Friday, 13 February 2015

Guest Blog: Bring It On The Musical rehearsal diary (Part 2) - A few cheer stunts...

Sarah Flinton
The Christmas season is like a forgotten memory now and the workshop stages of Bring It On The Musical are over. Everyone's back from Panto and if we thought the first few weeks were hard work, we were fooled. The teams have been chosen; we finally have our Truman squad and our Jackson crew. Now we have to create rivalry between a group of actors who have been together for nearly three years. 

Being a fairly tall blonde without much 'street cred' I was naturally put on the preppy all-smiling Truman squad. So for my 'high school' team we spent the first few days setting the opening number 'What I Was Born To Do'. Anyone who has seen clips of the Broadway version of this number will know how challenging this would be for any company. Within the first few minutes we have to prove that we are an all American cheerleading squad worthy of going to Nationals. Even the lyrics say that we have to be 'superhuman'. Thankfully our horrific warm ups are starting to make us all feel a bit fitter. Regardless though, the five minute opening number started off feeling like running a marathon. As cheerleaders we have to be completely together and pretty much look like an army that has trained for this their whole life. 

Of course we couldn't be doing a show about cheerleaders if we didn't attempt the stunts. In cheerleading you basically have a 'flyer' who is shown off in the air, and then the 'bases' who hold the flyer up and also catch them. The first stunt we tried was a basic 'prep' where the flyer stands on two bases’ hands. We developed this slowly to an extension prep, which means the bases lengthen their arms so the flyer is as high as possible. Let me tell you now, it feels like you’re a wobbling giant when you're up there. Luckily for us we have our Truman dance captain George Hinson who has been constantly pushing for harder tricks. With him and Louise, our choreographer, we couldn't be in more capable hands. George constantly comes into our cheer stunt rehearsals with a big grin on his face after he's dreamed about how to do a new trick. 

The 'basket toss' is probably the most recognisable stunt we've done so far. It lasts only a few seconds but the flyer is literally thrown in the air and made to do all sorts of crazy things, normally a 'fame-esque' jump, or a 'toe-touch' in cheer language. My favourite stunt we've learnt so far is the 'split lift'. The flyer gives one leg to one base and the other to the other base and is lifted in the air whilst in the splits. Yes it is as painful as it sounds. 

In the show we're trying to get every single female member of the cast flying at least once, basically this means that we will all be thrown about a bit in the air with the hope that a strong boy will catch us. But with sexual equality and all that, we've also got a few boys flying and a lot of our girl ensemble acting as bases. Touch wood, so far nobody has been dropped. Of course everyone's left rehearsals with a few bruises here and there, but no pain no gain... right? 

So far I've had my go at flying and being a base; personally I find it more terrifying holding someone in the air knowing that if they fall it's probably my fault. I've never seen any actual cheerleading live. I only know the stunts and moves from copious amounts of YouTube videos, and from obsessing over how cool Kirsten Dunst is in the original Bring It On film. For us English folks most of us weren't brought up with the opportunity to be chucked in the air or to shove pom-poms in people’s faces. This rehearsal process is really making me wish cheerleading was a bigger sport over here, it may look like a bunch of people prancing around in short skirts, but from the snippets we have tried I can tell you it is so much hard work... And we have to blast out some incredible musical theatre songs at the same time. 

But if, and when, we pull off all the stunts we're planning to do in this marathon of a musical I will genuinely be so proud of all of my year and the creative team we have with us. If only the tin roof in our rehearsal room was a few metres taller so we could throw our basket tosses even higher, but there's still four weeks till we open, plenty of time to throw a few more cheerleaders in the air...

Sarah Flinton

Bring It On The Musical is staged at the Electric Theatre in Guildford between 5th and 7th March 2015.

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