"Hell Week" for the West Coast Swing and Hustle Showcase is in Full Swing

Gates of Hell"Hell Week" is traditionally known as the week before the opening night of a theatrical performance. It's when dancers are finalizing their choreography, adding the styling and working through blocking patterns on stage.

"Hell Week" is also the time when choreographers become most demanding, asking their casts for more excellence, refined movement, fluidity of blocking and projection of emotion.

It's the convergence of the cast's push for self-refinement and the choreographer's striving for artistic idealism that creates a performance worthy of the Ailey Citigroup stage.

That brings us to Monday's rehearsal.

West Coast Swing and Hustle Showcase 2012 CastMonday was one of the tough rehearsals. After the prerequisite cast pictures, we started our rehearsal with a cue-to-cue. This was to insure that all dancers knew where they were going from one section of the routine to the other. Then we had a full run-through.

Although I am also part of the show, I had to watch this run-through carefully to see the problem spots. And there were plenty of moments that needed attention.

Reverse-Forward, Compounding

Although it would seem logical to start the "clean up" process linearly, from beginning to end, we did just the opposite. We started from the end and worked backwards. This counter-intuitive method allows the cast to polish the final pose first (Z), then the section before the final pose (Y), then combine the two sections in linear order (YZ). Once that section was working, we polished the section prior (X) and attached it in order (XYZ).

This "reverse-forward, compounding" methodology gives the cast the most amount of time rehearsing the end of the routine, the most important part, and contiguously reveals problems that could jeopardize a powerful finale.

Good enough isn't acceptable any more

These types of rehearsals can be grueling. What was once acceptable from a cast - merely getting the West Coast Swing or Hustle choreography - was now secondary to performance quality and blocking issues. It simply wasn't enough to get the moves right, the cast needed to start performing them. To the cast, I'm sure the room started to "heat up" as I yelled "eyes up", "stop looking at the floor", "move", "bigger".

By the end of the first day of "Hell Week", the piece looked better. Our bows were set and we got a few good runs. Two more hours of rehearsal until we hit the real stage of the Ailey Citigroup Theater. We'll be ready for the audience, will the audience be ready for us?!

West Coast Swing and Hustle Showcase 2013 Cast