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Choreographing Jesus Christ Superstar  
Ben Ayto is the latest Wellington College blogger to update us on their production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Click the links to read part one, part two and part three of the Wellington College blog.

Week four

Kia Ora! I’m Ben Ayto from Wellington College, New Zealand; and I’m certainly excited to bring you the fourth instalment in the build up to Jesus Christ Superstar, Kiwi style.

Nerves are building as opening night creeps ever closer on our calendars and with just under three weeks to go, we are up to the tricky stage of interworking all the different elements of the show – stage, music and technical – into one complete production.

This includes critically assessing and polishing the formation and choreography but this is not being done by the teacher directors alone: to make the performance belong to the students, choreography is managed and taught by a select group from within the cast.

Each major song from Superstar was allocated to a small group to choreograph. These groups were then overseen by our director of choreography, Shane Allison, while the teacher directors also instigated their own feedback.

Every choreographer had some experience or talent in dance, acting or stage work. For example I have been dancing for six years in jazz, contemporary and now ballroom. Though we came from a variety of backgrounds, the choreographers worked cohesively and our ideas have fitted together well.

Once specific choreography was finished, the students who worked on that number taught it slowly and meticulously to the rest of the cast. This process taught us all many a thing about the teaching of dance and how teaching, and teaching well, is (as we now know) not an easy thing. Of course this choreography was not set in stone: variations and changes were trialled if things didn’t work quite as well as expected.

Another group of performers holding vital roles in this production are our musicians. The amount of music in JCS, and its complexity, is a tribute to both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, which is an honour to perform.

Wellington College can call on a band of many students of varying musical identities, tastes and chosen instruments – guitars, basses, drums, violins, saxophones and more. Each group rehearses together several times a week and again in their own time at home. For hours at a time these musicians shut themselves away in the recital rooms of our music department and absorb the notes and chords required of them.  While they are getting the tunes engraved in their minds, our dexterous music director Ms McDonald has led the stage rehearsals on the piano.

To make it easier one half of the band is learning and performing the first act of the show, while the other will play the second act. Ms McDonald will act as leader and conductor throughout.

The band will be situated up in the rafters and walkways above our Brierley theatre, though it may be rather hard to get the piano up there!

If everything continues to shapes up as it’s doing, come opening night Wellington College will have a truly Superstar show, which not even Peter could deny us.

Ben Ayto, Year 10, cast member and choreographer.

(Above image shows members of the Wellington College JCS choreography team [from left:] Lara, Shane, Ben, William, James, Ryan and Tim. Photo: Justin Arthur.)

Posted on: 7th June 2010

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