On-stage memoirs of a true klutz

On most days, performers are praised for their grace on stage. But I assure you that with a klutz such as myself, that grace can be lost within a blink of an eye.

On Friday (29th April) the world celebrated International Dance Day and reflecting on this I ended up taking a trip down memory lane. It started out well, thinking of all the beautiful moments in studios and on stage, which really made me miss dance all the more. But my thoughts quickly drifted to some ‘typical Rachel clumsy moments’ that, as you can imagine, were pretty embarrassing but also rather funny, apart from the ones that really hurt. Here’s a little trip down memory lane…

The first recollection takes me back to MonteKristo days – an arena in which we used to perform a weekly musical about the history of Malta’s Great Siege – Knights Spectacular 1565 (below is a video that will give you an idea of what we were up to… can you spot me?). We used to start the show dressed as local village girls who would dance in the village square (piazza). The dancing was more technical than traditional and at the end of the number we’d do a series of jetès (leaps) and petite tours (turns). On one occasion, as we started this series, my shoe came loose for one reason or other. I could feel it coming off but there was little I could do as I couldn’t stop dancing. As I flicked my foot forward on one particular leap, my shoe went flying across the arena toward an audience member who was happily eating his soup. Luckily this patron realised what was happening and ducked out of the shoe’s way.

Another episode that comes to mind from MonteKristo days, occurred when we were performing a Cabaret show for a private event in a five star hotel. We started the show with All That Jazz from Chicago. The first section of the choreography had me dancing on a chair whilst singing. Around a minute into the dance when the tempo starts picking up, I had to stand up on a chair and eventually jump off it. Unfortunately, unlike the chair I had been practicing on, the one I was using during the performance had a rather thick cushion so my heels weren’t steady on it and I toppled over (thank god for carpeted floors). The audience was literally all around us, so as I got up to continue singing, I could take in every reaction and more embarrassingly, every laugh!

Backstage antics from that night

Waaaay back when we were rehearsing Cinderella – the ballet, I slipped off my pointe shoes and fell flat on my face. I remember a remark that one of my teachers passed (after they made sure that I was okay), which was something on the lines of, ‘Only you can fall so clumsily and land so graciously, perfectly turned out!’

Throwing it back to when I was about 13, the dance school that I danced with at the time, did a version of Phantom of the Opera and we had a number in which we were gargoyles or angels (can’t remember which. All I remember is that we were painted gold from head to toe and dancing barefoot). A day before the performance, I had fell and scratched my left knee and part of the choreography required that we kneel on that knee. I wasn’t too concerned. I thought I’d just keep my leg on the other foot and ‘fake’ the kneeling part. What I hadn’t anticipated was broken glass on stage. A stage light had broke and apparently when the stage was cleaned not all the glass was collected. There were at least 20 children in that number. Out of all of them, I had to be the one to get a shard of glass into my right foot. So I suddenly found myself on stage in front of a live audience, unable to stand on my right foot and unable to kneel on my left knee. But as the saying goes, the show must go on, so I sucked it up and did what I had to do, and somehow got through the agonising three-minutes or so that we had on stage, possibly leaving a thin trail of blood behind. As one might expect, I burst into tears the minute I got off stage, but luckily there were people around who helped get the glass out.

Another rather funny moment was during another Cabaret show this time during Malta’s Notte Bianca. I think this was in 2019. We were performing in the courtyard of MUŻA, Malta’s National-Community Art Museum. The performance area had a step and a slightly lower level. I had to sing and dance to Hernando’s Hideaway and the director and I had decided to have the dance on the higher area to have one flat surface, and be closer to the audience for me to ‘flirt’ with them. Naturally, when we were rehearsing the area was empty, so I could take up as much space as needed. During the performance however, we had a large audience than we anticipated, and they took up most of the performance space. Part of the choreography involved taking steps backwards. I was focusing on keeping eye contact with the audience, on my singing and on my dance moves, but not on what was behind me. So as I moved back, I completely forgot about the step and fell backwards. The fall happened on a beat which had no singing, so there wasn’t a chance for me to go ‘off key’. I managed to remain silent whilst falling and started singing again as I was getting up from the floor. Those people – including fellow cast members – who couldn’t see me, didn’t realise that anything had happened until they heard the gasp of the audience members that witnessed the fall. The moment has been permanently recorded, as the performance was being filmed, but luckily, I don’t have access to the video so I can’t share it.

In 2018 I took on the character role of Aunt Em, in the dance show The Wizard of Oz. I wasn’t in my best dance shape at the time so I was quite happy that I didn’t have to take on a full ballet role. There was still quite a bit of dancing involved, well… until the bad fall at least. During rehearsals one time, I fell as landed really badly from a jump. This resulted in injuries to both ankles and feet. My left ankle sustained a really bad sprain however. The photo below was taken a couple of hours after the fall, whilst the swelling was still increasing. I think this was the most serious injury I had from one of my falls. It took about 2 months to heal.

… And my most recent clumsy on-stage moment was during a stage rehearsal of The Addams Family Musical. During Alice’s Waiting, I had to take off my shoes and throw them to the side of the stage. I tried to be mindful to make sure that I don’t hit other cast members, but one time I threw one shoe a little harder than I should have, sending it to the very edge of the stage. It almost falling into the orchestra pit on my sister’s head, of all people. I can assure you, she was not impressed.

Whilst always hoping to have spotless and incident-free performances when we’re on stage, the beauty of live performances is that anything can happen. These experiences will be stuck with me for a long time to come, but they’re also great reminders of how lucky I am to have had so many precious moments on stage (and hope to have several more).

*The featured image was taken by photographer Viktor Vella. He had told me he would never share it, because it looks too silly, but I think it’s quite apt for this blog. (I hope you’ll forgive me for this Viktor 😉 )

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