My Mountview training continues and I’m already exhausted. Adjusting to 19 classes a week when I’m used to four classes a semester is a tad bit difficult. I found out that typically 3,000 students audition for this training program and about 50 get in each year. One girl told me that it was her dream to come to this school and that it would be equivalent to maybe Julliard in the States. A part of me felt good because the people I’m here with are truly phenomenal and I couldn’t believe that I almost didn’t come. The training is honestly demanding but the rewards afterwards…I can’t even begin to describe. This school breaks everything down, throws material after material at you, pushes you, and overall molds you into an outstanding performer. You don’t have to be the best at everything, but you must know the technique and basics of each of the disciplines.
One of my favorite classes so far is tap. Who would have thought that American tap and British tap are two different things? Normally they say that if you can do British tap you can do American; however, the statement cannot be reversed. Interestingly, British tap dance is one in which the toes are lighter than in American show tap. Therefore everything I knew from taking tap dance is being thrown out the window. The time steps are very different and staying up on a rise is killing my calf muscles. The class in itself is still a lot of fun, but maybe it’s because I just love tap and our teacher is hilarious yet extremely skilled.
She teaches another class called History of Dance, where we are learning an array of partner dances from the 1600’s restoration period through the 1900’s. Such dances include court dances, the waltz, and the foxtrot. The dance makes you feel as though you’re in a fairytale and you’re Cinderella with your Prince Charming…cliché but true. Especially because she plays the music that would normally accompany the dance in one of those Disney Princess movies. Thus, for three hours we glide around the room perfecting the steps of each dance. During which we’re sweating because we were unaware of how much energy it takes to keep up the structure until we attempt it. Afterwards, we are exhausted, hungry and thankful for our lunch break.
Another language barrier that I never expected is in music theory. The entire notation has different common names. For instance, a whole note is referred to as a semibreve and a quarter note is a crotchet. I feel as though western notation is more mathematical and make more sense to me; however, I’ll just have to adjust. Apparently the exam, which won’t happen until next year, is entirely oral and its based on rhythm.
So for choir we learned No One Mourns the Wicked and I sing soprano as well as being the midwife. I think the only downside is that this class is first thing in the morning and our voices have to be ready to go. Our teacher was in the West End performance for three years. Apparently, he attended Mountview beforehand, so I find it refreshing. Especially since he’s been in our shoes when it comes to training. His voice amazes me. The next piece we’re working on is Sweeny Todd. Interestingly enough, we only rehearse once a week with our teacher and we’re expected to have it down by the next class, by which I’ve had to learn 3 other songs for different purposes. Surprisingly, I remember all my harmonies and my voice is actually hitting all the notes so early in the morning.
When it comes to my private singing teacher, he worked with Kerry Ellis, who is Elphaba in Wicked in the West End. As of now, we are working on one of my old faithful songs, Your Daddy’s Son from the musical Ragtime. This was the song I auditioned for Mountview with and I have revamped the entire piece. I noticed that I got into a habit when singing this song; rather than focusing on lyrical phrasing, I was more attentive to the notes and rhythm. Therefore, I am now using the lyrics as if it were a monologue/conversation. In addition, I’m acknowledging the fact I have the freedom to change the phrasing by adding color or stressing different parts. Thus, every phrase is a new thought, which makes the song fresh to me even though I’ve sung it a dozen times.
I’m taking a voice class, which focuses on an actor’s speaking/performance voice by examining and expanding speech patterns, volume, rhythm, pitch, length, tone, resonance, accents and more. So far I performed Under Milkwood in a Welsh accent and now I’m working on my Scottish accent. I find this to be intriguing because the Scottish accent seems to have the sentences blend together. So when I look at the script I’m constantly flying though it even though it is written as it should be pronounced.
The scene is explicit and harsh yet fun to play because an actor has so many different choices to approach the material. My first instinct was to be easily emotional in the scene because my character is pregnant and in an abusive relationship. However, by changing different aspects of my voice, saying it quietly almost as if I’m whispering or fluctuating my pitch, I create new ways to approach the material. In addition, it gave my character new intentions (reasoning behind her lines). Overall, I’m thoroughly excited to perform this because the accent is one I’ve never attempted before and I’m slowly picking it up. Surprisingly, I can do this accent better than my Welsh accent. Also, people keep telling me that my accent is not bad for an American. So at least I’m getting somewhere.
So now I’m preparing for my singing assessment, which is kind of like a Jury Exam but not. I have to sing in front of all the first year students and some third years while being critiqued and assessed on my musicality, habits, performance, voice and so much more. They don’t give us a grading guide, so I actually do not know the specifics of the grading. However, I’ll be prepared for anything! I also have to choreograph a dance at some point and perform it in front of a bunch of people, so that will be interesting.
Well, now another week of technique, body conditioning, and performing. I’ve gotten to sleep over the weekend so I’m ready to go. Tomorrow I have Ballet Barrre bright and early in the morning. In my actual ballet class the teacher kept yelling names of positions out in French and I maintained a confused look on my face almost the entire time. I attempted to do what she wanted by copying all the other dancers but I was always a tad bit late or incorrect in my positioning. Finally she came over and said something else to me in French and I turned my head to her and whispered, “I don’t know what you really mean.” She looked at me and laughed as I told her I hadn’t taken ballet since I was maybe 5 years old. She then began translating the terms to English for the rest of the class. I was ecstatic. By the end of this, I don’t think I’ll be a ballerina ready to join a royal academy of dance, but my tondue’s and positions will be on point. But then again I will have the body of a ballerina…who knows.
Until next time,