It gives me huge pleasure to introduce something that I have wanted to do for a long time – a Guest Blog feature!
As a little girl growing up on New York City’s Upper West Side, I would dream of being a part of the New York City Ballet, and performing at the majestic Lincoln Center. Though I did and still do dance, I segued away from that in my adolescence to focus on an acting career. I moved to LA for awhile, and while I moved on from my dream to dance at Lincoln Center, upon my return to New York its beauty still captivates me. I walk by it almost nightly, and often stop at the fountain to make a wish, or walk through the plaza just because it’s magical.
Last week, I received a call about being a dancer in a big finale performance at a star-studded gala. It’s been awhile since I’ve sung and danced at the same time. It’s a little like patting your head and rubbing your belly. However, the second part of the gig was revealed – it would occur at Avery Fisher Hall, at Lincoln Center. It was a benefit for Paul Newman’s SeriousFUN Children’s Network, and would involve performances and appearances by Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Carole King, and Natalie Cole. SeriousFUN is a network of camps (formerly Hole in the Wall) that provide an uplifting experience, for free, to children with serious illnesses. Talk about once in a lifetime, I had to jump at the opportunity.
On Sunday afternoon, I walked through a delicate snowfall to our one and only rehearsal. It was an absolute honor to walk through the stage door entrance at Avery Fisher Hall, winding through the halls on my way to the green room. We soon started to rehearse vocals, the chorus of Aloe Blacc’s “Wake Me Up,” and we were joined by the evening’s musical director, famed Broadway MD Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Big Fish, The Addams Family). Once we had worked through our harmonies and riffs, it was time to learn some dance moves. Josh Rhodes, Broadway choreographer (Cinderella, The Drowsy Chaperone, Chicago) was in charge of getting our collective acts together. He ran us through some very fun punch choreography, and once we mastered that, we started marrying movement and vocals.
Finally, it was time to rehearse our entrance and exit timing, and run the choreo in the space. That meant entering a near-empty Avery Fisher Hall, in all its splendor, to rehearse. What an utter joy. We spent about half an hour in the theatre itself before being released to an after-party of sorts, hors d’oeuvres and drinks to bond and celebrate the job and the charity.
I ran through the dance a few times in my living room on Sunday evening, and then made my friends at the acting studio I work at watch me rehearse my dance a few more times the following day. After work I walked from the Theatre District, where the studio is, the mile up to Lincoln Center. I had the privilege of entering through the Avery Fisher Hall stage door once more, through the backstage maze to the green room, where we got to indulge in some delicious food and watch the gala in real time on monitors. We had a quick pow-wow with our dance captain, Megan, finalizing a few cues and getting a surprise – some of us would have tambourines. Let’s be clear, I’m not greatly skilled at handling props, so of course I ended up being bestowed a tambourine to work with. Since we had mostly punch choreo it was a brilliant idea and worked very well, but it added to the nerves a little bit, since it was one more thing to not mess up.
As we waited in the wings, prepared to perform, we got to listen to Carole King sing live, which was pretty powerful. Then suddenly it was our cue, and it was all a beautiful blur. We came, we danced, we conquered. It was the most fun I’ve had performing in a long time, and as an added bonus, some of the biggest names in Hollywood were dancing and clapping right along with us, as were the young campers. We danced out of the theatre as quickly as we came in, back through the maze to the green room to collect our things and say goodbye. As we headed out the stage door, the barricades were set up, and paparazzi and fans waited eagerly for the celebrities to leave. It was a bit of a surreal experience to be on the other side of that, hopefully just a glimmer of things to come.
Catch more from Caileigh at www.caileighscott.com/
All photographs used in the post are copyright Caileigh Scott