Our Fabulous Dance Show: The SUDS Experience

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The SUDS (Salford University Dance Society) performance I was part of last week, has really played a major part of my life in January. Going over routines in my head, asking the more experienced dancers to to help me out with routines, running it through in small spaces when I can (including public places!) had all paid off. What a complete elevation in energy, show week creates! Suddenly, people in SUDS, I don’t normally talk to as often become friends and close team mates, the choreographer reveals her passion at full volume and every member of SUDS demonstrates their dedication to the performance.

I just want to make this quite clear. I have never been to dance school; I think the last time I danced in a class I was 5 and I sure as hell am not technical. I’ve done exercise to music instruction training (which is a lot easier than choreography for a dance!) which allows me to respect the “beat” however I’m not an experienced dancer. Somehow, during the last few rehearsals, I just get this unbelievable amount of energy and confidence on stage. I believe it comes from my fellow “Sudsies” and my need to not let the team down and fall behind. There is something incredible about being up there with a bunch of lovely girls and guys that know what they are doing and this allows me to believe I know what I’m doing; even though, when I’m running through the routines on my own, I get stuck all the time and have much less flow in my movement.

The mind and spirit are ever so powerful. Surrounding yourself with positive people in a tremendous powerful wave of energy, has a massive impact on one’s own self-confidence. The praise I gained from an inspirational choreographer, Ali Wilson- to be told that I am allowing her to feel good about her production is an overwhelming and honoring experience- especially for a rookie like me. Ali’s words were, in fact “you look like you are enjoying yourself!” I am enjoying myself! This would be my authentic impression that I wish to express in the show. I smile as I dance because I like to share my positive energy. I like to make others smile. I move my arms and legs to their full potential with confidence because I wish to share how great it feels being up there with those talented people. It’s so great to be welcomed to new skills and to not be judged for my inexperience. It’s magical to have positive feedback from the choreographer and encouraging words from the group. If you see me in this performance and I look happy, it’s because I am! I want to thank SUDS and their wonderful committee for doing such a fabulous job. Thank you for welcoming this rookie and allowing me to be part of the show experience that makes us all feel like stars. From having those glamorous dressing rooms with the little lights bordering the mirrors, to wearing red lip stick! (thank you Kai) The whole experience is amazing and I’m about to tell you all about it…

On With The Show!

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Viewing the video montage of our hard work as we warm up on stage (Image courtesy of The Artistic Collaborative)

The opening night, I feel is the most nerve wracking, yet exciting experience of the show. Desperately getting every spare minute to run through and check out with fellow Sudsies the fine tuning of my routines. Arriving an hour early to get my hair and make up right, sharing snacks and helping each other out are all part of the excitement, as my friend Cassie pointed out. The mutual feeling brings it all to life. My dressing room neighbors were Kai and Anthia; two very talented dancers and good friends at SUDS. We chatted in between dances and of course shared snacks! Kai saved me with bright red lipstick, which is a first for me- I never wear lipstick so needed expert assistance. Another lively soul back stage was our favorite, Bobby- there to top-up our excitement and share “SUDS love” to us all 🙂 On the dress rehearsal, I also had my friend Cassie (thanks Cassie!) as a hair-dresser to help keep my problematic fringe from getting in my eyes. It felt so weird to worry spend so much concern on my appearance, as neatness isn’t really my thing and doesn’t go with my wild curly mane, yet I was happy to drop the wild child look to play my part in the team 🙂

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Toning up those arms! (Image courtesy of The Artistic Collaborative)

The warm ups on show nights were out first chance to burn off some of that excitement and adrenaline building up inside. Ali’s energy reflected through in all of us and on Friday, the warm up was actually being streamed on YouTube as my parents happened to watch it early and saw us being put through our paces. I always enjoy the SUDS warm ups anyway, as they are so full of energy and often accompanied with catchy tunes that make you just want to dance already! But warming up on stage, just reminded me that I had to be prepared, even more than at rehearsals and it certainly wasn’t just a work out. I love how Ali is strongly encouraging when it comes to our stretching. One of the reasons I started dancing last year, was to improve my flexibility and I’m pleased to say it has come on so much! I do stiffen up during breaks of not dancing, however I can now always touch my toes, which is something I couldn’t do last year- or ever been able to do since I was little I guess.

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Stretching up! (Image courtesy of The Artistic Collaborative)

After the warm ups, we get chance to get a drink, a snack and make last alterations to our hair and make up before being called up to the stage for the most intense build up of energy in the dark vicinity, exposed to the watchful eyes. We walked on in the dark, heads down, aware of much more eyes upon us than during rehearsals, when our choreographers had observed us. I held my breath and kept my eyes lowered, even though I was curious to see who was watching us and what was happening on the big screen behind our lowered heads. I was aware of the stillness around me and forbid myself to move a muscle. When the video was over, I heard the familiar, catchy build up to the first song in which we would eventually explode into action. By now my heart was rattling so much in my chest, like a double bass pedal in a heavy metal band. I could feel my energy raring to go, like an excited race horse and I had to control it with subtle movements in my finger tips before that crucial beat, where we were to all spring into the first move with smiles, beaming radiantly to the waiting audience. On the closing show, I believe my energy got the better of me and I exploded into the second move much more rapidly than the others and could feel I was out of time, but managed to correct it when the main rhythm kicked in, thankfully! Perhaps it was because I was aware of my family watching online, or that my boyfriend, Dean was sat out there somewhere among watchful eyes, expecting a great show that I’d spoke of for so long and I was determined to put my all into the small part I had in this performance.

