Well my giddy aunt what a night I had last night (Monday eve)!
It was supposed to be a treat anyway, a scheduled catch up with one of my directors from drama school, the East15 legend that is Simone Vause.
I picked up some delicious and glittery cupcakes on the way ( on seeing them, she said they made her feel like a princess) from Ella's Bakehouse in Covent Garden.
So I was already expecting a lovely night, catching up with a treasured friend and mentor, tucking into cupcakes and laughing...but then I arrived at her flat to be greeted with,
"Can you give me at least 2 hours of your time?"
"Yes, of course Simone"
"Great, because my friend Jayne has just called and told me that you and I are to be outside the Coliseum stage door in 20 mins and she will sneak us into the dress rehearsal of the English National Ballet Company's Swan Lake."
I was ECSTATIC! I could barely contain myself, how amazingly-incredibly-jaw droppingly INCREDIBLE.
I called The Big One, who was suitably shocked, impressed and then jealous. We wolfed down a pretty cupcake each and headed across the road to the Stage Door, we were taken backstage, then through a little door and given our choice of any seats we fancied in the entire and essentially empty Coliseum.
You don't need to tell me twice so I led us straight to the middle of the 4th row of the stalls.
Now, a brief interlude to put this in context, The Big One and I have been glued to the BBC4 documentary series 'The Agony and The Ecstasy', a year behind the scenes with the English National Ballet Company. So when the directors emerged from that same little door we had just come through and took their seats right behind us to give notes, shout out corrections and generally be just as they are on the documentary I nearly jumped up and down in a very non ballerina-esque stylee.
They took their seats, the lights in the beautiful and enormous Coliseum went down and the curtain was raised.
Swan Lake the dress rehearsal began.
It was absolutely incredible.
A lot of the dancers who we'd been following in the series were in the cast, to see them dancing right in front of you is gobsmacking, frankly. Just seeing Swan Lake the ballet was a treat in itself (getting to see ballet is somewhat of an economic challenge for moi), but to be sitting so close, to be able to peer in at the orchestra, to be surrounded by the beautiful beautiful music and to witness first hand the skill, grace and athletic ability these dancers have...it was all quite overwhelming. I was genuinely like a kid again, I could not refrain from gasping and sighing, my mouth was consistently open, after each section I was bouncing in my seat desperate to applaud. I was utterly enchanted.
We were able to see the entire production (a few times the directors would make dancers re-do sections so really we saw it 1.5 times) and all the while we could hear the directors shouting out notes to the dancers, correcting them, commenting, critiquing lighting and set dressing - it really made the already brilliant experience even more special. I felt like the luckiest fly on the most exclusive wall.
The directors called a break after 3 Acts and I skipped and pirouetted to the bathroom (the entire theatre was empty which was also very exciting). It had totally brought out the jubilant child in me.
At 10:30pm it was finished, all 4 Acts had been performed and the directors gathered the company on stage for notes. Simone and I picked up our jaws and beaming we reluctantly left, walking backwards the whole time so we could still see the dancers practising.
Swan Lake opened tonight (the cast get one rehearsal with the orchestra, think of all the dancers who are sharing parts and didn't get to dance with them before opening) - I have no doubt it was amazing but it won't been quite as special as the night I had in the fourth row of the near empty Coliseum. It was magical and I will never ever forget it.
“Now wakes the hour
Now sleeps the swan
Behold the dream
The dream is gone”