Find out what it felt like to perform to a crowd of thousands at the Olympic Stadium with Milly Chu, a marketing professional turned dancing starlet who had the privilege of appearing in the very first section of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony as part of a day-glow en masse that paid tribute to probably the most quintessential English invention of all time: the umbrella.
I’m so proud to say I’ve been a part of the Paralympic Games. I was lucky enough to have been one of the 600 volunteers to dance in the opener of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. When London won the Olympic & Paralympic Games, I knew I wanted to take part in some way but it was a bit of a pipe dream that I’d ever make it into any of the opening ceremonies. That would surely be just for professionals and extremely talented volunteers! But when an email went around asking for dancers of all abilities, I thought just the experience of auditioning would be enough for me.
In November of last year, I walked into what looked like an empty warehouse in East London, nerves jangling, to audition to be part of the Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies. From the moment I got there to the moment I left, the atmosphere was amazingly infectious. There were people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. hey taught us how to move en masse to choreography with purpose. It was completely fascinating and I was hooked. The audition wasn’t enough – I wanted to be there in the Olympic Stadium no matter what, to feed off and send out that incredible positive energy.
When I was offered a place in a dance/movement role of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony’, I was completely gobsmacked and terrified. The first rehearsals came and I discovered I’d be dancing with a prop – an umbrella that lit up into different colours. More excitingly, we would be first on. What a honour!
Over the course of the next few weeks, we learned to jump in imaginary puddles, spin our umbrellas to Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’ and form hugely impressive shapes including a big bang, an eye and the Union Jack. At times the choreography was confusing, and with 600 of us, we were constantly running into each other with our massive umbrellas, forgetting the choreography or switching the wrong coloured lights on. But we knew it would be worth it and when it worked, it felt incredible.
As the rehearsing continued in the Olympic Stadium, volunteers became firm friends. I was so lucky to have had an amazing group around me who made me laugh constantly. On my way into the Olympic Park on the day itself, I had to really pull myself together. I was so moved by the occasion not only because it would soon be over , but also because I wouldn’t be seeing my new found friends every week anymore.
When we lined up for our entrance and heard the crowd erupting, we were all so excited that we all just started hugging each other and giving each other the thumbs up. Then the music started and it definitely wasn’t a pipe dream anymore – we really were out there, being part of history and bringing the Paralympics home.
What was your highlight of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony?