Friday, July 19, 2013

Full Exposure - A Look Behind The Curtain - Week 29

Welcome back! Saudi Arabia checked out One Big Wedo this week!  Thanks for joining in on the journey!  Hope everyone has been busy tapping into their inner artist and designing a logo for my contest!  You still have plenty of time, so get busy and start submitting your entries.  I can't wait to see them. If you're not aware of the contest, visit last weeks blog for all the contest details. 

I returned to work this week only to find that Blogger is still not allowing me to write or edit posts.  So I am once again stuck using my iPhone app to write the blog on my breaks and lunch.  If this continues to be an on going or permanent problem, I'll have to evaluate and develop a new schedule possibly.  In the mean time, I'm dealing with it and trudging forward.

Not that I'm into public chastening or anything, but here is something that I just couldn't let slide by!  I shared this photo from one of our Cinco de Mayo performances a few weeks ago and commented how I was the only one not looking the same direction as the other guys.  I'm such a show off at times.  "Look at me, look at me!"  We all look good and uniform except for the Wedo's head.  Aye!  Wait a minute, is that Jose laughing in the front of the line?  I can see those teeth buddy!  You are!  Ha, typical! 

Anyway, here is a photo taken six weeks later in Denver.  Same step except heading the other direction. Hold up!  I'm still checking out the audience and looking the wrong way!  Look at all those people!  I'm mesmerized like a fly in the headlights or a moth to a candle.  Take your pick.  It appears as though I am thinking, "Don't I look fabulous everybody?"  You said you'd work on this Wedo!  And I have been but old and bad habits die hard.  At least Jose seems to be behaving himself this time.  Go Jose!  I'm so proud of you mijo!

Now before several of you come rushing to little Jose's defense and call me out for calling him out, let me say he deserves it!  Allow me to explain.  Jose is a big jokester.  Believe it!  At one of the very first performances I danced at, he noticed that I was following him.  I was watching him from the corner of my eye and relying on him to make sure I was doing the right steps.  Of course after he realized this he had to mess with me.  So, he started doing body language that implied he was going to do one step and then he quickly changed it to do the right step.  What a punk!  Of course I did the wrong step and looked like the idiot wedo on stage.  I was so irritated at the time but after lots therapy I can laugh about it now.  Thanks Jose!

Secrets Behind The Curtain:

As you can imagine, folklorico dancing can consume much of your time.  Especially for those who perform on a regular basis.  Not only is there all the time spent on practices and rehearsals, there is the additional time spent in travel and the preparation on the day of the show.  It certainly is a lifestyle.  The more organized and prepared you are, the better.  Having a plan and routine can help save time and keep the flow.

This week I want to give readers a glimpse into the Big Wedo's routine on performance days.  What does that look like and entail exactly?  Well here's all my secrets behind the curtain so to speak.  So ready or not, here you have it!

After someone calls Richard to hire Herencia for a show, he sends out an event notification on Facebook to the dancers specifying the date and time of the performance.  As the event draws closer he will send out the show line up which includes the regions, songs and who will be dancing what.  Oftentimes there will be a show run through the week before the show, but that's not always the case.  Regardless, dancers are expected to practice on their own and be ready to perform.  Often times I have arranged practices with my partner during the week to run through dances over and over.  That's not always possible either, so I will watch videos of the dances and brush up on foot work, sequences and choreography in my kitchen on the linoleum floor.  

Now I was told by a fellow dancer that I tend to be a "drama queen" before a performance.  I get nervous and admit that the stress gets to me.  That's evident by all the gray in my goatee.  I start to question myself as to whether I should dance or not.  I never feel fully prepared.  Second guessing myself is common.  I tend to voice my concern and that apparently makes me a "drama queen".  But if I'm going to be labelled as a "queen", I suppose being "La Reyna de la Folklorica" is quite an honor.  That's a crown I will gladly wear.  You've made your point, next time I'll just shut my trap and dance!

Once the line up arrives, it's time to start getting the costumes in order.  For the purpose of this blog, let's pretend the show is in a week on a Saturday at 2 pm. The show is a 45 minute show and I will be dancing four regions - Veracruz, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Chiapas.  If any of the costumes need laundering or dry cleaning, they get taken to the cleaners.  However, if it's just a shirt that needs washing, I'll do it at home and save some cash.  Once the costumes are clean they get preassembled so to speak.  This is something Richard taught me from the get go.  

Lets take my Veracruz costume for example.  I will put the pants and guayabera on one hanger with the guayabera unbuttoned and ready to go.  Then in the pocket of the guayabera will be my silk scarf/bandanna and my scarf ring.  The costume is all together and ready with the exception of the boots and hat.  In a garment bag it goes and it's onto the next regions costume - I do the same for all of them.  Having them all together and organized help facilitate those quick costume changes that often need to take place.  There's no time to be looking around for stuff once the show gets going.  Richard has a policy that once the show starts, the cd or iPod play list keeps going - no stopping!  To facilitate this demand, costume tricks like snap buttons vs. regular buttons make a huge difference.  Velcro is another trick.  Strippers use snaps and Velcro for a good reason.  It makes it quick to take off!  It sounds like a strip tease sometimes back in those dressing rooms let me tell you!

