There’s a saying in show business: bad dress rehearsal, good show.
Sometimes it’s more than just a bad dress rehearsal, though. Sometimes, the space — whatever shape or form it may take — or the circumstances are simply not ideal. The weirdly fantastic thing about performance, however, is that once you take the stage, nothing that happened before making your entrance matters. It all melts away into oblivion. Adrenaline takes over. The old adage — “the show must go on” — truly is rule número uno for a performer.
A’lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble was asked to premiere “The Red Shoes” at the Cameo Theatre in downtown San Antonio September 15 as a part of Flamenco Fest 2012. The group of eleven of us (two guitarists, percussion, violin, two singers, and five dancers) trekked down south, cars loaded with instruments, sound equipment, makeup, costumes, and, of course, enough hairspray to turn anyone’s head into a helmet.
We were to be the second act in the two-part show; the group of flamenco dancers from the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department who were to perform the first half occupied one of the two tiny dressing areas. That left A’lante with a “dressing room” that can, at best, be described as a backstage hallway, little wider than an arm span, piled with a daunting amount of Stuff (with a capital S), including items of nostalgia such as a typewriter. Yes, there was an actual typewriter blocking the mirror in which we attempted to do our hair and makeup. Wait, did I say mirror? What I meant to say was fragments of mirror glued to a wall under dim, catacomb-like lighting.
Our first order of business after arrival was to begin our technical rehearsal. The antiquated sound system, however, required several hours of coaxing to meet the needs of our six-piece band. The result? While we were able to practice chunks of choreography, we did not have time to do a full run-through as had been planned. Unless you’re a performer yourself, you probably aren’t familiar with the “hurry up and wait” nature of a tech rehearsal. One moment you’re on pause, standing around, waiting for directions — where do you need us? Up on the stage? In our final poses for the second number? The next instant, it’s go time! Hurry, hurry, hurry! Do the choreography like you’re on speed!
Minutes before start-of-show, we found ourselves outside round the back of the theater, frantically rehearsing a section we didn’t have time for during tech. We were a real band of gitanos: David and José on guitar; Isaí and Chayito singing; and Olivia, Kara, Stephanie, Barbara, and myself bridging the gap between the music and the movement.
Backstage, we maneuvered between ladders and typewriters, toolboxes and costumes, preparing ourselves for “The Red Shoes.” One moment I was pondering whether the lack of adequate light had caused me to apply makeup to the clownish level; the next, I was hiking my leg up onto the wall, the better to get my foot in my shoe in the narrow hall-space. But all of this was forgotten when the first notes of Robert’s violin sounded onstage.
Bad dress rehearsal, great show.