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The Basement Jaxx show opener! (Image courtesy of The Artistic Collaborative)

I had not seen Dean in the initial sequence of the first act. It was all a blur and I was in another place. It was not until I had to take a responsible position of being the leader of a line right at the front of the stage, that I saw him there, sat all content on his own. It was that moment I felt a great deal of gratitude for his supportive intention to come here from Sheffield to see our show. Thank you Dean, you are committed in many ways 🙂 Another thing I felt at this moment was fear: overcome. I was right at the front in the spotlight, the pressure was on for me to be confident and get this right! I have always been in fear of being the center of attention, however the girls were right there behind and beside me. It wasn’t just me, and that is what allowed me to overcome that hurdle. I just had to do my best to stay in time and become one with the group, otherwise it would be just me, looking like a fool because I’ve messed up due to worry. I’m pleased to say that didn’t happen. The energy around me helped me stay together in one piece with the group and the whole thing looked as fabulous as Ali desired.

I wasn’t on stage again until the second half and this was my favorite dance, Salute! More pressure to get it right. This was choreographed by the lovely Louisa Juckes, SUDS’s very own Assistant Choreographer. It was full of much intended sass and wiggly bums, with an overall girl-power attitude with military precision. There was another double bass pedal heartbeat moment yet again for this into, with a video playing in front of us as we stood, heads down towards the back of the stage this time. The military drums in the video caused me to stiffen up like a soldier in preparation for introducing the second half with sass and lots of it. Once again, I felt the energy building like a hurricane within me, yet I stood strong- obedient. I loved this routine for it’s overall attitude, however I also feel like I wanted the challenge of the fast mid section of the dance. Just keeping up with the others was an achievement for me. Below is a fantastic shot of Louisa leading the recruits as we prepare to salute, salute!

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Salute! Salute! (Image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

The last routine, I was part of before the finale, was Whitney Henderson’s African routine which entailed some more sassy moves, fierce faces and ending with something a little softer. This dance really demonstrated a contrast in energy throughout and was really fun to be part of. This routine did have some tricky footwork and was another dance, where I somehow ended up near the front of the stage, so the pressure was on once again. I had Louisa in my peripheral vision and her timing kept me right. Unfortunately, Whitney, whom choreographed this dance couldn’t make the show. We really missed her singing during the final rehearsals. (The singing actually really helped me remember the routine, so thank you Whitney) 🙂

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“What are you waiting for…” (Image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

The Unique Talents of SUDS

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Our graceful ballet dancer: Anthea Lau (Image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

So I have told of my experience as being a part of the show and how it was to be among the powerful energy of talented dancers in a group performance; I would also like to take some time to appreciate some of these dancers I have rehearsed alongside and their unique contributions to the show. Pictured above, is Anthea performing her solo to the soundtrack: “Hall of Fame”. Anthea is the first ballet dancer I’ve had the pleasure to meet, and what can I say, she is beautiful girl inside and out. She is always smiling and never fails to move her audience with her elegance as she performs. With my background in martial arts and tendencies to pick up much heavier and loud dance routines, it is always soothing for me to observe dancers with such light and flowing movements and appreciate their ability to express themselves in through their elegance.

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Kai Shahari (middle) performing her routine with her fellow tappers, Anthea Lau (left) and Helen Stout (right). (Image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

The great thing about the show “Best of British” was the diversity of talents and the opportunity for experienced dancers to choreograph their own routines for the show as well as SUDS’ own official choreographer (Ali Wilson) and assistant choreographer (Louisa Juckes). Kai (pictured above) is so free in the way she dances; she inspires me, the way she just looks like she’s having a great time and it’s so lovely to watch her groove! Tap is a kind of dance I find so entertaining and I did have a go at a couple of the routines for this show, however it is very challenging for a beginner like me and the girls in the tap routines make it look so easy. Kai’s routine was to the track “Wrapped Up”, which is a catchy tune within itself, yet with Kai and the girls tapping away in harmony, it just got me bopping away whenever they performed it.

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Rebecca tapping away to “My Generation” (Image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

Another tap routine, choreographed by Rebecca Hubbard (above) and she went for the punk classic, “My Generation” adding a bit of rebel attitude to the show. Rebecca has very fast feet and the first time I saw this routine my jaw dropped as she, what seemed effortlessly, tapped and shuffled away to the beat. Rebecca and Kai are 2 of a group of fantastic tappers within SUDS, which include Bryony Dale, Eloise Bason, Cassie Hunsley, Helen Stout, Louisa Juckes and Ali Wilson (whom also choreographed a tap routine with an amazing opening with only the sounds of tapping to precise rhythms in sync).

