Stories from Backstage

For as long as I can remember, every year around this time I’ve been performing in MDG’s annual year-end show. This year my life looks quite a bit different, and it feels a little strange.

I remember all the months leading up to those few short days being jam-packed with school, regular classes, and extra rehearsals. Monica would spend hours curating items for goodie bags for all the participants after the show. Then she would coordinate gifts and flowers for all the teachers and volunteers. There would be late nights as we packed up the studio and hauled all our equipment and costumes across town to the theatre. Then came tech rehearsals with all the fancy stage lights, and at long last, the show.

Our process has gone through many evolutions over the years, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve become much more efficient with practice.

Some years, rehearsals would not just be twenty minutes behind schedule – we would have lost one or two whole hours that we then had to make appear out of thin air as we fought our way back. There were the complications of dividing our shows between two theatres, and the procedure of doing a full run through of each show in the days leading up to the actual show to make sure everything would go smoothly. Overall, I think there is much less stress involved than even five years ago. Such is life – you learn as you go.

As director and head rigger, my parents worked tirelessly with a great team of teachers and volunteers to make the shows happen. They worked to make it a memorable experience for all who came to watch. This was not your average dance show, ladies and gents. Each show would be a combination of ground and aerial acts, woven together by a series of theatrical interludes and an overarching theme. It is quite a production to put together; a lot of thought goes into every last detail. But you never get to see the work that goes on behind the scenes to make the magic happen. It’s our secret ingredient.

Because my parents spent so much time at the theatre, I did too. Sometimes I would read or study, sometimes I would train, and sometimes I would watch the other students rehearse. Actually, when I was young, I would often do just that – sit and watch the numbers with a deep fascination for hours on end. I guess I’ve always learned best by watching.

It’s always funny looking back to see which memories stick in your head above all the others you accumulate over the years.

At this point, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of performing all over the world, but CCFM will always hold a special place in my heart. I know that theatre inside out, and its hallways are riddled with memories.

When I was four I stood backstage, pulling at my costume profusely. It may very well have been the first time I would perform on stage beneath fancy lights with an audience watching. In spite of this fact, I don’t remember being nervous at all; I just remember that the tutu I was wearing was extremely itchy and I was thoroughly unimpressed.

When I was eight, I would go through half a box of crackers in a day while waiting for my cue. They were usually Wheat Thins or Veggie Thins, those were always my favourites. When I was ten, I discovered the vending machine in the lobby. At some point during rehearsal, I ended up sitting on my unfinished Mars bar. My friend spent the next five minutes picking the remains off my bodysuit while we tried not to laugh too loudly so my mother might not hear. By the time I was sixteen, I was quite the opposite of my hungry younger self, refusing to eat until the show was done for fear I might be bloated on stage. Oh, the struggle was real, let me tell you.

Last year about this time, I was performing with the knowledge that things were about to change drastically. A large chapter of my life was ending, and a whole new one was about to start.

It was hard for me to wrap my head around, the fact that all of this would continue on in my absence and not much would change, in the grand scheme of things. I had watched older girls stand in my position for years; now it was my turn to pass the torch to the next generation. I could only hope I’d been an inspiration and left some kind of a mark.

This year, rather than putting on makeup and straightening my hair backstage at CCFM, I am standing in my kitchen in Montreal, writing these words you read right now. I have travelled thousands of miles in the span of a year, literally and metaphorically. I am, in many ways, a different person than when I left. But in some ways, I am also just the same.

There are some points in our lives that invite us to look back on where we’ve come from and wonder where we are headed next. We can’t predict where we will be in a month, or a year, or a decade down the road. We can only take the next step and see where it leads us.

So to the next generation of dancers and everyone performing today at CCFM, take the time to enjoy yourselves today. Go out there and celebrate all you have accomplished – you deserve it.

ABOUT

Maia Thomlinson is a poet who creates with and on her hands, constantly exploring new mediums to connect with the people she seeks to reach. It could also be said that she is a hand balancer who writes, as both passions hold equal space in her heart. Currently, she is pursuing film, photography and illustration in combination with poetry and spoken word.

In the hours she is not busy writing, creating or balancing on her hands, Maia loves to bake and people watch and spend time with family and friends, ideally in nature. She hopes to travel a lot in the near future.

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