Behind the Scenes by Rebecca Ocampo
Each performance from the Aqualillies is seemingly flawless, our smiles cover our nerves and our choreography creates a fun atmosphere. What everyone doesn’t see are the hours of preparation, the athletic effort of the lengthy rehearsals, and the courage it takes to preform in front of hundreds. This is a unique behind the scenes experience of what a first show with the Aquallies feels like from dancer, Rebecca Ocampo.
My first show as an Aqualily was at the Annenberg Beach House for a United Cerebral Palsy event.
I wake early in the morning with a sense of determination but still unsure of myself and my ability. Today is an unusual day because the Aqualillies are also having a company training session for new and old company members to learn, refresh, and review. The routines I am to perform tonight I had just a week before learned on land and this is my one chance to review the material and actually get to do them in the water. I know it is going to be a long day, but really I have no clue.
The schedule goes something like this:
10:30am-3pm Company training at Pacific Palisades High School
3pm – 6pm Show rehearsal at the Annenberg
I feel pretty confident going into the training. I know the steps on land and as a dancer I am comfortable but I am becoming quite anxious to get in the pool. The first few hours of the rehearsal are all on land and I just want to get in the pool and focus on my weak areas. I hit it hard right from the beginning. Today is performance day, so I try to do everything full out, as if I were performing so that there will be no surprises. By hour 3 of rehearsal I am starting to feel tired but still okay. We start running each number in the pool, but time is running out and I ultimately only get to run through one number and half of another before I have to leave for the show rehearsal.
There is no time to psych myself out…a good thing at this point. Show rehearsals are really focused. You only have a few hours to set all of the formations for the show because there are always different girls performing and always different pool dimensions. The Annenberg Beach House pool is HUGE and deep for the most part, and for my first show very menacing because there were only a few moments where I could touch the bottom of the pool aka ‘rest’. I still have not run the L.O.V.E number. Getting more and more nervous at this point.
The whole time Mary, the swim captain, and Michelle, the dance captain, are being extremely supportive. They know the drill, I can only imagine how many ‘first shows’ they’ve experienced, and they were so great. I really did feel like, “Okay, I don’t have to be perfect. It’s almost a given I will mess up at some point in this show, and that’s OKAY as long as I have fun.” I mean the list of possible things that could happen… I could forget the choreography, I could come up out of the water in the wrong spot, I could block someone from getting to where they need to be, my suit could fall off and I could be naked and if that happens, do I keep going? I could lose my contacts and not be able to see! I could slip and fall on the pavement. I COULD DROWN!
Rehearsal is over and my arms feel like noodles. We are getting into costumes and eating whatever food we could get our hands on and fixing our faces pre-show in the women’s locker room. My thoughts keep drifting back to the choreography, over and over. The other girls are chatting away about this and that, not a care in the world. I wonder to myself if I will ever do a show where I’m as at ease as they are. Thankfully there isn’t much time and we are ushered out the door to line up. My face reads nervousness. Carolyn, one of the swimmers, keeps asking me questions about where I’m from and about myself. I think, “She’s good! It’s totally making me be more present. I appreciate that!”
And so it begins. And then it’s over. Just like that, ten minutes are over in seconds.
By the time we performed I still had noodle arms but I made it through the whole set! Yes, I messed up. Yes, I thought I was going to die and at one point bobbed my head out of the water to gasp for air when the other lilies gracefully set their lift underwater. But I did it! There will never be another first time.
We wave and walk off toward the locker rooms. I cry. I need the release. A long exhausting day and I’m hungry. I can finally think about something other than the performance and I am filled with appreciation. Everyone in the group was so generous and supportive and available. These girls are amazing….superhuman even. I am inspired. It was a good day.