March Diary 2004
by Cassa Pancho
“Three-Nippled Cousin F*****!!!”
(from Jerry Springer the Opera)
Q. What do you get when you cross ballet, a blind man, jock straps, the Charity Commission and free movement scarves?
A. The biggest riot I have ever had, at the most recent Ballet Black show.
I haven’t even seen the Jerry Springer Opera (you don’t have to have seen it to love that line – you just need to hang out with Michael Rolnick long enough to learn the aria off by heart) and since our February show involved some of the filthiest, funniest dancers in the world – or at least in New York – I don’t think I’ll have to.
Whizzing through the highlights…
We were back at the Cochrane Theatre, settling in well to the get-in day – lights were being lit, steps were being stepped, pianos were being tuned, all in silhouette as the lights were going up and down and up and down…when the sound engineer asked me to show the piano tuner man the exit. I stood and gave him a wave but he turned his back to me. Hmm. So, I wave again with a “hello? This is the way out!” Nothing. Finally, getting more than a little bit fed up (mate, if you can’t be bothered to even look at me then find your own way out) I gave him a big “Yo! Over here!” (with double-arm overhead wave). He finally turned and good-God-let-the-floor-open-and-swallow-me-now…there in beautiful silhouette lighting was the piano tuner man and his white cane. And of course, not only was he blind, but I had to take him up two flights of stairs to go to the bathroom, back down again, out the theatre and back to Holborn tube station. I was so mortified that I had to thank God he was blind. Returning to the auditorium, I asked the twenty or so people there, “So, did anyone else notice that the piano tuner man was B-L-I-N-D?” My question was met with the general consensus of “Yes”, “Yeah”, “Uh-huh” and even one “Yeah – oh my God, isn’t it amazing?” “Well **** you all!” I said. And they all fell about laughing.
Cassa Pancho & Denzil Bailey in A New Beginning by Denzil Bailey
© Richard Bolton
Backstage was a much less embarrassing affair (for me at least). As mentioned in the diary, our two new male dancers were from New York, with the biggest accents – not unlike guests on the Jerry Springer TV show (“weeeell you know Jey-rey, I’m here today to let my maaayn know I used to hayve a peynis, okaaaaay”) were just the dirtiest boys alive. We all shared one dressing room and this is an extract of one pre-show conversation:
Boy#1:”Oooh daymn – my jock strap is nastyyyyy!”
Boy#2: “I know it girlfriend! Whoooeeee!”
Boy#1: “Oooh – this is so bad, if I put this in the laundry I’d be ashamed if my own Momma saw it!”
Boy#2: “Say it girlfriend!”
Boy#1: “Ooooh! This jock is so gross I think it’s squelching a little!”
Boy#2: “Well you know what y’all should do – light a match under that thing – it ain’t fit to wear no more!”
And so on. Us Brits were laughing so hard we had tears streaming down our faces, our stomachs hurt, and damned if we didn’t almost mess up our own underwear. Almost. And don’t think they didn’t notice:
Boy#1: “Hey girls! Don’t you be laughing at us! Y’all are just as nastyyyyy!”
How can anyone hate Americans?
Jake Nwogu & Neil Totton in The Boogaloo Rooms by Cassa Pancho
© Richard Bolton
So the show was fabulous, the audience was fabulous, the musicians were fabulous – and we can’t wait for the next show. We finally achieved Registered Charity Status, number 1101599 (we black, need money, send now). The Ballet School is doing well, apart from one heart-stopping moment when I returned from rehearsing to find that Marina had doled out free movement scarves – not only were they poly-cotton-nylon squares of extremely flammable material – but the kids actually liked them! I cannot believe that my lot, who at the age of four can do single pirouettes on the demi-pointe, the Yoga cat stretch and hit an arabesque on command would want to waft around the room waving little more than a square of shell-suit material, but what can you do? I have had to bow to the scarves but I now insist that they bear at least some resemblance to Isadora Duncan’s flowing silk and that all the students hear the tale of her gruesome death because of them. Free movement scarves are not toys. And character skirts need not apply. If Marina comes in wearing a black skirt with wavy ribbons I’m going to sack her.
So next on the agenda is more fundraising and promoting, adding more classes to the school and doing class with the DTH when they arrive. I just reviewed a book called Alvin Ailey Dance Moves! by Lise Friedman for the Dance Gazette and wrote a chapter of a new book that’s coming out. The whole thing is about feet (foot fetishism, foot binding in China etc) and my bit is about the history of the pointe shoe and how it relates to black women – all condensed into just over two thousand words. Not easy, but it’s done! More details when it’s out…We’ve done some educational workshops, using Patrick Lewis’s Pas de Trois that has gone down very well – the Cranleigh Prep school bulletin: Ballet Enjoyed By All, I think, speaks for itself. Cranleigh Prep today…and quite possibly still doing that in five years time. So cynical.
But seriously, to quote the line I keep spinning to Denzil…this time next year, we’ll be millionaires…