The most exciting time of the Dance Explosion calendar is definitely concert night, which the Deer Park campus had last Friday.
I’ve always loved the buzz around that whole day leading up to it. When I was younger, mum would let me have the day off school to rest up and get ready. The drive up to Melton back then was so long because I couldn’t wait to get there. I still enjoy having my hair done and putting on tights and a leotard before I leave the house for dress rehearsals. Nowadays my friend Leanne helps me get ready to leave in the afternoon.
Traditionally, our concerts have always been held at Melton Civic Centre, but this year we had a change of venue to Melton Catholic Regional College. Though I wasn’t dancing during the first semester of this year, I did go and see the concert where I was impressed by the upgrade in the venue (i.e. better seating and space). But I was even more impressed this concert when I got to see the place from the dancer’s perspective. The dressing rooms, the big stage that was so smooth my wheels were gliding more easily than ever, and the lighting was nothing like we’ve had it before; different colours to suit the mood of each dance perfectly.
I would argue the best part about dance concerts are the costumes, which we get excited about from the day of costume fittings, a few weeks before. However, it’s even more exciting to watch the costumes come to life on stage as we run through our dress rehearsal from 4:30pm. We always have the most incredible costumes. Our teacher Wendy picks out these amazing outfits for each dance and everything just works together perfectly; lights, music, costumes.
Traditionally, we have a pattern of alternating between a story production and a themed production each concert (we have two concerts a year). So, the end of year concert works out to be a theme. This year’s theme was “Fun in the Sun” – a collection of dances in the first act all relating to summer and the beach and… sun.
I love seeing all the other dances for the first time at the dress rehearsal – our class is the last one on Friday nights, so I don’t get a chance to see the other classes apart from the sub-seniors who are the class just before mine. Again, everyone looks so great in their costumes and you get to witness the improvement in everyone since the last concert.
Another special part about our dance concerts is having guest artists from other campuses in Dance Explosion come and perform in our show. We had the Balwyn dancers, which now includes the gorgeous Selena – who used to dance with us at Deer Park until last year when she moved away – as well as some other familiar faces of girls who come to every concert to help out backstage. We also have dancers from another dance school – Unite dance – which is run by Miss Rachel (a former student of Miss Wendy’s and Miss Nicola’s). It’s always been a source of inspiration, particularly for the younger girls at Deer Park, to see some older and more experienced dancers perform. I was always envious of how amazing these older girls are. Plus, every single one of them is kind and humble to all the girls. I’ve never been short of a helping hand backstage.
Annie and I had less dances this concert for varying reasons, so we got to hang out a bit more this time as we waited for other dances. I love all three of the girls in my class; Steph, Meghan and Annie, all of whom I grew up with from the time I started at the age of 7. They watched me go from dancing on two feet, to using a walking frame (which we named Barsha Barre – after a beloved teacher of Dance Explosion who passed away in 2008), and then to using a wheelchair. Each transition was trickier than the next, but the girls have always remained supportive and caring, and together with Miss Wendy, have made a huge effort to incorporate me and my wheelchair into every dance. I will forever be grateful for that as well as their friendship.
The excitement builds up and adrenaline starts pumping through our veins around 7:00pm (half an hour before showtime). We’re putting on the final touches of make-up and straightening out our costumes ready for the big moment.
You know, the funniest and most endearing parts of the concert is watching the littler dancers (e.g. the pre-schoolers). I cannot describe in words how cute it is to watch as they attempt to perform their routines without Miss Wendy standing in front of them demonstrating. You’ll know however, that she’s in the wings showing them because their little heads are often turned to face the side of the stage as if they are trying to copy someone else. There’s always one little girl who will stand out from the rest of the group by waving to the audience or forgetting to skip in a circle with the rest of them. I’m pretty sure I heard a girl yelling and trying to direct her friends to the correct places. At the end, they also seem to take an abnormally longer time to proceed off the stage, but it makes for an entertaining experience and is part of the essence of our concerts.
It’s a magical feeling being on stage during a concert. You feel as though you are just in a room with nobody else but the other dancers in your class. You can’t really see out into the audience, but you know the room is packed. You remember to smile and even when the nervous jitters make you think you’ve forgotten your dance on the spot, somehow your body just moves automatically to the music, as if your arms and legs have their own memory source.
After our dance “Ain’t no Sunshine” – the last dance of act 1 – the curtains closed on us and we exclaimed at how it was the most perfectly we’ve ever danced that routine. There’s a short intermission break as we get changed and prepare for our second half dances. These are more random (as opposed to relating to the theme of the first act), but just as fun and beautiful to watch. This is also when all the guest artists come on as well.
Our dance “Tightrope” was 8thin the line-up. Again, running as smoothly as it could possibly be. Two dances after that and I sat in the wings, at the front of the line, ready to skip on stage and take our bows. The bows are a wonderful feeling, acknowledging that we did it! We got through the night in one piece and with flying colours. But it’s also disappointing because it signifies the end of the show.
A few weeks earlier, I wrote a letter to Wendy, letting her know that I decided this would be my last concert. I want to stop dancing for a while now so that I can focus on Uni next year and also move on to other exciting adventures and opportunities. I will always love dancing with all my heart, and who knows, I might even come back. For now, I will come and visit often and watch concerts from the audience as I take a long break after 13 years dancing.
The show ends with Wendy presenting the thank you’s and presents to all the staff, helpers and people involved in making the production happen smoothly. She presented the student of the year trophy and then the intermediate class gave a thank you to Miss Wendy for all her hard work, giving flowers to her and Meghan who also started teaching that particular class. At the end of year concert everyone gets a small medal of participation, the house lights go up. people take photos and the packing up begins.