Guest Blog: Passport to Broadway in China - Day #3

Guest Blog: Passport to Broadway in China - Day #3

by Seth Weinstein

"If you can feel a song, you can dance." Such were the words of wisdom of nine-year-old Peter, one of many students to have breakthroughs in the past couple of days. Our cast members have been studying so hard to get the lyrics and movement correct, and they have done an admirable job. But they are only starting to feel the songs and express the attitudes that are such an important part of the performance.

This type of expression is so vital that it warranted a freestyle exercise led by Amy. Each student was asked to get up and dance in front of the others, showing expressions according to the styles of music I was playing. The first few did so with shyness, perhaps afraid to make mistakes and perhaps a bit embarrassed to move about in front of their peers (except for little Alice, who isn't afraid of anything). Eventually they all rose and began to understand the message.

By now we recognize the students' unique personalities. When they contribute to our progress they are congratulated and encouraged; when they impede it they are called on it. There are the kids who always keep their winter jackets on, even though the rehearsal studio is hot-are they hiding inside? There's one girl who becomes aloof and surly, and she needs to be reminded to focus. There are a couple of boys who remain silent unless they can glom onto their friends, and it's been challenging to get them to grow. We understand the difficulties of all of the newness-dancing unfamiliar steps, singing in a foreign language, rattling off hard words with lots of consonants, and following teachers who use their own jargon. All we ask is that they try, and with very few exceptions they have been doing that stupendously. There are a few who can't wait to rehearse, who pounce on every new task with enthusiasm and confidence.

There are also the students who need to learn the fine line between taking responsibility and being respectful of their fellow actors. For some, getting into place means pushing others out of the way. For others, getting the show correct means telling others what to do-a big no-no in the theatre world. It's up to the director to oversee, and it's up to each actor to improve his or her individual performance. But we chalk these matters up to inexperience, and slowly they are learning proper theatre behavior.

At the end of day five, we've staged and choreographed the whole show, and we've fine-tuned the first act. When we ask the students how they think they're doing, the answers range from "so-so" to "great!" All are appropriate-we've made so much progress but there is still a lot to do. After one more day of practice, we move into the theatre for a short rehearsal and our grand performance!

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