5 days before the opening night of ‘Strictly Gershwin’…
I’m very much for mindful living, and for embracing the present moment with as much gusto as one can afford. But, I cannot deny there is a certain attraction I feel toward times past. I particularly love vintage typewriters and swing music.
It is mostly with hindsight that I have realized that Queensland Ballet’s production of ‘Strictly Gershwin’ has been the perfect gig for a tap dance choreographer and performer. With a total of just under 15 minutes worth of high-energy tap material scattered throughout the 2 hour show, tap dance makes a significant and noteworthy appearance in the production, without:
a) giving the audience a glimmer of chance to get bored
b) completely draining and exhausting me, or any of the tap dancers*
The result is a truly enjoyable experience for both audience and dancer, further happily compounding the process.
Upon recommendation from my friend and QB team member, Rachael Walsh, I have happily sailed into this production. From the team at QB, I’ve been given creative license, time, confidence and autonomy.
It seemed to take a long time to finally get into the studio. In fact, it was over 13 months between the first meeting where Rachael introduced me to Li Cunxin (QB’s Artistic Director, well known in the dance world for his autobiography ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ which was later made into a feature film) himself, and the first rehearsal. But once we were in the studio, I knew that as a performer, choreographer, tap dancer and human, this was a rare experience and one to remember.
While ‘Gershwin’ has been both very magical and very challenging (mostly magical) it is the next 5 days in lead up to opening night, and the 8 day performance season that follows that where, all going to plan, the real magic will happen.
As most performers know, within all the best shows there is an almost-indescribable feeling of backstage excitement, accomplishment, fulfillment and love (yes, love) that hangs in the air. Inevitably, any stress, frustration or ill-feeling that may have come about during the planning and rehearsals (which has been, on this occasion, very little), is forgotten come a successful opening night.
This particular feeling of elation is not necessarily the reason why we got into theatre, but it’s a damn-good, sometimes very addictive bonus.
As I sit here, in the beautiful calm before the storm, I know that this is a week to relish; to truly drink in. I am well aware that I am going to fall even further in love with the stage, with my team of 13 tap dancers, with the rest of the cast/crew, and the with joy of creating.
And, I know that in the years ahead, I will look back on this experience with grateful nostalgia and ask myself if I was truly present.
I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have this knowledge, ahead of time.
Feature photo Credit: Eduardo Vieira
– S’Wonderful by George Gershwin: I’ve done a lot of exploring for the best version of this track, and my favourite, by far, is the rendition by Benny Goodman & his Orchestra.
– Wide Open by The Chemical Brothers
* From the perspective of the performer—well, this performer, anyway—the utter discomfort of tap dance performance has at times made it difficult to be fully present for the more wonderous elements that come with the stage. You’re almost always sweating, under often hot suits under often hot lights, and the ten minutes following most shows is spent gulping down air and water in front of a high-powered fan.