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Finally we got on stage! A whole day had been booked for rehearsals and to visit the stage, to meet Diana the stage manager and to find out about what happened back stage.

This was Monday and we had seen how things were done by the professionals on Friday night. There was a our first time together since then and there was a buzz in the dance studio as everyone shared their thoughts about Friday night’s show and speculated about how their first time on the stage would be.

We spent the morning in BRB doing a run-through of the show. We still had some small wrinkles to iron out in the choreography. Performance night is getting closer and rehearsal time running out. Everyone knows we need to work even harder for the last couple of weeks.

We were introduced to Diana and her team and were given a health and safety talk before we were allowed on stage. First impressions were about how big it is, then the inevitable ‘wow’ factor looking out at all of the seats and imagining them filled with friends and family. We got to see some of the props and watch how the sets were moved. Someone noticed the net at the front of stage and we all debated the likelihood of falling off stage into the orchestra pit.

We did another run through and it was then we began to realise the small things that are big things really matter, like running in front of the lights and casting a shadow, or forgetting to bring a prop on or off stage and worst of all missing a cue – it is a big stage and it takes a long time to run from one wing to another via backstage.

One week and one day to go – nerves are really starting to kick in!

Students from University College Birmingham came into studio today so that we could try out the make up, and so they could try different hairstyles and wigs. Patch testing had been done in previous weeks, and now we were ready to see how it all looked.

 What a transformation! – We could now see a king and queen, some princesses, the spectacular witch and her attendants, not to forget the fairies. Some of us were happier than others, but we knew there would be time for minor tweaks next week, and were reminded that the make up would look different under stage lights. 

 Characters are appearing so lets bring on the costumes!

A couple of weeks before our own big night the company got the opportunity to see how the professionals do it.

What a treat to see how everything fits together – the music, the stage, the costumes, the scenery and of course the dancers and the story they were telling. The music is so familiar to everyone now that company members were often distracted by the realisation that this was where their part would be. The gasps of amazement when the clock separated must have been audible for much of the audience nearby.

The excitement slowly gave way to apprehension for some of the young people for whom sitting in the audience and looking around at the amount of people in the theatre brought home how scary performance night will be.

Adding to the excitement on the night was the special treat of meeting David Bintley who met with the company to give words of encouragement. The young people are very appreciative of his support.

Last Thursday (18 November) evening around 70 BRB Friends came in to watch a special presentation and rehearsal event involving some BB&andMe participants, youth leaders and staff in our Studio 1. The Friends are very used to watching rehearsals from the Company – this being one of the benefits they enjoy from their membership – they support us in many ways, and we give them access to learn more about what we do. This event was something very different, and so worth doing. I was really encouraged by the number of people interested in getting an insight into this project, by way of this opportunity – the ones attending and many other members had enquired about the performance on 7 Dec too , and the take-up has been fantastic!

Pearl set the scene as to the background , followed by Gina, Dinos, Danni, Lee and Phil all explaining their involvement, expectations, experiences over the last year and a half. This gave the Friends a good picture as to how everything had been created and it highlighted how ‘hands on’ the students had been in putting the production together.

The participants worked really hard during the 50 minute rehearsal, responding to coaching by Jenny, Lee and Dinos. They took their advice like true professionals and the Friends were very impressed with the end results.

Finally, at the Q&A – everybody was extremely relaxed, open and funny! It was so good to see the different age groups coming together and members were buzzing when they left the studio, let alone the participants! Anyone not already booked for the show – following their experience on this evening, were definitely going to the Box Office the next day. This is all down to you all!

I can’t thank you enough for letting the Friends see you at work – you’ve now got some pretty strong support out there to add to that from your family and friends. Sounds a bit stiff to say this but on the Friends behalf, I’ll say well done and good luck – we’re with you all the way!

Sheila (Hitchman)
Friends Co-ordinator

The orchestra rehearsal on Saturday was the first chance for the young people to hear the orchestra ‘up close and personal’.

We all descended on the Patrick Centre to watch the orchestra go through their paces.  It was another step towards the ‘reality’ of what we will be doing. Having only heard the music on cd with parts played on piano during their own rehearsals today’s session allowed the young people to appreciate the music at a much higher level. 

Reaction was an almost stunned amazement at the sound created by a full orchestra.

Reality is beginning to bite.

Helen Fownes-Davies, designer for BB&Me,

My job is to design and then oversee the realisation of all the costumes and props going into the show.

Everything is really getting busy in the wardrobe department; most of the cast have had a first fitting now and after a few more sessions everyone will have seen their costume in some form or another.

We still have a lot of work in terms of pulling all the elements together, whilst all the makers are finishing the costumes, shoes are being ordered and fitted, hair and make-up discussed in detail with University College Birmingham and all the props and elements of the design are being carefully talked through how they will be used and what they will look like.

There are still a few props to source, particularly when the show is being rehearsed some new bits and pieces always appear! We have to work together in making sure the design works as a whole, the costumes compliment each other, they will work on stage on top of John Macfarlane’s beautiful design and will all be ready on time for the critical dress rehearsals!.

Whilst most young people across the West Midlands spent the October half term relaxing and recuperating, the studios at Elmhurst School for Dance became a hive of activity for our busy BBandMe participants. They worked intensively to piece together their individual scenes to make one big show. This can be a slow, tedious and relentless process with any show, and it was no different for BBandMe, but the company kept their focus on the end goal and we now have a two act show telling their story of Cinderella.

Throughout the week there were also costume fittings which gave the majority of the cast the opportunity to see their costume for the first time.

One young person wrote

When I tried on my costume it made me very happy to be that character, trying on the costume made me realise how close the show is.

The company have now stepped up rehearsal from one day a week too two days a week. The next stage of rehearsal is to run the show from the start to the end, rehearsing how each scene leads into the next. Over these rehearsals the fine detail will be added to each scene, this is the part of the rehearsal process which makes a good show amazing.

Also radio WM visited rehearsals during the week. You can listen to the interview in the post below

Well done to everyone for their hard work in bringing the show together, keep up it.

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