My Weekend with Royalty (March 2012)
by Alicia H., age 10, California
The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is in Costa Mesa, California, near where I live. Before last May, I had only been to shows there. Now I can say that I've been onstage. It happened like this.
The Royal Danish Ballet was on tour in the United States, performing a ballet called Napoli. They were doing four performances at Segerstrom: one on Friday night, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. They wanted about two dozen kids to be extras in act three of the ballet, during the wedding of the main characters, a fisherman and his bride. My mom sort of insisted that I audition to be one of the extras.
I was really glad when she told me that three other girls from my ballet studio would be at the audition too. One of the three was quite a bit younger than me, and the other two were a year older than me. When we got to the audition, all the girls and boys who were auditioning were in one big room warming up. Some of the other girls were warming up on pointe.
After we warmed up, we were led onto a stage where the curtains were closed. There were four adults from the Royal Ballet there, three women and one man. It turned out that all the warming up we'd done wasn't really necessary, because we didn't have to do any dancing at all! We had to clap certain rhythms to music that was tricky to clap to.
Everybody who auditioned--about 20 of us--got chosen to be extras in the show. The four youngest children, including the one from my ballet school, would be the children of the priest character. One young man became the husband of a plump lady in Napoli. The rest of us were going to be village children who stood on a bridge in act three and watched the wedding. We practiced some of the rhythms we would have to clap onstage, and then we got to go and find a costume that fit us, with help from one of the ladies there. I learned that I would have to be a boy, which I wasn't happy about. (I almost quit, but my mom made me stay.) I was going to wear a hat, so I had to wear my hair in a bun like at ballet class. The ones who were playing girls would have braids and flowers.
I did have a good time, though. I even made a new friend, named Sabrina, who's from another ballet school and a year or two older than I am.
I knew it was going to be a busy (but fun) weekend of rehearsals and performances. To pass the time, we extras made friendship bracelets for the Danish children we were performing with, who spoke a little English. They were happy to get them.
The rehearsals went well, as did the performances. The backstage area was huge, and it was full of props and costume racks and lots of people. The ceiling was so high, I felt like if I was on top of it I could touch the stars. I've been backstage at other theaters, and we've all been cramped in the wings.
During the performances, we waited for our cue, then walked up the stairs and out onto the bridge when it was time. The wedding was already going on. We had to stand on the bridge for about 20 minutes, clapping the rhythms we'd learned along with everyone onstage who wasn't dancing. We also had to act excited. There were kids about our age from the Royal Danish Ballet on the bridge with us, and they knew all the clapping rhythms, so if we forgot what came next we could look at them to see.
This performance was no different than any other performance I've done (with the exception that it was in a different theater), but somehow it still felt different. I wasn't exactly nervous, but I really wanted to get into the performance. One of the best things about being on the bridge was that we could watch the dances from high up. I noticed that the Royal Danish Ballet had a different style of dancing, with faster footwork. From the bridge, we could also see all the wedding guests onstage and the live orchestra. At the very end of the show, the new couple rode back onstage on a motorcycle.
Now, when we drive past the Segerstrom Center, I always think about Napoli and I feel so glad that I listened to my mom and auditioned to be an extra.