Two and a half months of touring? Check. Almost a month of wedding singing? Check. There is only one week until the “first day of school,” A.K.A. the first rehearsal of your biggest show yet. No better way to celebrate than a lunch at Five Napkin burger, followed by a delicious Schmackary’s cookie.
You take the first mouth-watering bite of a classic chocolate chip cookie when your phone buzzes. You maneuver the chocolate chip chunk into your left cheek, and proceed to answer the call.
“Hi Megan? This is Paul Hardt from Bodyguard Casting. So, I spoke with your choreographer Karen Bruce yesterday, and she wanted me to let the dancers know that they will be wearing revealing costumes. It’s nothing extreme, but your midriff and other parts will be exposed. She wants to make sure you guys do what you need to do to feel comfortable on stage.”
You finish chewing, and swallow what will be your last Schmackary’s bite for a while.
“No worries at all! Can’t wait to get started! Thank you Paul!”
Wow. It was pretty obvious during the audition process that this show will require you to be in top physical shape, but you didn’t expect a phone call with a reminder. You have to make sure you are in your prime inside and out. You have a week to jump start a healthier path. Ready, set, go.
The alarm sounds at 7:30 am. It’s the morning of your first day of school. You primp with a full face of makeup. You look exactly how you did during the audition process. Normally, if you were going to spend 10am-6pm dancing, you wouldn’t want to cake it on so much, but this isn’t any ordinary rehearsal. Slip on those new Nike leggings, zip up that fitted track jacket to show the figure you’re working on, and strut to 42nd Street with a newfound confidence. It’s all in you.
The elevator door opens, and a rush of excited nerves dance through your bloodstream. You’re in the big studios in the middle of Time Square! To your surprise, there’s a pack of press waiting to get the group shot of the original US cast of The Bodyguard First National Tour. After only doing non-union tours, you forget that you have more than 9 days to learn a show. You had no idea the first day of rehearsals was mostly introductions, press, and the first read through of the show. Had you known that, you probably wouldn’t have worn a full on track suit to be photographed in.
After a breakfast spread, a live Facebook video that introduced every individual involved in the production, and a pep talk from the producers, you’re in the heart of the first read through. You spent a good chunk of your childhood jamming to Deborah Cox hits with your big brother. Never did your 7 year-old self ever think you would be sitting in a semi-circle around a piano listening to Miss Cox sing 15 Whitney Houston songs. It’s taking everything in you to hold back the tears of pure joy, wishing your brother was sitting next to you. This is a moment in time you will always remember.
Walking back to the train, you can’t help but smile while reflecting on the end of a breezy, enjoyable first day. It will probably be your last semi-easy day of rehearsal. In one week, you will be learning all of the big dance numbers. Embrace the calm before the storm. Let your body breathe. Get a good night sleep. Tomorrow, you attack “Queen of the Night.”
It’s Friday, and you have learned “Queen of the Night” and “I’m Every Woman” the two biggest numbers in the show. Spanning over four minutes each, they feel like complete marathons. In addition to each number demanding extreme physicality, the ladies sing backup as they flip, twirl, and run across stage. This number includes a lot of new tricks that look amazing, but take a lot of focus from you and your partner. At the end of “Queen of the Night” you are actually sprinting across stage to get into a line with the rest of the ladies to start jumping while singing the chorus of the song. In “I’m Every Woman” you harmonize while being pressed over your partner’s head. Because of this, you both need to build a new level of trust and cooperation to pull these tricks off 8 shows a week.
Some of these tricks are already taking a toll on your body, but you have been diligent about taking care of yourself. You prep for every rehearsal by arriving at least 45 minutes early to do a proper warmup. If you don’t have to teach right after rehearsal, you head to the gym your friend works at to use the hot tub and cold pool. You religiously foam roll, stretch, and do whatever it takes to stay ahead of an injury, or so you think.
It’s Saturday. Your last day of the first week. Tomorrow you get a day to fully heal your body for another week of monster physicality. You continue to stretch 15 minutes before the start of rehearsal. Your leg rests up on the barre and you’re overlooking the heart of Time Square. You feel a slight pain in your groin, but you chalk it up to being sore. You’ve been so great about taking care of yourself. Rub some Tiger Balm on the pain, and push through the last day. You can rest tomorrow.
Standing in front of your partner, you learn the choreography to “How Will I Know.” This choreography is a walk in Central Park compared to the two flashy numbers. You do a body roll that ends in a slight lift of the knee. This move should be one of the simplest moves in this show, but every time you lift your right knee, the pain in your groin gets worse. It’s getting to the point where you feel the pain in every step. Hesitantly, you sit down. You know it’s what’s best for your body. There’s a moment of fear that the creative team might consider replacing you. You take some deep breaths, wipe your face, and continue learning what you can from watching your cast-mates execute every move. At least you’ve learned all of the hard stuff. You can drill these new moves in your own time.
Sunday morning, you limp to the Urgent Care up the street. You sit in the patient seat while the doctor has you execute a series of positions. After testing your range of motion, they’ve concluded that you pulled your groin. You will have to sit out of the entire second week of rehearsals.
This is so embarrassing. Who sits out after the first week?
When you enter the studio on Monday and reveal the diagnosis, your eyes widen at how supportive the creative team and your cast-mates are. The unnecessary pressure you have forced upon your shoulders has lifted. So what if you have to sit out this week? You’ve learned the hard stuff, and you’ve had to learn shows from the back of the studio before. When you swung your first tour, you had 20 minutes of being put into the dance rehearsal with the rest of the cast. Take great notes, do what you can to rest and treat your injury, and think positive thoughts. Your mind has a big influence on your healing process. It really is all in you.