UK Watch out, I’m going on tour!
I have been lucky enough to be invited on a week-long tour with the Dance Consortium who is currently touring the wonderful and hilarious Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo. I will be spending a week shadowing Heather Knight, Tour Co-ordinator for the Dance Consortium to get the real experience of what it’s like taking a dance company on tour. I am a studying music, theatre and entertainment management at Liverpool Institute for Performing arts and love it but as I will graduate in a few months I wanted to get out there, smell the grease paint and get ready for what leads ahead after graduation.I will be blogging and snapping as much as I can to share the experience and give you all some behind the scenes insight.
So I have landed in Nottingham, which is actually my hometown. I took a train from Liverpool last night and arrived at the Park Plaza Hotel around 10pm. I was greeted by Heather and so my ballet adventure begins.
‘The Trocks’, as the company is more commonly known, will be performing for the next two nights in the Nottingham Royal Centre Concert Hall which is a beautiful venue that seats 2,499. Its feels quite strange to be working backstage here as this is the theatre that I grew up with and I will reluctantly admit that I saw my first music concert here, which was the poptastic- Another level! (cringe)
We start the day early with breakfast and a 9am briefing to get me up to speed on what’s happening for the next few days. After a tour of the theatre and introductions its straight down to business with company class and then an open rehearsal for the public to watch. The Trocks arriving in Nottingham made such a stir the Daleks came to have a look!
I was impressed with the amount of people who attended the open rehearsal and I thought it was a great way to introduce people to the show, the company and ballet for the first time. In the open rehearsal the company rehearsed sections of the show and Artistic Director, Tory Dobrin, gave insight into how the pieces were formed and the history behind the dance.
Then it was show time so the cast and crew got ready and at 7:30 the curtain went up. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the show and greatly enjoyed it.
I was eager to see the show as I watched the company perform on the Royal Variety Show in 2008 and loved what they do, so to see it live was great. The show is split into three acts with a mixed repertoire of classical pieces. In the first act was Les Sylphides, a hilarious piece that set the tone for the rest of the show. Having danced ballet from a young age I loved watching the pieces that you get taught when you are training played with and taken to a new level. After the interval were Flames of Pas de Deux, La Vivandiére and the magnificent piece – The Dying Swan. The Dying Swan portrays the moment when the swan meets her tragic end. This is normally portrayed as a tragic and poignant moment but in this show the swan’s departure is comical and receives roaring laughter and applause. The role was created for the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova, and re-interpreted by ballerinas such as Maya Plisetskaya and now the Trocks’ very own Ida Nevasayneva.
The last act is Walpurgis Night and a special encore of English inspired dancing – a treat I won’t reveal for future audiences.
Not only are the cast and crew lovely people to work with backstage, they are a delight to watch and you can feel the happy energy in the audience. It is very clear to me that the team love working in the company, they love performing such an energetic show and its clear the audience enjoyed it with standing ovation from a large portion of the audience.
I think the thing I love most about the show is it tickles the taste of all. Ballet fans get to enjoy the play on the history and tradition of ballet but also people who have never seen ballet before can still enjoy the jokes, the slapstick humour and the dancing. My step-father is a perfect example of this. He has never seen ballet before and I convinced him to watch the open rehearsal, he was reluctant but came along. Twenty minutes in he was asking about buying tickets to see the full show, which he did and I know he really enjoyed it.
Actually something else that I love about the show is that the boys can dance and I mean really dance. This is not a show where a group of guys just doing a funny parody of ballet. The cast of the Trocks are highly trained and beautiful dancers, they take class before every performance and really know their stuff. Between the comedic moments are moments of intricate footwork, grand jetés and triple pirouettes.
After each first night in a theatre there is a Question and Answer session with a member of the company. In Nottingham this was Artistic Director, Tory Dobrin, who revealed to the audience the background of the company and answered all the questions. My favourite quote from the night was ‘We want divas onstage but no divas offstage’. After all of that it was most definitely time for bed!
Before today’s performance there was a Master-class for the Over 50’s club at the theatre, who throw themselves in a ballet moves and even sampled the role of the Dying Swan. 17 ladies and 1 lovely gentleman gave it all they got and giggled the whole way through. I found it really cool to watch and hope I am half as fit as them when I reach that age!
Then for the company it was rehearsal time but for me, I went to sneak a peek at the life of the tour’s truck driver, Ian. Normally nicknamed ‘Ian the Truck’, he has received the new nickname ‘Ian the Trock’ for this tour. Its Ian’s job to transport the equipment and technical aspects of the show around the UK safely and in time for each show. Its early starts and late finishes but he does it all with a smile on her face.
