Following their fantastic run of Annie Get Your Gun in October, DAODS are in the full swing of rehearsals for their next production: Made in Dagenham. The show is being performed in April at the Orchard Theatre and is based on the film of the same name. It follows the main character of Rita O’Grady, who finds herself the spokesperson for a group of female workers at Ford’s Dagenham plant, and eventually leads them on strike when it becomes apparent they are being paid less than their male colleagues for doing the same work. Their actions ultimately led to the creation of the Equal Pay Act 1970.
In the build up to the show, the creative team have been sharing their experiences of bringing this production together. This month the show’s Choreographer, Ellie Beaumont, explains the complex process of putting together the dance and movement for the various different numbers in the show. Ellie has been a member of DAODS for a number of years and has also performed as a dancer around the world including as part of Spirit of the Dance. She has choreographed for DAODS on a number of occasions including their 2011 production of Calamity Jane at the Orchard Theatre, the musicals RENT, Spring Awakening and The Drowsy Chaperone as well as two Christmas productions.
Choreographing for a show like Made in Dagenham is a huge, slightly daunting, but extremely exciting challenge. Unlike the Director who has to go by the script and the Musical Director who uses the score, what the choreographer decides to do with the music is entirely up to their imagination and creativity.
There are many different things to think about, for instance do you just a have a small group of dancers or do you try to give the whole cast a chance to appear on stage? This is a dilemma that I know most of DAODS’ choreographers come up against at some point in every show. On a practical level, it would be much quicker (and easier!) to set each dance with just 8 or so dancers, but the aim of DAODS is to give all of our cast the chance to develop new skills and perform on stage. It is the job of people like me, the choreographers, to make sure that everyone in the show gets the opportunity to dance.
Over the years I’ve definitely enjoyed the shows where I was given more time on stage, and this is ultimately why people join our Society. I have been a member of DAODS on and off for almost 30 years and over that time I’ve seen so many people make amazing progress in the standard of their dancing and all round performance. This only happens because they were given the chance and pushed out of their comfort zone during dance routines.
It’s really important to be prepared for each rehearsal, so a lot of time goes into things before I actually get to rehearsals. When creating a number I tend to listen to the soundtrack numerous times while I’m going about my day to day life. This gets me familiar with the music and as time goes on I start to get many different ideas of how I will go about creating the number. As rehearsals get closer and once I know who is in the cast, I will spend time piecing the movements together, sometimes repeating the same 8 counts of music numerous times, until it fits perfectly and I’m happy with the results.
I also need a plan of where the cast will be starting and their positions during each routine, sometimes the simplest of moves can take a long time to block, as you need to have a place for every member of a cast of over 40! When you are then at rehearsal, the Musical Director will spend time teaching the cast the music and vocal parts and once this is complete you start to block everyone into the number by teaching small sections at a time, and running these until it all comes together and you have a complete number. Learning the lyrics, music and choreography in one rehearsal is a lot for the cast to take in but we are so lucky to have such a talented society at DAODS who work really hard to bring everything together.
The above is just a small insight behind the scenes of how one part of the show develops into what you see on stage. It’s a huge task but when you finally see the results of your creativity come together on stage, with the orchestra, scenery, props, lighting and costumes it’s incredibly satisfying and makes all the hard work and long hours of rehearsals completely worth it!
- Made in Dagenham is being performed from 26th – 29th April at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford. Tickets: 01322 220000 or www.orchardtheatre.co.uk