It is the formal rehearsal time! This is when we show the judges our routine on the route prior to the live event tomorrow. We head out to the route in the heart of town by coach. On the way there, some of us are getting our t-shirts cut up and designed, soca is playing and some are dancing in the alleyway. Feels like I am on a soca trip, like the ones that used to go to Reading Carnival. A lady and her son joined us on the coach as they would be joining us on the route tomorrow. They are of African descent but have lived in China for over nine years. The son had a bit of a shock when one of the masqueraders went to wine on him!! He sat at the front of the coach from then on!
As we head onto the 13th floor at the waiting area, we see many groups from different countries displaying their costumes and performances. Some groups of participants shared this space with us. Ansel tells us other groups are dotted around the city. We wore only our gold wings on and a red t-shirt as part of our costume at the time. The performers of other cultures want to take pictures with us and we also want to take pictures of them. It’s picture, paired selfies, group selfies, picture, picture. The Spanish contingency are doing the flamenco fantastically! Yeah we felt the pressure about that time. That and other groups spurred us to find some space to practice again one floor down. Grapevine, box step, easy step. And then the most curious thing happened. I began to get it!! I had learnt the steps and I was beginning to enjoy myself!! Sweat pouring, kerwin du bois in ears, I finally got comfortable doing this routine. Ansel wanted me up front but there was no way I was going in the front row so I kept dodging him.
We head on back upstairs all a little bit more relaxed, enough so for Chris to put on some soca! Some of us dance for a bit. And some of the more adventurous flamenco dancers join us. Melissa leads all to the front, a circle is formed and then soca and the west indian culture take over! We dance and the flamenco dancers join in. The camaderie between performers of different cultures, different backgrounds is a breath of fresh air and I get to wondering is this what it is like at the opening Olympic ceremonies.
We get ready to show our routine for the first time to the judges. Ansel told us that we have to be on point. If we are even 2 seconds over time, we would be told to get it exact afterwards. It is dark now and we are outside. The area is lit up and there is an air of anticipation and excitement from us newbies, a bit of boredom from the veterans as they know about the long wait. We are number 52 to cross the judging point. This means we have to wait a while. Whilst waiting for our slot, we see other bands and the amazing beautifully lit floats. We talk to the various masqueraders and I take the opportunity to capture as much as I can. The security on the road is on point. They are there quietly keeping the order. And they are at attention facing away from the route. I see one particular young soldier struggling to keep the astonishment and smile off his face and very frequently turns around to see the floats and masqueraders. Again we practice on the road before we hit judging point.
We are ushered to move forward on the road and wait for the green traffic light just before we hit the first judging point telling us it is time to go. We finally get to do our performance and things went well I thought. I was so busy counting in my head, I can’t tell you that I took much notice of my surroundings. We rushed off and went to the second judging point where we would be judged but it would not be televised. I knew I messed up some of the steps at that point but it went ok. We went along the route and returned to the coach, tired but content that the rehearsal seemed to go ok. We get to the hotel around 2:10 am? Later, we were told that the judges did not like the Bajan flags (some were waving to celebrate the Barbados 50th anniversary) as it would confuse the audience. We are meant to be representing England. And well they thought our final ending was too abrupt so we were to change that. But that was it really. Tomorrow, it is the real thing and I felt we were confident about our routine and felt things would go smoothly. Or so I thought.