are gone, and blocking is solidified.
It is my own fault that I haven't spent as much time on characterization as I intended to by this point. I am going to make a concerted effort to do so. I think I will right some character back stories, to give some depth here and there. This is not a practice of mine for every show I am in, but on occasion it is quite useful in filling in the blanks. Especially in shows where little is provided by the script, and shows when time seems to be of the essence. Creating that framework separately and using it as a reference can yield some positive results, and sometimes I just have to do it. The "right" moment to create them may never come. But the sooner I come up with some metaphorical handle bars for the characters, the sooner I can add the nuance I have been meaning to add, but haven't had the time for yet.
As I mentioned, the next rehearsal is on Wednesday, when we run the hectic and frantic (for me) Act Two.