There aren’t many weekends I spend with an enormous grin on my face, but I did last weekend!
Why, I hear you ask? DId I spend the weekend being pampered, spoilt, with my feet up or on holiday? If only!
No, I spent the entire weekend at Camberley Theatre performing in a dance show.
Yes, you read that right, me a fifty plus woman with poor coordination, core strength, and a bad back in a DANCE show!
I always enjoyed singing as a child and did speech and drama exams at secondary school, although my school elocution teacher would be shocked at how I speak now! I blame my inner dramatic tendencies and astute hearing for picking up accents throughout my life.
My loud, and occasionally piercing voice is now a mish mash of accents and intonations from friends and family around the country who have been in my life! If I talk for long enough it’s like my ‘This is your life’ big, red book all in a speech!
I did try dance for a little while when little , but Mrs Macey’s dance school in Lymington Community Centre back in the sixties was not something to get excited about. I decided dancing was not my thing. ( I’m far left on the back row, holding my hands and with a cheesy grin)
I was very shy as a child. ( can you believe it?) Over the years my outer confidence has grown hugely and a lot of it has come from performing and obviously, getting older! My inner confidence still wavers occasionally!
The dance and performing group I belong to is called Upstage Performing Arts. It is run by the lovely Mandy and her daughter Abi, who have been great friends with our family for years. They have been involved in the Musical Society too, and despite moving away have kept this successful local dance group going.
The group is not about exams, or specific dance techniques, but about stagecraft.
It involves singing, dancing, acting, performing in the biannual Showcase at Camberley Theatre, but it is also about fun and what a weekend of fun we had!
Children can start as young as 3-4 years old, there is an infant, junior and senior group and unusually, the adult group which I belong to.
I first joined because I thought I needed to do more exercise as I got older. I am not a gym woman or someone who runs, and with a bad back I have to be careful.
I thought however, I might enjoy some light dancing, with singing and a performance at the end. The show format is one I like, as it is often based round musicals. It seemed my cup of tea!
My only free evening was Friday and luckily this was the day of the class ,so after a conversation with Mandy, I agreed to give it a go and have now completed my second show!
My Upstage family have been added to my ever growing, but special friendship groups.
Unfortunateley thanks to an ageing, peanut sized memory and a slow moving, rickety body ANY proper dancing, light or heavy, does not come easy to me.
My body’s capacity to pick things up is useless and it hasn’t been helped that I missed a number of rehearsals.
I hoped I would pick it up as rehearsals became more frequent, but I’ve struggled. I kept on trying, but whilst some of the adult dancers are brilliant movers, I had to accept my moves were substandard!
I decided that I might not achieve ‘perfect’ moves, but what I could achieve was an ability to ‘perform’, not necessarily in the right way, but IN A WAY, to an audience!
This is how I successfully completed Showcase 2017, but it has happened with much hilarity and with me on a special educational needs dance plan and carer by my side!
Laughter has been key to the whole thing.
As a joke in the final dress rehearsal we all wore ‘Mandy’ masks. I couldn’t remember or do the dance with no mask, so imagine my face covered in a mask, I was dragged round the stage!
During the final rehearsal my body marched at speed off the top rostra and we fell like dominoes as my legs gave way stepping off the stage. The drop was huge and with no steps or risk assessment obviously in place for an OAP mover . My weak core couldn’t then pull me back up at speed, affecting those behind. We got back on late, laughing hysterically. Proper steps were instated to help OAP access, at extra expense to the company! OOPS.
As my body marched around the stage my legs yet again gave way as I stepped from one rostra to another, I looked like a drunk trombone player rather than one playing in a Parade! But did anyone really notice little old me?
I smiled my way through each and every dance with gritted teeth as I muttered to my carer “What’s next?” and she replied in coded language through equally, gritted, but smiling teeth my next move. It meant that every move I made was seconds after everyone else!
I turned the wrong way, put hands up when they were supposed to be down, went left when supposed to be right and went off to change into a different costume too early. I gave a whispered commentary on stage, so either side of me were always grinning, but often for the wrong reasons!
We came off and laughed till our jaws ached. It’s not good for wrinkles, but great for those happy endorphins!
I’m not surprisingly in the back row, it’s where I’m happy, so hopefully most mistakes when stage is crowded go unnoticed, but there are those times when suddenly you find yourself at the front, alone, exposed and vulnerable.
We were told to be more OTT so we practised on camera some expressions.
In ‘Kinky Boots’ I had to walk on stage looking ‘sexy’. This is not me, I am more character than sexy. I decided to really go for it in the actual performances and as I wiggled my hips like a model, and smouldered and pouted at the audience in a ‘sexy’ way, I could hear laughter not wolf whistles!
My walk was more of a mince, my pout more of a sneer. I failed at ‘sexy’, but succeeded in apparently ‘entertaining’. What a reputation I’m gaining.
Whilst I trod on toes, got my hands stuck in bracelets and put costumes on wrong , the camaraderie, support and laughs have made it all worthwhile. I am not the best dancer and never will be. It didn’t stop many saying it was the best show Upstage had ever done, thank goodness my substandard dancing didn’t spoil it!
Will I be doing it again when my body and brain cells are well past it? The answer is “yes” ,because in life you need to have fun, laughter, music, exercise and friendship. Upstage provides it all.
Honestly Fiona xxx