So once the costumes are all organized and ready, it's time to polish or spray the boots.  White boots need to be white and black boots, black.  You want to look your best and make a lasting impression - head to toe!

Now all the costumes are ready for the show.  One thing I learned the hard way was not to pack the car up with my costumes too early.  The California heat sure makes the interior hot, like an iron.  Early on, I loaded up the car a day before a show and my cowboy hat lost its shape.  It went flat around the rim.  The heat killed it.  So I had to take it in and have it reshaped.  I bought myself a nice expensive Stone hat from Mexico.  I was so disappointed when it lost its curves. So now I take extra care of it.

I always try extra hard the week of the show to avoid all those carbonated temptations!  Soda, beer and anything that "sparkles" bloat you up like Violet from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory who turns into the giant bulging blueberry.  No one wants to see a hot air balloon dance!  So I do my best to stay away from them.  I also try to lighten my overall intake and avoid drinks that could impair my thinking or make me feel sluggish and heavy.  Gotta stay light on my feet.  It's an ugly feeling when you feel fat in your costumes. Everyone is looking at you already on stage but then you start thinking to yourself, "Why are they looking at me?"  You become very self conscious.  That's just another thing on your mind to deal with so it's better just to work on staying slim so you don't have the issue!

Now we are up to the 24 hour period before the show.  Almost show time.  Getting a full nights rest is important.  People want to see perky, animated and alive performers.  So getting enough rest the night before the show is a necessity.  

After a good nights rest and a strong cup of Starbucks coffee, it's time to start the grooming phase.  Let's take a trip into the bathroom together!  First thing I do is trim the mustache and goatee.  I use a No. 2 on my Wahl trimmer.  Then I hop into the shower for a relaxing spa steamy experience.  Let's step behind the shower curtain shall we!  While there, I shave my head and five o'clock shadow.  Then comes an intense exfoliating scrub down.  One that would rival that of Joan Crawford!  Did I just hear somebody call me "Mommie Dearest"?  I use lots of soap!  You want to have that shower fresh scent!

After a good rinse off, its time to move onto the next phase of grooming process - nose hair and ear hair elimination.  Yes, believe it!  I keep my apartment very cold.  They say that hair grows faster at cold temperatures.  And at my age, well the hair grows in all the wrong places!  Tweezers please.  A vigorous plucking ensues!  Get in there and Rip 'em out!  Gotta get all those wiry buggers.  I do this on a regular basis already.  Nonetheless, it never fails that you discover an ear hair that's so long it must have been growing in there for months!  Oh my, looks like I may have set a new world record.  Someone call Guinness!

Now you may be asking, "Michael is that really necessary?  After all your up there on stage, who's gonna see them?"  You're right!  From a distance no one would probably even notice.  I'm more concerned with meeting people after the show.  Got to have good public relations!  You only have one chance to make a good first impression.  I don't want hair to stand in the way of that.

Here is a classic example.  Recently I went to see a show with a celebrity entertainer.  For the purpose of my blog, they shall remain anonymous.  In the course of the show they stepped down from the stage and made their way through the audience. (Cue Jaws movie theme music).  The performer weaved their way through the audience toward where I was.  Next thing I knew, they were right beside me.  Pretty cool.

After a brief initial episode of being star struck, I suddenly realized they had a severe case of nose hair, seriously.  (Cue screeching music from Psycho).  You could see it even with all the stage makeup.  In fact the powder make up made it worse.  It was like they were wearing nose hair enhancing mascara.  OMG, what a bush!  I'm not even exaggerating here.  It was an overdose of nose hair reality.  I was face to face with their bush and all I could think was, "Wow, they should really do something about that!"  Someone hand me a weed wackier please!  I'm going in!  Now anytime I think of this celebrity or hear someone mention their name, all I can think about is, "Oh yeah, they're the one with the big bush!"

I don't want people to remember me like that!  I'll probably be remembered as the tall white dancing fool that swishes instead.  "Lawd Gesis it's on fire!"  I never realized that I obsessed so much over my looks.  I don't think it's because I'm narcissistic necessarily.  I think I'm OCD.  The older I get, the worse it becomes.  Oh just add that to the list:  OCD, ADD & OBW.  Figure that one out!  Help!  This Wedo's gone crazy!  In fact, you can call me a Wedo Gone Wild or WWW!  There's a fourth title.  Now I'm Michael Smith, OCD, ADD, OBW, WWW.  I'm out of control, over qualified and over heated.  One hot mess.  I think I just need a "cold pop" to cool down here for a second.  Oh that's right, no soda.  Phooey.  (Taking a moment to gather myself).

