Junior reporters went on a backstage tour of Dirty Dancing at the Grand Theatre of Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
The set of the musical looks simple enough - just a series of boards going up and down. But in fact, it is the most advanced technology. Built into the boards are huge screens that co-ordinate with six digital overhead projectors to create the scenes onstage, rather than having backdrops. There is also a revolving stage, so the dances can be viewed from different angles. Hi-tech all the way!
Each costume is specially designed for the show, and they are all one-off pieces. Nothing in the wardrobe is repeated or shared - even understudies have their own set of costumes. There are costume helpers running around backstage during show time, fixing any problems. They carry pins and needles with them to make quick fixes. There are also quick-change areas at the side of the stage where people help actors to change, all within 20 seconds!
Junior reporters get to warm up with the cast
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to warm up with the incredible cast. Warming up before the show is so important to avoid injuries, especially as they need to perform difficult moves, such as lifting up their partners. During the warm-up, the cast moved in harmony - they were totally united.
Actors move many body parts during the show, and vocal cords are no exception. They have to be warmed up like the rest of the body so that the best tone can be delivered. During the warm-up, the cast work on relaxing the entire body and aligning the diaphragm, before practising breath control and consonants. The warm-up, which we joined, is demanding, but also a lot of fun - physically, vocally, and mentally preparing the cast to perform the show to its full glory.
Dance captains Henk Opperman (left) and Liezl van Graan talk to the reporters
Director Alan Swerdlow and dance captains Henk Opperman and Liezl van Graan explained the details of the show, such as how they incorporated hi-tech video projectors to depict different scenes.
We learned about some of the interestingly-named equipment, such as the dead man's grip and the "dim sum trolley", before joining the cast in a physical warm-up, led by the two dance captains, and a vocal warm-up, led by musical director Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.
Finally, we visited the production team's rooms, and saw where costumes are mended, and where fancy wigs from the 1960s are styled every night.
Ruby Leung and Jennifer Tang
Because Dirty Dancing is so popular and has been performed countless times, we asked the dance captains whether they ever lose their passion for dancing, with all the repetitive practices and performances. The dance captains said no, because one of the duties of their position is to substitute for anyone who is injured. So, they are always on stand-by and are never tired of the repetitiveness of it because they get to play all the characters and try out their costumes!
Jason Hung Tsun-sing
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