“Gimme the one!”
Backstage. Oh the drama of backstage. Combine uncomfortable costumes with bright lights, a bundle of nerves mixed with that weighing feeling of pressure, ballet dancers with a bad conductor, and you have a recipe for disaster. The audience has no idea what’s actually going on backstage during a show. It’s stressful! Timing is everything and everything is set on counts. If you miss an entrance you’re screwed. There are quick changes, wardrobe malfunctions, set adjustments, musical cues and tons of other things to worry about.
Knowing counts helps a lot with entrances. It’s really obvious if a dancer comes on stage way too early or too late. The “Oh Shit!” expression on their face says it all. It’s such a bad feeling. One dancer was so paranoid that she would miss her entrance, she asked everyone around her to count out loud backstage. “Gimme the one ok? GIMME THE ONE!” I’m sure even the technicians backstage knew the counts by the end of run of shows, but she still needed the “ONE”. Stress makes people crazy. There’s a lot of yelling and cursing behind the scenes. A lot of which is directed at the conductor. If the music is too slow or too fast it can really screw you up as a dancer. I think its more mental because I remember once complaining about how “slow the music was” one night, only to have another dancer point out that we were dancing to a CD for this specific production. So yea. That was awkward. But other times it IS actually the conductors fault and it’s infuriating. Sometimes if the music is really off, mid variation the ballerina might turn her back to the audience for a second and let out a little, “Seriously?!”. We all know what she’s talking about, and we all feel her pain.
It’s really important for a dancer to be musical. Music and dance goes hand in hand. But sometimes we need little “cheats” that help us to hear the counts of the music. If a big group of dancers are dancing together and have to be in perfect unison, there might be one or more dancers in the group that are in charge of quietly singing out the number of the counts for everyone else to follow. It usually sounds like, “One…..four………seven!”. The more people aren’t following, the more aggressive the numbers sound. “FIVE!……EIGHT!…..TWO!….UGH!”. Hey, we’ve all fallen victim to counts, sometimes the music can be really tricky and hard to hear. For me, I don’t actually like dancing with counts, I prefer to just listen to the music. “Feel the music”. Usually I can hear it, but then sometimes I can be completely tone deaf. Actually, you know, you should probably just gimme the ‘one’ just in case.