Friday, August 31, 2007

Two under the belt

The first two shows are safely over and done with. The first was in lovely Shepparton, a city known for its salt silos, which we (un)fortunately missed. Next morning early, we got back on the bus to go to Griffith, in the middle of cattle and sheep country. The country side, hills aside, reminded me of Denmark, yellow fields and those lonely trees, that seem to have been left behind on their way across the field to join their treefriends that stand making perfect rows lining the way to the farmers house.
Have tried to spot kangaroo road kill to see if they were right about night driving dangers, but all we passed through was a herd of cows, had to slow down of course.
About the kangaroo situation, I can’t stop thinking about it. The country is suffering the worst drought in its history, yet according to our organizers it would seem that the country is flooded with kangaroos that come out at night to be hit by cars….

We did a stop in Jerrilderie, which is the town where Ned Kelly stayed for 3 days and wrote his "letter" 8300 words relaying the events of his life. It was given to the bank clerk to keep and left in the Public Records Office for 51 years before it was "found" again.
So cool for the history buff here!

The equivalent to roadside diners here are bakeries. We had meat pies, roastbeef&gravy sandwiches and cream pies called hummingbirds.

By the time this will be over I will be in supershape from dancing and round as a ball from the food...

The washed dancebelts are drying in the window, the "girls" are sleeping, reading, listening to music, and so far every one's getting along. I assume that it can and will be a bit more tense in a few months.

1st show was very well sold. Not being completely sure of my choreography, having rehearsed it only once, I was reminded of my beginnings as a dancer. The random nervousness of forgetting a step or an entrance; the terrified yet calm and absolute concentration required for doing something new brings, but which is often the first to be forgotten as soon as we become “proficient” at our crafts.
Mostly I am to be the straight guy, which to me is even funnier, since I am now doing repertoire I was always told I would never do.
For this repertoire I have taken my lead from one of the greatest comedians, Buster Keaton. As the “girls” are completely over the top, I try to maintain a stoic demeanor, which seems to work very well with them, as the joking will quickly become pathetic if everyone tries to outdo one another.
The absolute and inspiring beauty of this group is their respect not only for their art but for each other as well, no jokes are made that will take away from someone else’s or from the essence of the choreography. Everyone seems to understand this unwritten rule of comedy and all the unwritten rules of the theatre.

The show in Griffith marked a turning point in the dancing career of yours truly, I did 4 pirouettes on stage! And got applause for it. Don't remember the last time (if ever) I did 4 solid turns.

On the way to Sydney, we stopped in yet another one-horse town, Murrumburrah. Got hammered in the only bar with some (all?) of the inhabitants. George taught the barmaid to make a series of vicious shots that got us completely toasted. Somehow Victor knew exactly where to come looking for us to get us on the bus again.

The stop in Sydney before show #3 in Tamworth, was to do some more promo. Starting at 7am, with the “girls” all done up (they were up somewhere between 4:30-5 to transform) we did a big talkshow thing on yet another cold slippery floor. The other segment on the show was drag racing. The other drag people did not seem to find our jokes very funny and I doubt any of it was put on the show.

Following that shoot, Victor, Carlos (Kiki) and Brian (Debbie) and I went to Woolongong to appear on a daytime talk show (not live) “Suzie”.
Suzie was a blast and played along very well. As we were getting ready in the green room, a woman on the other side of the room spotted Kiki putting on his tutu and informed her friend with quite a bit of sympathy in her voice: “that ballerina is completely flat-chested.”
Going from Democritus we quickly went to Heraklitus, as the guests before us, a trio of pop singers, unsuccessfully attempted to find a key, a tune and an act. The guy was blowing into a little plastic device, designed to give the key. From the various keys they got out of it, they might as well have used a kazoo!
With two appearances done, there was only one left, which heralded the reunion of the promo group. Vicki and I were the only two to do the whole day and the only thing that kept my mind off of having worn a dance belt for 12 hours straight, was that Vicki had been in lashes, wig and make up for as long. Quite a look I must say...
Though it had been less than a week since our first day here, it felt like we had been split up for years and it was great to be doing “backup” again with my original “girls”.
Hiding under bathrobes, so the audience would not see the tutus too soon, Marlon and Ari mingled a bit before disrobing and exploding onto the stage with the host of the show. At the end of our little dance, a definite straight guy who had been standing next to Marlon earlier mouthed to him as we took our bows: "I would date you."

