ASL parent performs in Olympic opening ceremony

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KATIE DILLON
STAFF WRITER

After signing up for email alerts from the Olympics, ASL parent Diane Bell was given the opportunity to perform in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games. She went to her first audition not knowing what to expect. At the audition, she and hundreds of others were instructed to find their way to various spots along a grid on the floor, while being watched by the group of choreographers who assessed their coordination and ability to multitask. After a second audition she found out that she had been awarded a spot to perform as a dancer in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Practice started in mid-April at a converted movie studio in Three Mills Studio, which can accommodate 200 people. “It was like a giant aerobics class,” she said.
After a month of practicing at the movie studio, the dancers moved to the parking lot of the Ford Plant in Dagenham. This location could hold between 600 and 1,000 people.

On June 21, practice was held in the Olympic stadium itself. “When we got to the stadium that was so exciting because it was still under construction,” she said.
Even up until dress rehearsals, Bell said that they were still making little changes to the routine, but she was never concerned about being able to perform the dance.
Despite devoting hours to practicing, parts of the opening ceremony had not been divulged to her. “I had seen parts of the industrial revolution bit but I hadn’t seen the big towers come out until I saw it on screens when I walked in,” she said. Also, she had only seen a helicopter during practices, but didn’t know that the Queen herself would be performing in the ceremony. Kenneth Branagh and Rowan Atkinson’s performances were also a surprise for her.

Bell and thousands of other performers travelled to the Olympic Park and got ready for their performance on July 27. Hair and makeup took several hours, and while they waited to go to the stadium. “We just took pictures of each other. It was all like, ‘Ok let me get a picture with the 80s people, and then with the Freddies [Freddy Mercury],’” she said.

Eventually it was time, and they started their 30 minute walk to the stadium. “As we approached the stadium, the Industrial Revolution people were just coming out, and they were on a high because they had just finished their performance,” she said.

Right before she was about to perform, she and the other people in her section gathered together by entryways to enter the stadium, similar to a run-on in a football game. While waiting, all they could see was bright dazzling lights, and could only hear the deafening music and cheering from the stadium. “You’re anticipating your music, and you’re not doing your programmed routine yet so you’re just so excited,” she said about waiting to go on to perform.

During her performance, Bell described how the lights, the noise and the continuous practicing meant that she wasn’t nervous about performing in front of such a huge crowd – something which she had never done before. She said that she only had fifteen minutes to perform, so she really had to soak up the electric atmosphere in the Stadium.

“It was just an absolute natural high, I think I was buzzing for about a week.”

katie_dillon@asl.org