The first rehearsal for the London Olympic opening ceremony was at the Three Mills Bromley by Bow. I arrived in good time and once again found myself in a queue with lots energetic people. I was to find out that I was in a cast group called WMW which was short for working men and women and there was around a thousand of us. There were two hundred others at my first rehearsal and we each given a numbered bib and shown a video of what our bit of the show may be like. The video was a composite of computer generated graphics, bits of live action and cartoons set to music composed by underworld. It told the vivid story of the industrial revolution. The scene opens with a countryside setting, trees, grass, sheep and children playing on the village green. It was England's green and pleasant land, but that had to be changed. Inspired by industrialists our job was to move in and rip up the countryside replacing it with the machines of the modern age. Trees would be uprooted, great chimneys would erupt from the ground and massive steam engines would belch smoke into the night air. Added to this commotion parades around the outside of this activity would symbolise much of what has changed and made our country what it is today. Immigration, integration, pop music, protest marches, quirky stuff like the pearly Kings and Queens and the Nottinghill carnival. To build the tension drummers would descend from the audience pounding a rhythmic beat. Then amongst the mayhem of hundreds of people shifting thousands of props, the building of new machines and pounding drums there would be a time of remembrance to reflect on the fallen of all wars. Following this and with England's green and pleasant land almost gone forges and smelters were set to work creating a giant ring.
At this first rehearsal we were introduced to several dance and movement choreographers who would be our instructors who all had very impressive credentials. These included Toby Sedgwick who amongst other things was the critically acclaimed choreography director of War Horse, the legendary Steve Boydd and had worked on all olympic ceremony since 1992 we were shown a model of the Olympic stadium. The model was how the stadium would look during the pre show and for the first few minutes of the live show on the night of the 27th of July 2012. The opening stage would have real grass, real flowers, real crops. Carrots, cabbages and cauliflowers were to all be part of the opening sequence of the London Olympic opening ceremony. It was Oscar winning director Danny Boyle who explained the model to us in more detail and told us why he thought this part of our history was so important. He said in one way the machines brought hell, sweatshop conditions with child labour, long hours of hard work but the factories and hard labour also brought wealth. Eventually some of that wealth filtered down and ultimately everyone received education, healthcare and overall benefited from a better standard of living. He reminded us that the industrial revolution did not just change things in the UK but this moment in history change things across the world.
Danny Boyle added that this was not going to be easy, as what was required was simply the largest live scene change in history and almost everything would be real. This was a gigantic scene shifting job and our role was to do this in the character of working men and women from the industrial revolution. We had quite a lot of choreography to learn as this would add to the drama of the scene.We didn't know what else's was going to be in the show but there was a buzz in the air and I, like the rest of my cast group already felt proud to be part of it.
Following the introductions it was down to work and we were divided into groups of 25 so we could start to learn the the basic choreography. Each sequence was given a name and the first was shut boot sliding doors and contained 8 moves. What followed was lever pull, hammer - chisel, work prep, shovel - pick axe and finally dials - leavers. We did these moves as we walked forward and the idea was for us to looked determined, we were not happy smiley dancers but grim faced workers. The penny finally dropped, '0h so that's why I was in the cast'.
To continue reading about DJ Jim's role in the London Olympic ceremonies click Dagenham Rehearsals.