Ahead of us is a weekend of 6-8 hour busrides straight in to shows and if I survive that the chronicling will continue unabated on the same channel, roughly the same time from roughly the same place: "Divas Down Under"

First Week

My "girls" and Diva napping

In “The story of Art” Ernst Gombrich advices us to keep a fresh and open mind when enjoying great works of Art. If we do, “there is no telling what one might bring home from such a journey”.

This journey started with a week of promotional work in Sydney and Melbourne. There were 5 of us, the remaining divas arrived, not looking like divas at all after traveling for 24 hours, towards the end of that first week.

To save time on this my first blog entry, I decided to merely copy, word for word the email that was sent to my friends, describing events and experiences of that first week of Grandivaness.

Quick background:
I am dancing (though I am "retired") as a male, with an all male company doing classical ballet on pointe. It came about rather suddenly, which is always a good sign. I have yet to fully rehearse anything. Most ballet companies seem to aim to be organised, but rarely are. Contrary to most of the other companies I have worked with however this group takes themselves a lot less seriously. These "girls" take everything with a smile (sometimes a " you bitch" or a squeal) and make royal fun of everything.

The first week, which is drawing to a close now was a promotional week. The director Victor Trevino and 4 other dancers plus myself met up in Sydney and did TV, photos, interviews and a lot of waiting around. I was the lucky one, I only had to be in "normal" makeup, the "girls" spent entire days sitting in tutus and pointe shoes, wigs and full blown over the top makeup. Again, I can't imagine "real" ballerinas going for that with the same sense of humor. After a few days I thought my stomach was sore from repeatedly picking Victor up in over the head lifts, waiting for photographers to check the light and angles, until I noticed how much we were laughing.
Seeing them do serious pointe work, on marble kitchen floors in a tv studio at 8 am on live tv, on tile lobby floors and on a raked wood stage that tore everything to pieces, has been awesome.
The presenter and his PR man are a show in themselves. Each enjoy being the centre of attention and find themselves competing against each other and a bunch of drag queens. But they are sweet people, fun-loving yet on the ball when they need to be. PR guy, Lionel, has the most interesting version of "fetch-hair" (comb-over) I have yet to see. All but a few strands of the long ones hang down the back of his head. The few that are actually entitled to be called a comb-over grace the top of his forehead. At first I thought it was the wind that was the coiffeur, but when it didn't change over the next 3 days I figured he likes it that way or simply has no clue to what his hair is doing.

The rest of the group arrived yesterday in Melbourne and we have our first show on Monday in Shepparton. So far haven't rehearsed much, due to the pr schedule, but we have 70 shows scheduled and up to 130 if tickets sell well!
Performing in 65 theatres throughout Australia and New Zealand, this is the largest, most extensive tour of Down under of any international perfomance troupe, according to the presenters.
The logistics are nuts; we found out the other day that we cannot go by bus at night due to kangaroos, so we might have a lot of shows straight off the bus and into the theatre.

Best part for myself, is that I am now going to perform all the classical repertoire, the princes etc. that I never did (was never that interested either) as most of my directors didn't think I fit the bill. Add a dose of humor and here I am in the white tights, hoisting guys instead of girls!

We already had our first drama. The costume guy, who arrived yesterday, already feels that he is not being treated right. He seems to be a bit high maintenance and was upset about not being introduced straight away; and here I thought that the cause of his despair was that one of the "girls" had turned him down.

I am so far getting along with all the ones I've spent the first week with. Victor and I share a room. It just happened so, that though it has been cold, rainy and windy outside, the AC in our rooms turned them in to sauna's, so everytime any of the "girls" would come by, they would find me very loosely dressed. The first time I looked at them with a "royally pissed off look" and exclaimed how I had not been told I was to be the house boy! It has been the first of many jokes and it is great for me as well to see how easy going they are as well. So far our humor fits well. Marlon, from Brazil, is the main jokester and storyteller. Giving me the head's up on everyone he told us that he doesn't really get moody " why be miserable when you can enjoy others being miserable?"
Oswaldo, the gentle giant, is a man of few words, but when he does speak he is right on point (pun intended) and very very funny. I think I will learn a lot about comic delivery on this trip.

To be continued next week, same time, same channel....