Two weeks ago, on opening night of the American Program, an announcement was made to the audience before Slaughter on Tenth Avenue that Javier Ubell would be one of the cops in that evening's performance, in place of Ronnie Underwood. Few people, if any, knew why the change had been made, and maybe thought (if they cared to think about it at all) that the program had been misprinted or the change had been made too late to get printed at all. I was out front that night and wondered why Javier was going in for Ronnie (I'd just seen Ronnie dance in Eden's Gates so knew he wasn't out), but knew that something was up-- stuff like that doesn't just happen to give Thyra the thrill of making a live PA announcement.
So I sat there, along with the rest of the packed house, and watched Javier come out and do a bunch of springy double tours with his trademark spunk and pizzazz, playing off the other two cops and fitting right in with the sequential timing the three of them are supposed to have. Only later, when I asked Javier about it, did I find out that he had not learned that part until the intermission preceding Slaughter! Turns out Ronnie had slightly injured his ankle during Eden and was unsure whether he could or should do Slaughter that night, in the interest of not hurting it more seriously and preventing him from dancing the rest of the run. Here's how it unfolded from Javier's point of view:
"I wasn't watching (the show), I was in the back in the dressing room when somebody told me that Ronnie had fallen running off stage in the wings and had twisted his ankle. So I went to him and asked if he was ok and he said he wasn't sure. Then Lisa came to me and told me I was on stand by for his part since he didn't have anyone to cover him. I was supposed to do Thug that night for Slaughter so I wasn't sure til the last minute what was going to happen. I had been learning cops, but not Ronnie's part, and all three cops have different counts. It was Jon Drake who had taught me the part during intermission because he was Ronnie's understudy, but since Jon was dancing Hoofer that night he couldn't go in. All three cops are basically the same but there are those different counts so I was nervous getting ready for the show. I wasn't really warm for the part because I thought I was doing Thug, but since all the Cops do are double tours I didn't worry that much. It's a very short part. After opening night Ronnie was still unable to do his part in Cops so I did both his part and my part for the rest of the run. But on the last show I got to do Thug, which I was really looking foward to!"
Talk about adrenaline! Nothing like learning a part at the (very) last minute to give you a rush. This kind of thing happens from time to time--- it's not an everyday occurence, but it's not all that rare, either. What differs is the extremity of the situation, how close to the wire it can get. There are legions of war stories like Javier's, with all sorts of hilarious and terrifying twists and turns, that dancers love to recount to each other and reminisce about. Costume mishaps, blanking out on choreography-- and then ad-libbing, missed entrances, entrances (or exits) at the wrong time, and of course all sorts of "learn the role five minutes before curtain" type scenarios. The best is when the funny ones are caught on tape and we can relive the laughter over and over again!