Bollywood Carmen Live
In April 2013 I auditioned for Director, Indra Bhose,
Creator and Producer, Andy King-Dabbs, and
Choreographer, Honey Khalaria and was fortunate to be
selected to form part of the dance troupe for a
spectacular retelling of Georges Bizet's opera, Carmen, to
be broadcast live from Bradford's City Park.
Two weeks later the rehearsals began. We worked with
Honey and her assistant choreographer, Sita Thomas, on
a selection of routines for the final show, using both
Classical and Bhangra dance styles, adding a Street Jazz
flavour to create a dynamic mix of movement. The
rehearsals were fast and furious, and thoroughly
rewarding. The troupe of volunteer dancers from across
the region soon bonded and there was a real sense of
teamwork and common purpose.
Two weeks later we had a full weekend intensive
rehearsal at The Alhambra Studio where the whole cast
assembled to put the final production together. In
amongst there were costume fittings and make-up
We had to be flexible and think on our feet as the routines
would often change as new mixes of the music arrived
from renowned UK Bhangra producer Kuljit Bhamra. Our
levels of stamina and concentration were tested as the
final broadcast date loomed.
Friday 7th of June saw us move into the City Park itself
and begin to block the routines for the cameras. Being in
the actual location was very exciting if a little daunting at
first, wondering how we could fill such a space. We were
soon hard at work in the Mirror Pool and on the main
stage in front of City Hall, and, as we rehearsed, it
became clear that everything would work really well. After
a 10pm finish we were back in the following morning for
more rehearsals and a chance to dance with Lulu, the
mechanical elephant that real-life Bollywood star Abhay
Deol would ride into the first scene!
Saturday was another full day of rehearsal. The crew
even managed to film a 'dream sequence' to be edited
into the final broadcast. We rehearsed the whole show
throughout the day, with crowds of curious onlookers
enjoying a sneak preview. The day ended with a full
dress rehearsal - in full costume, make-up and hair
extensions. I went home afterwards absolutely shattered
but very excited for the day ahead. I even practiced the
dance routines in my sleep!
The day of the live broadcast arrived and we gathered in
the rooms that had been set aside for us in the
magnificent City Hall. The crew put the final, finishing
touches to the set; all the cameras were set up ready, as
we did the final rehearsals. Everyone was so energised -
despite the long hours they had worked already - and
determined to do a great job.
As dusk began to fall and the 6000 strong audience
gathered, the atmosphere in City Park was electric. I was
really nervous but I knew that we had worked so hard,
and everyone would pull together. Waiting in costume for
our call to assemble in the Mirror Pool, I was able to look
around and take it all in; the crew of 400 people, the
cast, the professional dancers, our troupe of volunteers,
and the flashmob; the crowd. It was such a great feeling
to be a part of this project, to see how it had captured
the imagination of the City.
As Sticky, the floor manager counted us in and the
credits rolled in the Big Screens in Centenary Square,
the adrenaline rush was amazing. We knew that this was
going out live on National Television; there could be no
room for error. The mixture of live, theatrical
performance and cameras meant that we had to be
aware of so many things. It was a fantastic challenge.
I am very pleased to say that everything went very much
to plan, and the final show was a triumph. So much
planning had gone into it, so much effort, and it was
done in 60 minutes. But it was totally worth the effort, and
an experience that I will never forget.
You can watch the whole
Top: In costume in City Hall

Above: Rehearsals on the main

Below: Showtime!
Two of the
volunteer dancers
were ex-students of
Above: Rafi
Below: Mukhtar