Jassy Earl blogs her adventures with the National Youth Theatre in London as she prepares to perform at the Olympic Games 2012.
Day 8: Monday 2nd July
Half rehearsals return again. Starts with an intense pilate type warm-up involving a series of sitting on a partner and pushing them to the absolute limit. After so much physical pressure it was vital for us to stretch out properly and make sure our muscles were relieved of any tension. Much of the exercises involved connecting with our breath.
After this we developed the body of the text combined with movement from the text ‘for in this Elizabethan age.’ The ballet moves we learnt earlier in the week were utilized to imitate the posture of Jacobean society. The slight aloof head movements and the upright chest movement was key to finding the character of the age. The timing of this was rehearsed with the band and every detail was refined. The rehearsals have been divided into the morning and the afternoon with the morning cast trying and testing methods and the afternoon group learning, adding to and tightening the material.
The end of the first section ends with a repetition of Welcome in French and the 3-5 languages of ‘Welcome’ follow. The choreography and the music has taken us up to the first section of the protocol involving National Anthems are the rising of the flag.
We’re moving forward.
Day 9: Tuesday 3rd July
An early morning rehearsal starting with circuit training. Because there’s 70 of you working towards the same thing you easily encourage each other to carry on through the sweat and the pain. It gears you up for the rest of the day and the adrenalin aids the whole process. There is less waiting around this far in and we’re expected to be alert and prepared to rehearse over and over. The morning was followed with an extensive vocal warm-up with Tristan who focused on the notion of us delivering meaning with song, rather than lapsing into ‘choir’ mode. There is the fear we’ll turn into a robotic school choir. The idea is that as much individuality should be maintained as possible. This was fed into Bicycle Race and We Are the Champions which was timed to sharp military movements on the main pulse. This is after the smaller members of the group are lifted into the air alongside the elegant introduction to the main body of the song.The end of the sequence revolves around the more athletic members of the group jumping from the handrails of the stage on the bank with the remainder of the cast gazing from beneath.
This is the next section completed and the main thing that needs to be considered from now on is that we repeat it until it’s second nature and we can continue perfecting the moments and the timing to ensure it is absolutely precise.
Day 13: Saturday 7th July
The finish line is in sight. We have the general shape of the 30 minute performance after 13 days of hard graft and experimentation.
My lack of consistent blogging is majorly owing to the combination of a new found intensity during rehearsals, my 20th Birthday (my second birthday spent with NYT) and all-round exhaustion. The shape of most days starts at 8.30am and ends anywhere between 6pm and 8pm. So much happens in the space of a few days that it’s incredibly hard to recall events. It’s coming together without us even noticing. The back end of the week was more about refining and adding to what we already had. On Friday the puppets and more complex movements were introduced to the last section of the piece to accompany the new version of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’ The second cast have learnt the new material for the third section that leads the athletes out of the plaza and into the village whilst we have worked more on characterizing and animating movements to transform material into performance rather than stagnant rehearsed movements. The pace of the piece and the animation is key to creating the correct vibe and atmosphere; first impressions are everything. We have also started work on the protocol sections lead by the ‘Village Major’ Sir Charles Allen. The body of the protocol features the raising of the flags, the country’s National Anthem and an exchange of gifts from the ‘Chef de Mission.’ The protocol section can take anywhere between 6-8 minutes.
The week has featured some important performances. On Wednesday we performed to the AGM committee made up of several funders and patrons of the National Youth Theatre. The annual meeting was transformed into an open rehearsal where the members could actively view the progression of the most anticipated performance of National Youth Theatre’s history. Yesterday Stephen Daldry, the Oscar award winning director along with LOCOG visited NYT HQ to view a significantly more polished performance of the whole show. Obviously some parts of the piece are more polished than others but Daldry gave us the upmost praise and noted how he could not ‘imagine a better way to welcomed into London.’ The head of the organization of the Welcoming Ceremonies spoke to us about the opportunity and summed it up in one unique phrase; ‘you need to enjoy every second of it and remember that you will be able to look back and say something very few people will be able to; I was there.’
Day 15: Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th July
The day and the week started with a rigorous session of ‘Kane Pain’ in the form of circuit training. It came as a welcome belt of intensity and has definitely become a lot easier over the weeks. Despite how much it makes you want to crumble into a corner, it did prepare us for blocking the last third of the show which involves a further series of complex lifts and a ridiculously tight sequence of cartwheels, backflips, twists and break dance moves. It looks incredible and is a great way of building a crescendo to the spectacle of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’ It also follows a melodic sequence of poetry and the entrance of the puppets into the plaza, so provides a high level of contrast.
‘We crawl before we walk,
We walk before we run
We run before we sprint
We sprint before we race
Courage must be bigger than expectation
Stand tall for your ambition.
Shoot eyes to star sight,
The universe has energy to be harnessed
Fill your lungs with air shared by all
And unite to become the best
Follow the queen and follow your dreams.
From athletes sweat to bodies gleaming
Dreams of gold are well worth believing
To carry you here to our east end jewel
The crown of glory in reach for all
You can’t stop us now’
After this section the majority of the cast leave the main performance area and travel down the hill leaving the acrobats and the ribbon dancers to perform in the half of the song. Theres a great carnival atmosphere and a real sense of celebration and rapport. Bicycles lead into this and the ribbon dancers take the stage at the front of the procession. The aim of the last section is to guide the athletes back up the plaza towards the village so they can exit on time. The duration of the ceremonies is exactly 30 minutes and the turn over has to be absolutely on time which means it is our responsibility as their host to ensure they exit to their new home on time.
The afternoon was spent developing the character of the ensemble. We worked with Paul Roseby on the idea of being ‘ready.’ With 100’s of cameras around us at all times, the spotlight is going to be on us so it is imperative that we are constantly alive. Roseby was concerned with the focus and concentration in our eyes and a sense of curiosity should be maintained. This formed the basis of our individual characters which will be used to animate the choreography.
Tuesday was a shorter rehearsal and was entirely focused on refining details to the very extreme; making sure every angle of the choreography was in time in our individual clusters in the performance, tightening harmonies and adding more layers to ‘Dont Stop Me Now.’
Onwards to the Olympic Village we tread.
Read week one here.