After the stream of tears from my eyes dry, leaving a delta of salty, white trails, it's time to complete the ritual and complete the mask.  I apply MICA cream to take away the wrinkles and tighten the skin and use a black pencil to fill in the goatee, eyebrows and cover up the gray.  An instant face lift, removing fifteen years of aging.  I'm suddenly in my prime again.  With a quick snip of the nails and a brush of the pearly whites, it's time to move on.

Then I dash into the bedroom to complete my transformation.  After a quick application of deodorant and cologne, it's time for the under garments!  White briefs and a white T-shirt and white socks.  I also pack a pair of black socks because when I wear black boots, if there is time, I change sock color.  I saw someone dance once and their pant leg rose and you could see their white socks, which bothered me.  So I keep a black pair handy so I can avoid that costume tragedy as well.  It's all in these little details that make the polished difference.

I complete my wardrobe with jeans and the group logo shirt and it's time to load up the costumes in the car and get going.  Now if there is still plenty of time before the performance, at least 3 to 4 hours, I will eat something light.  Oftentimes, however, I will not have anything but water until after the show.  I've shared in the past how I learned that lesson the hard way.  No more conversations with Mr. Upchuck for me.  This reaction must be another side affect from nerves and stress because I can eat before practice with little or no problems.  Sticking with water is usually the best option for me before a show.

Depending on traffic, Herencia typically performs at events that are a within a two hour driving radius from my apartment.  With the help of Siri navigation and Pandora Radio, the trips are a breeze. 

Everyone dancing in the show is expected to arrive at least an hour before the start of the show.  Sometimes earlier.  Upon arrival, typically you are directed where the dancers will be changing.  However, not all places have changing rooms or areas.  More on that in a moment.  First thing I do is build the garment rack and unpack the car of all the costumes.  Then I wheel the rack over to where ever they have us set up.  Sometimes we have a nice private area, sometimes it's a public restrooms, sometimes it's right out in the open.  Typically, when in the open we try to cover each other and block people's view as others change.

I recall one performance where they had us changing right out in the open in an area right by the place we danced.  It was like we were giving them both a show and a side show.  They really got their monies worth!  One time we were asked not to change in the public restrooms but to go change in our cars.  The whole performance was spent running back and forth to our vehicles to change on the sidewalk by our cars.  Very inconvenient.  Thank goodness no paparazzi were around.   

At this point, I get all my costumes ready and do the show.  I get them all laid out so that there will be a smooth flow.  I try to avoid as much chaos backstage as possible and center myself.  Sometimes things come up at a performance.  You can't anticipate everything.  You just adjust. 

On several occasions we have gone out to the dance floor for the first dance, only to discover the dance floor is like a sheet of ice.  So slick that the nails on the bottom of your boots act like skates.  One trick I was shown to deal with this is spraying hairspray on the bottom of your boots before going on stage.  This prevents any embarrassing mishaps on stage.  No one wants to see you fall on your butt.  Then again, in modern society they probably do and hopefully catch it on video so they can post it on YouTube.  I've also seen dancers put electrical tape over the nails in extreme slippery cases.

After popping an Altoid mint in my mouth, it's show time.  Got to make sure you have fresh breath otherwise your dance partners will give you grief for it.  Perform the show.

After the show is over it is time to repack the costumes and repack the car.  Commonly, the host of the event will offer us food and ask us to stick around and enjoy the party or event.  Sometimes, not.  It is nice when they do because usually you're pretty hungry by that time.  Although I keep a little padding on my belly as reserves - just in case.  At the end of the night, you drive home and unpack your car, only to get ready for the next time.  That's the whole day for you.  It's a cycle that repeats over and over, as shows are booked.  A lot of work and activity that many never consider.  I'm just a guy dancer, you can imagine all the work that is involved for the women.  So much more.  There you have it.  Did I expose to much?  I hope not! 

Be sure to check back next week for another posting!  Have a great week.  This drama momma is out of here!  Remember, deadline for your logo submission is August 31, 2013.  Don't delay and submit today!


Contact Information for "The Big Wedo":

Google E-mail:
Facebook: One Big Wedo (Guero)
Twitter: Michael Smith @onebigwedo

Contact Information for Ballet Folklorico de Herencia Mexicana:

Richard Solorzano, Director: (909) 201-1957
Facebook: Herencia Mexicana

Note: Looking for your own adventure or journey? Herencia is a great place to find one!  Folklorico lessons and performances are both available. Herencia Mexicana performs for private & public events of all kinds. Book your event today! Herencia Mexicana welcomes new students. No previous folklorico or dance experience required.  All are welcome.

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