The day I got the letter informing KATS students and parents that there will be a very exciting event taking place in 2014 at one of the most famous buildings in the world, the Royal Albert Hall, I think I must’ve partially deafened my mum as I went from anxiously reading to full on screaming in a pitch that only dogs and cats could hear. I’d heard about the place and I had seen people perform there on television, including Adele, but the thought of actually being on stage completely surrounded by thousands of people clapping and cheering along to a dance that we have put together in our small and pretty much unknown-to-the-nation village was quite surreal to even imagine!
Starting a new dance for an upcoming show or event is always really fun – the ‘height order lines’, the starting positions and the first few moves that usually take a few goes to remember and then get the satisfaction of doing correctly – but because we all knew this was for possibly the greatest thing KATS have ever done, it felt super extraordinary.
As the weeks progressed, along with the 5 minute long routine to Robbie Williams’s ‘Let Me Entertain You’, so did our determination and excitement. We were finally given the exact date – 17th May 2014 – and I immediately set a countdown on my phone that showed me how many days we had to go, and it seemed so close yet so far away.
The dance was slowly but surely coming together nicely with additional after school and weekend rehearsals, and we were all beginning to be able to do the dance in our sleep, but whenever that music started we gave it our all. However an accidental hit on the arm and a mouthed ‘sorry’ from someone was starting to become a problem considering we had 51 students all trying to dance in one room, and the routine required everyone dancing at all times, so every Wednesday we could, we relocated to the Dome Sports Centre or the Jubilee Centre in Mildenhall to practise in a bigger space. It was weird getting used to the space we had but we managed it.
Costumes began being made and fitted after the crucial height check against the ‘measuring wall’ where you realise you’ve grown an inch since the last time you were measured. The costumes at their bare minimum were either blue dresses or unitards with some sort of colourful harlequin fabric addition on it that was very bright and eye-catching, but we knew the crazy had just begun as we all know that Ann loves a bit of sequin detail here and there… or in this case everywhere! But with a once in a lifetime event approaching, ‘less is more’ doesn’t come into the equation, and I must say, we all looked pretty fabulous in those costumes once they were finished.
With the day getting closer and closer, we were rehearsing a lot more making sure our choreography was great, the costumes worked well with any lifts and also that we all had big cheesy smiles on our faces as our final dress rehearsal once we arrived in London would benefit towards our finale positions where we had to sing two songs from the Mardi Gras that we had all been practising at home and sometimes in our rehearsals. Counting down the days was so fun but it must’ve become very annoying to our other friends at school to have to hear “21 days to go *gasp* … THAT’S 3 WEEKS!” but we did get a lot of good encouragement from everyone at our schools and our families, and even one very special group of boys gave us their best wishes, oh yes, Diversity wished us good luck! Now if that’s not a determination and excitement enhancer then I don’t know what is! Also, three newspaper photographers came in to take photos of us posing in our full costume attire with the brightest smiles on our faces.
The afternoon at KATS on the day before the big performance was our only chance to get our hair and nails done ready for the next day, so the seniors helped paint nails while the hair team got to work with the 4 cornrows style. Everyone was discussing how excited yet nervous they were and who would be there supporting them on the day, and it was nice to see everybody enjoying and looking forward to every moment of the experience.
Saturday 17th May … 5am. That’s right! It was a very early start for everyone as the bus left at 7 and we had to pack everything we needed including and ocean amount of water and enough food to feed Australia to keep us going throughout the whole day and into the night. As you can imagine, 51 tired and grumpy children all on one coach sounds like something very boring indeed, but we were all so excited and anxious to get there and everyone’s positive energy kept us going, and before we knew it we had arrived! Every one of us couldn’t believe how big it was or how beautiful the architecture was! We had photos taken outside the entrance and a very funny little man decided to take photos of us too… okay bit random, but it did make us all laugh. We watched other dance schools arrive all looking very unique and ready to go. When we were allowed to enter and be escorted to our dressing room there were a lot of ‘oooohs’ and ‘wows’ as the building was so magnificent. After the health and safety talk in the main arena where all the dance schools were having a chant war, which we won by the way, we started getting ready for the rehearsal and then when we did it, it went so well! We even made Kim cry, happy tears of course! Everyone was so nervous for that rehearsal, so if that was scary, we had no idea how nerve-wrecking the actual performance would be!!
Once we had eaten and drunk, done hair and makeup and had several checks that everyone was geared up and ready to go, we were finally called to make our way to the entrance of the stage which was underneath the main arena. By now everyone was so nervous but we all couldn’t wait to go and make our supporters, Kim and Ann and ourselves proud.
The lights fell and the audience finished their applause for the previous dance group. The all-clear was given and on we ran into our places, just as we rehearsed. As KATS were announced, we all stood in our beginning positions, all overwhelmed by the applause we were getting (mostly from Julie!) even before the dance had begun! All these emotions of excitement and anxiousness whizzed through my head, but as soon as that music began, all of us beamed to the audience and gave it their all. The nervousness had turned into adrenaline and the experience of actually dancing at the Royal Albert Hall had finally hit me, and during the final part of the dance, we all got the chance to see just how much all of our hard work and effort paid off as the rows and rows of people clapped and cheered and whistled for us. And then when we all hit that end position in perfect timing, we all knew even though the performance was over, the memories would never end. The massive group hug in the changing room afterwards was well deserved, and everyone was buzzing for the rest of the night which showed in the two singing performances afterwards which were actually quite funny. And then finally to top it all off, KATS were given the final bow at the end of the show which was absolutely brilliant and I believe the show-biz term is “save the best ‘til last”
For the first half of the coach ride home we were all still totally buzzing, but after an hour long traffic jam hold up, most of us were fast asleep, then the next thing we see out the window is our parents waiting for us in Mildenhall where we all clumsily got our stuff together and stumbled off the bus half asleep and moaning at the mums that did not understand the exhaustion we were going through. But they were all so proud and we were all so proud of each other and I don’t think any of us can ever fully thank everyone involved in making that day one to remember forever. I can’t even think of a word that tops off everything that happened on the day because the experience pretty much speaks for itself, so to finish, I will just say, WE’RE KATS, WE’RE COOL, WE’RE WICKED AND WE RULE, WE’RE HERE, TODAY AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL!!!
By Kayley-May Williams