Sunday, September 2, 2012

Paralympics Opening Ceremony

What a week it's been!!!

I performed at the Opening Ceremony for the Paralympics on Wednesday and I'm still buzzing.
It was one of the most amazing, emotional, human experiences I've had, and I feel so lucky and honoured to be a part of such an amazing event's history. 

The whole process started back in February when I applied to become a Ceremonies Volunteer Performer. After several auditions, the hard work began, with about 160 hours of rehearsals in three different venues. Volunteers were divided into several groups, each with their own name.
Mine was 'LOUD' (very appropriate for those who know me!).

At the first rehearsal it was revealed that LOUD would be taking part in the big finale of the whole entertainment section and would have to learn quite a lot of choreography... so far, so straightforward. But then I heard the accompanying song for the first time and I have to admit I was a little confused.

I didn't know anything about Ian Dury's 'Spasticus Autisticus', a song written 30 years ago but banned by most TV and radio stations because it was so taboo. Even now, the lyrics are pretty in-your-face. 
And my first thought was when I heard it was: are we really gonna be screaming Spasticus in front of all these Paralympians? 
But then you realise what an incredible anthem it is. And how brilliant and funny the words are. 
I came to love the fact it was so ahead of its time and full of attitude... not to mention the clever spin the organisers and world class techno DJs Orbital put on the Paralympics remix. 

For the most part we rehearsed in isolation, so we never really knew what the other groups were working on, what the costumes were going to be and what other music they were gonna use for the rest of the ceremony. 
Till the very last rehearsal, we never got a chance to watch it all the way through - and only then it was mostly on TVs as we were waiting backstage for our cues. 

On the night of actual show we watched the start of the ceremony backstage too - albeit this time with a stadium packed with 80,000 people. And it felt so strange - knowing that we were actually going to be there, right in the middle of it all, in just a few hours.

I loved the whole concept of 'Enlightenment', Stephen Hawkin's narration, Newton, all the apples they gave to the audience, the sense of wonder at atomic creation, from the Big Bang to the Hadron Collider, and how each individual collision makes us different but the same...

And the idea that, with curiosity, people's ideas and conclusions change... and maybe after this Paralympics people's perceptions about disability will change too.

Then the smaller touches: Stephen Hawkins wearing the same 'rave' glasses as Orbital while 'Spasticus Autisticus' was blaring out of the speakers was simply genius!
And I loved how the non-able bodied performers led the show from start to finish with some incredible displays... from the first flypast to the incredible aerials and wire-work, from the magical Birdy song to the bending circus poles... and of course the athletes themselves.
It all came together beautifully to create some truly stunning images.
We  met lots of the teams backstage and they were all overwhelmed by the audience's reaction and how big the event is here in Britain.

The show didn't try to compete with the Olympics. It was a celebration of what it is to be a human, of reaching your limits and then going beyond them... and that's exactly what I felt we achieved before, during, and hopefully, most importantly, after.

We all had the most magical time and I simply don't know what could possibly top it.

Thank you to all the people I met along the way who made it such a beautiful experience. I will cherish the memories forever!

And remember: "Always look up to the stars ... never down at your feet!"

M xxx

watch our bold performance of the amazing Ian Dury and Chaz Jankel song 'Spasticus Autisticus'.
It starts with the words: Hello to you out there in Normal Land.

Performed by amazingly cool Orbital and the Graeae Theatre Company and featured a sample of Prof Stephen Hawking's voice.

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