Thank you Naoko for covering for me for the part hour!
I was just at a meeting for our college dorm – there’s a Dancefest happening soon and they want as many people in it as possible. They showed videos of the previous Dancefest entries (theirs and another college’s); I kept mentally comparing it to what we did in our Up With People adventures.
The show is a key part of the Up With People experience. Even during the WorldSmart days it was still consistently there – we worked hard on getting all the songs and the dances and the other things we did right. Cast P in Denver was even more immersive and strenuous – we had to learn about 10-15 different songs and 5-7 dances in two weeks. At least on WorldSmart we had 18 weeks to work kinks out.
The WorldSmart Celebration performance and the Cast P performance were very different. The WorldSmart one was smaller, not quite as polished; it was mainly a bunch of kids having fun. It was a lot simpler, and also a lot more abstract in places – we had quite a number of interpretive dances, and a good amount of acting.
The Cast P one was a lot more musical – more songs, with the dances accompanying the songs – there were only two songs that were just dances, and one of them was only performed by 4 people. Even “Go Daddy-O”, which is just that line over and over again, had some singing. Cast P didn’t have any acting or pantomime, unlike the WorldSmart show. Of course, Cast P also had involvement from outside performers, which WorldSmart didn’t have – so the WorldSmart celebrations felt more intimate in a way.
I noticed a stark difference between the WorldSmart Celebration and the Cast P show in terms of rehearsal. The WorldSmart crew weren’t too hung up on being “perfect”. We just did our best, laughed when we goofed, relaxed a bit more. We didn’t hang everything on the show; some nights were not as good as others, but we let those go. In contrast, the Cast P crew seemed to be very concerned with making the show perfect – even though the main teaching crew (such as Michael Bowerman, who handled vocals) emphasized that he’d rather see energetic flaws than stoic perfection. Still, there were people so preoccupied with making everything correct that it affected the energy a little.
Energy is the one thing that brings all the shows together. It can make or break a show. It’s the force that keeps all the performers moving, motivated, motivating the audience. Our job there was to inspire the audience, to show them different cultures, to share the world; we needed energy to do that.
Some people may question the need for a musical element in Up With People. Why hang on to the past? What’s the point? Well, as is often said, music is the universal language; just the tone of voice and the keys of the music can say a lot about mood and meaning. What more the words and the dances!
Also, it is a great community activity; the whole town comes together to see something they’ve probably never seen and will never see again, and they get to share in the magic for once. We saw this very strongly during the WorldSmart tour; it was the smallest cities, like Murou, that gave the biggest support. They were still not jaded from constant similar entertainment, unlike bigger cities like Tokyo or LA; performances like these were like magic to them, and everyone craved magic. We all do.
If you’re ever in an Up With People host city, please come by to watch! We love audiences and we get such a buzz from being there. Be responsive too – applaud, laugh, clap along. Interactive audiences are the best audiences. And the best thing? We’re still down-to-earth, so you won’t need to go through bodyguards to get photos or autographs! 😉
The show, the rehearsals, even the backstage Huddle (my most FAVOURITE part of the whole program); all of them are so much fun, so energizing, and such good bonding activities. Do come by and share your support!