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Let’s hear it for the boys! Serge Kabanda (left) & Dan Martinez (right) (image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

SUDS, is pretty unintentionally over-populated by girls as a whole, yet the male talent powers through in the form of two guys with an ability to body-pop! Serge and Dan (pictured above) created a powerful duet with awesome stage effects, including strobe lighting which really emphasized Serge’s robotic movements. Dan was Serge’s “puppeteer” and with all of the electronic effects, this gave an impression to me that he was remote control? Perhaps others may have gained another perspective of the dance- it was a phenomenal performance all the same. Serge and Dan are lively and fun guys to hang out with. I have known Dan since last year and I first experienced his awesome street moves at last year’s SUDS performance, “Number 1 Hits”. Serge joined SUDS during freshers and has been sharing his talent of dance (and photography for this show) ever since. As well as their duet, the boys also choreographed their own routines for all to be part of.

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Serge sporting the pink in Dan’s street routine & Ali making a sassy statement. (Image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

Above, is a shot of the introduction to Dan’s street mix- SUDS have a fun sense of humor and always love to involve it in the show, even if it means the boys dressing in pink and striking a pose like this- yes, even the guys pledge to be sassy, can’t be leaving them out! Dan was very adventurous in creating a street routine to a soundtrack of Steps and it turned out amazing! It was very nostalgic for me to watch as it reminded me of my childhood and my phase of worshiping boy/girlbands and all that cheese. I’m sure other 90’s kids can relate?

Serge, on the other hand, went all out with his body-popping mania to the track “I’m a Mess”. A small group made a terrific attempt at this choreography, even if it wasn’t their preferred style- well done girls, you nailed it! The performance was smooth, with a chilled-out flow and the “pops” providing a meaningful effect with the lyrics of the song. Serge is certainly a unique member with this talent- he also has a blog called The Artistic Collaborative, so do check it out for some inspiring stories!

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Bryony Dale (centre) performing her jazz choreography. (Image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

Bryony is our lovely Chairperson and as well as fulfilling her responsibilities in the SUDS committee, she is, herself a talented dancer in various styles. Her music choice was the popular Adelle hit: “Rumor Has It”. This dance looked so smooth and sexy, which was an effect these girls pulled off so well. It was like being transformed to a most glamorous venue as the ladies performed this dance with elegance and a bit of cheeky sass! The part where the girls pose in two lines (pictured below) looked so fabulous and the timing was perfected!

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My favorite part of the dance! The girls rehearsing at the early stages of show prep. (Image courtesy of The Artistic Collaborative)

Before I leave you with a lovely reflective slideshow of “The Best of British” highlights, I need to mention and thank our lovely Choreographer, Ali Wilson, whose name I have mentioned several times in this post. This show was created on the basis that individual talent was recognized and members were given a chance to build the show to Ali’s vision. Louisa, also played a big part in assisting Ali as well as both girls taught their own choreography, they also helped the guest choreographers and organized the rehearsals in order to bring it all together for a fabulous show! Ali is so full of energy, a magnificent example of a leader as she turned up for rehearsals even if she was run off her feet or not feeling so good- her commitment to SUDS is phenomenal and I don’t know where we’d be without her enthusiastic energy to make us believe we can do it! Thank you, Ali for believing in us as a group and for your feedback to me as a rookie dancer, just grateful to be part of such an experience.

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Spice Girls Finale (Image courtesy of Sophie Stevens)

I’d also like to mention other members of the SUDS committee, who have been working away ever so hard behind the scenes to promote the show in their individual roles: Bryony Dale (Chairperson), also works closely with Ali, bringing ideas for the show to life. Planning, organizing, providing costumes and communicating to the group. Louisa is not only an assistant choreographer but a creative media artist! It was Louisa’s handy editing skills that allowed us to have professional filler videos to provide maximum entertainment between dances for our audience. Helen Stout (SUDS Treasurer) was also back there, keeping control of the finances involved, working along with Rebecca Hubbard (Publicity & Sponsorship) whom designed our lovely programs and posters and Eloise Benson (Social & Welfare) was there to ensure our welfare at the show, yet also ensure we celebrated in style at the after show party! If there is anything SUDS are great at, besides the obvious, it’s that they know how to have a good time! I’d also like to mention Whitney Henderson (Secretary) whom couldn’t attend the show, however her work was still appreciated and her routine, so enjoyable!

That said, I hope you have enjoyed this review-like post on my experience of being part of this performance. Please leave a comment below with your appreciated feedback; perhaps you saw the show, have dance experience yourselves and what is it like for you to perform? SUDS are currently working on their next show, Annie, which will be performed in May. The committee are straight back into the hard work and I just can’t wait to see how next one turns out…

Thank you for reading!

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Thank you to The Artistic Collaborative & Sophie Stevens for all photographs supplied for this blog post. Thank you for the support shown from SUDS members & committee, I have received in the creation in this blog and most of all, thank you for inspiring me to write!

Heather ^_^

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