Now, we Brits always want the weather we haven’t got. In a moist mild January we long for snow. An unseasonally wet June, and we pine for sun and warmth. And the hottest day of the year – this week, as it happens – has us perspiring and groaning. Just the day for an eight-hour Kiss Me Quickstep dance call, then...
Some like it hot! When I turn up at the rehearsal, a mere five hours in, the company is still stepping, striding and swirling through the ballroom routines, and the energy levels show no sign of dipping. The play is set at the annual Blackpool championships, and alongside the six principal dancers – three rival couples – are a further eight in the ensemble, all trained dancers.
That’s a whole lot of dance expertise to manage, but choreographer Bev Norris-Edmunds is managing wonderfully: “This show is a dream for a choreographer. There are plenty of shows where the dancing is a bolt-on, but KMQ (as everyone calls it) has dance at its heart, and it’s brilliant to be working with this company who are just brimming with talent.”
Amanda Whittington’s engaging script is full of real, credible characters, and a nice mix of pathos and humour. But KMQ, unashamedly, is riding the Strictly wave, isn’t it? “Certainly. This is a play in its own right, but there is no doubt that the Strictly Come Dancing phenomenon has ignited the interest in dance right across the nation.”
And Bev, you must be rather pleased with the Winter Garden? “Oh, this is an absolute dream of a venue. We have played other theatres and our design team made a decent job of creating a ballroom, but here we have just walked into the perfect setting.”
Generously, Bev has permitted her dancers a whole fifteen minutes break, and the rehearsal room is a battlefield of drained bodies and drained water-bottles. I tiptoe up on some of the ensemble, and they are in remarkably high spirits.
“It’s been exhilarating so far,” says Sophie Shearer. “The routines are really precise and also high-energy, but when you have trained in dance you are used to demanding standards.” Sophie, who hails from Eastbourne, is back in town after some cruises and touring, and for her, show week will be unusually busy for the Shearers, won’t it? “Ha ha, yep, while I am in Kiss Me Quickstep, my twin sister Chloe is on stage next door at the Congress!” The Shearer girls have always been Rattonians stalwarts, and Chloe has a lead – and the poster-girl role – in Made in Dagenham, opening next Tuesday.
“I think there is one matinee each when we can watch each other’s show! It’s lovely for Eastbourne to have so much theatre happening – spoilt for choice next week!”
Sophie’s dance partner Richard Johnston has an unusual KMQ connection. “Yes, I’ve actually danced in the Blackpool competitions. And, yes, I promise this show is really true to life, both on and off the floor – there truly is as much tension and high drama backstage!”
Kiss Me Quickstep runs from July 29 until August 18. By Kevin Anderson.
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