In a hot, sweaty room, high above Covent Garden, a collection of unsung West End heroes – the Dance Captains – came together today to create a very special performance.
Dance Captains from Grease, Sweet Charity, Love Never Dies, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical, Legally Blonde The Musical, Mamma Mia!, We Will Rock You, The Lion King, Chicago, Sister Act, The Phantom Of The Opera, Hair and Burn The Floor were joined by dancers from English National Ballet and performing arts students to create a special troupe with one goal: to perform a version of the Jerry Mitchell-choreographed Hairspray song You Can’t Stop The Beat at the launch of The Big Dance on Thursday.
Before today’s rehearsal, only Helen Dixon and Dominic Shaw, who previously performed in Hairspray, knew the routine. After just three hours of intense rehearsal on the top floor of Pineapple Dance Studios, the band of London theatre’s finest, with energy infectious enough to cause a dance epidemic, were not stopping the beat with aplomb.
“These people have been resident directors,” said an impressed Shaw, now Resident Director Choreographer on Legally Blonde The Musical, who led the rehearsal with Dixon, “they’re used to doing their thing and they’re in charge of 30 people every night. Yet they come and they’re humble and they stand next to a student and give exactly the same. It’s taken everyone back to their roots.”
That the cream of Theatreland’s dancers have given up their own time to come together for this one-off performance speaks volumes for the importance of The Big Dance, which aims to increase involvement and interest in all forms of dance countrywide.
“I was inspired by watching the film West Side Story when I was 11 and I thought ‘I want to do that’”, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical’s Will Peaco commented. “I never looked back.” Now he has a chance to inspire others.
During The Big Dance, which runs from 3-11 July, over 1.2 million people will take part in 800 events, ranging from performances to classes and workshops in every style of dance conceivable.
The combined West End troupe will raise the roof of the London Palladium when they perform at the Big Dance launch. If today’s rehearsal was anything to go by, they will have the entire auditorium gyrating, wiggling, jumping and dancing along as well.
“It just makes you smile,” Dixon told me, appropriately grinning as she talked about Mitchell’s choreography.
“Everything is fun and infectious,” Shaw added.
It is true. It was as sweaty as an overcrowded sauna in the rehearsal room and I was wearing a suit, but I still couldn’t help wanting to join in with the routine, the music and energy was as enticing as an ice-cream van on a hot summer afternoon.
That irresistible sense of needing to move is how Shaw’s love of dance started: “As a child, you hear a piece of music and start tapping your feet. The tapping of your foot moves to your leg and then to your body. You’re moving in time to the music without even knowing it.”
Hopefully the performance at the launch of The Big Dance, which has been made possible by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), and the many other events in the 10 day dance extravaganza, will help others feel the same way.
Official London Theatre will have more coverage of The Big Dance when it launches on Thursday. For more information visit www.bigdance2010.com