Ian drives a 42 foot truck and the Dance Consortium only use one truck to reduce carbon emissions and be eco-friendly so it’s a big responsibility. Ian drives the truck and even sleeps in the truck sometimes as it is fitted with a cabin and very comfy bed. It was compact but cosy.
Something you should know about Ian is that he is a super friendly and nice guy. He is always happy to give you hand and really loves to help the team.
That night the Trocks perform another great show but the second the curtain comes down and the audience is getting out of their seats, the tech crew comes alive and start to dissemble the set and rigging. Those guys are super-fast and before you can blink the gear is packed and on the truck, ready for the next venue and so the tour goes on.
Its travel day and after we have checked everyone is on the coach, its off to Bradford! En route I picked the brains of the team for insider tips and plan the next few days at the Alhambra. We check into the lovely Jury’s Inn, unpack and spend the rest of the day relaxing or in my case studying.
Monday morning and by the time I arrive at the theatre around 11am, the tech crew have already been in early to start the get in and get the stage ready. The stage tech work from 9am – late rigging the stage and focussing lights. Its amazing to watch.
All the staff at the Alhambra in Bradford seem lovely and very dedicated to the venue. When you go through stage door you are greeted with a smile and the ladies even change the colour of the lights in the reception desk to match the colour of their outfits that day.
I am assigned the Cinderella dressing room as an office and as there is no performance today, I spend the day doing admin, dreaded emails and organising things ready for tomorrow. When you are out on tour not only do you have to deal with the issues from your current tour but also prepare and organise for the fore-coming tour. I think it is an endless battle of emails and communication for Heather but she takes it in her stride
Opening night at Bradford means open rehearsal for the public to watch, company class with the lovely Daniel de Andrade from Northern Ballet, a 7:30pm curtain call and then a Q & A after the show with The Trocks ballet master, Paul Ghiselin. Moreover its Pancake day and I challenge myself to find good pancakes in Bradford.
Whilst in Bradford I have been put in charge as Tour Manager so it is my job to check merchandise, liaise with the Front of House to ensure that will details have been organised, organise company tickets, and organise the selling of programmes. The staff at Alhambra help me with these tasks and I even got chance to interview some of staff to get a better insight into how the venue is run. A big thank you to the staff at Alhambra for sharing their time and information with me, it was very helpful.
The show goes up without a hitch and the boys perform to their usual awesome standard. Something that struck in Bradford is how natural the boys appeared on tour. They seem very comfortable with living on the road and moving to a new venue every couple of days. I don’t think most people realise how exhausting it can be with unusual working hours and long coach trips. I asked some of the crew why they did it and they all responded that it was what they loved doing.
On tour it can be quite difficult to get healthy but we found a great café shop in Bradford just up from the theatre called Safari. They served very reasonably priced healthy food and I think the entire crew ate there for two days! I even managed to grab pancakes but had to save them for after the show. At 11pm I got the pancakes and they were very worth the wait! Happy Pancake day!
Another show today and I get dragged into participating in the master class, an hour and a half ballet class on the Alhambra stage. I haven’t danced in years so really enjoyed getting back to the barre and was smart enough to not take my camera so there is no photo of me in my dance gear. Mwahaha.
Between master-class and the show I got a sneak peek into wardrobe and interviewed Geoff Strurdivant, Wardrobe Supervisor for the Trocks. The wardrobe was neatly organised and I personally loved the smell of laundry. Being surrounded by all the pretty costumes was a photographer’s dream so I got snap happy. The interview should be up soon for a behind the scenes special.
Today was my last show with The Trocks as early tomorrow I have to head back to university for classes. It’s a bit sad as I have loved working with the Dance Consortium and The Trocks. Both companies are professional and widely respected in the industry and I felt quite lucky to get this chance. To go on tour or be involved in tour management you have to be dedicated, most definitely flexible, considerate of others and really love people. I don’t think that everyone can take on the challenge but for those that can; it can be a rewarding life.
After the show the crew dissembled the stage again, and it was transported overnight to the next venue by the lovely Ian the Trock. There’s just enough time for a quick glass of red before bed.
Thursday morning and its up at stupid o’clock and a quick dash to the coach to head back to Liverpool. The rest of the team will leave around noon for a long coach trip to Brighton and I have a day of classes ahead of me.
The week flew by but I am seriously enjoyed it. Heather has given me all her insider tips and I am hungry to learn more and do it again. I can only end my on tour blog with a massive thank you to all the interesting and lovely people that I have worked with over the past week, with special shout outs to Heather, Tiddles, Ian and all the Trocks production team – Isabel, Barbara, Emily and Geoff. It is not goodbye, it is see you soon