The chorus

I’m not an expert on pantos, but I’m pretty sure that every panto, professional or amateur, always has a chorus of kids. Specifically girls.

The girls seem to be arranged in perfect size order – there’s usually eight of them, of four different sizes – two little, two a bit bigger, two a bit bigger still and two almost like full-grown women. When they stand on the stage, they stand in this perfect size order.

Well, from what I’ve learned over the last few weeks, size really does matter! My daughter is a ‘little one’. The girls in the panto are aged 8-16 and she’s little due to her size, not her age. The other little ones are 8 and a tiny 10 year old. She is the biggest of the little ones. There are advantages to being little. They seem to get extra comedy roles to play, entirely based on their size and cuteness. The chorus seem to have numbers rather than names. As the second smallest in the panto, she is number 2.

In my head, the chorus dance slowly and saunter round marketplace scenes in character shoes, swinging baskets.

In reality, they do full-on, high energy dance routines. Although they wear the exact costumes I had in my head – lace up bodices and long skirts. The main dance style for musical theatre is modern, but my daughter’s panto mixes it up with a bit of street and a bit of ballet. They need to be good all-round dancers.

And there’s no Mrs Nice Dance Teacher gently helping them to learn their routines in their own time. They’re working with a professional choreographer and professional actors. They have to learn fast. The choreographer is strict.

Being in the chorus is a huge commitment – for the child and the parents. You don’t get good enough to dance, sing and act in a professional production by skipping rehearsals or turning up late. My daughter had 17 rehearsals and she has 27 performances. For every one of those, she needs to get to the theatre/ rehearsal venue on time, delivered by a parent (me) who already has a lot on her plate.

She’s had to give up school activities she enjoys, dance lessons she enjoys and even miss a fair bit of school (all perfectly legal and above board – they get a proper performance licence).

There are also cost considerations. Yes, it’s a professional production, but your child isn’t getting paid. And they’re also expected to provide a fair bit of kit themselves – my daughter needed a black leotard, black jazz shoes, natural coloured dance tights and black jeans – none of which she possessed (although I guess lots of kids will possess them). She also had a big list of make-up she needed to provide. I don’t wear make-up myself, so we had to buy it all (although thank goodness for Boots Advantage Card points!).

Make-up, Panto, Daughter, 365

Add to this the cost of travel, parking and having to buy drinks while you’re hanging around in cafes and it all adds up.

In this situation, it’s important to see the pantomime and the chorus as a hobby rather than a job. You get paid for jobs, you pay for hobbies. You pay for dance lessons and leotards and dance shoes, so you’re paying to take part in a pantomime too.

If your daughter loves dancing and is good at it, and if you go in with your eyes wide open about the commitment and impact on your family, being in the chorus of a pantomime is a fantastic experience.

My daughter has loved it and has learned so much. Will we be able to resist taking part next year? I’m not sure.

Because of the rules regarding children working, pantomimes always have two separate choruses. So the chorus is made up of 16 kids altogether, but working in two teams of eight. This means they will only do half of the performances and be working approximately three days a week. 

Tickets, Panto, Pantomime, Daugther, 365

Author: Sarah Mummy

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20 Comments

  1. Sounds busy busy busy but also like a great experience! Am surprised they don’t get paid or at least the expenses tho! Have enjoyed hearing all about it via you and I bet she will be itching to do it again next year now!

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    • It has been a fantastic experience and we’ve learned a lot along the way, which will all help us when we go through it all over again (hopefully) next year. The cost and lack of expenses surprised me at first, but then I realised I just had to not think about it and enjoy it!
      Nine months until auditions for next year…

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  2. I’ve found your panto journey fascinating. My 9yo would loves the idea of being in the dance section of a panto but I’m just not sure we could commit. December is crazy synchro time for us & husband’s work. My friend’s daughter has been in this year’s local panto & she has bought tickets to watch it seven times up until now! X

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    • Thanks very much. It has been an incredible experience, but has been a huge commitment (although more in November than December). I could never have done it if I still did ‘proper’ work. I thought we were bad – I will have watched it five times, plus one extra time so my daughter could watch it with the other chorus!

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  3. It sounds like a fantastic experience. I did a few chorus panto parts in my early teens, but for a much smaller local panto. Was great fun though! 🙂

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    • Thanks very much, it has been amazing! I did a lot of kids’ drama when I was a teenager and it was always such a buzz. Never did a panto or a professional production though, so she’s one ahead of me!

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  4. Sounds like a very busy ( and costly ) few weeks, but what a wonderful experience for your daughter. I thought the chorus of our local panto was fantastic, the children are so brave and so talented!!

    Well done to both of you!

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    • Thanks very much! It has been an amazing experience for her, which has totally outweighed my initial concerns about cost and inconvenience.

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  5. Wow! I remember being so involved in dance as a child and I don’t think I gave any thought to how much my mum was involved too both physically and financially. Thank you for reminding me to give her a BIG hug!

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    • I don’t know if my daughter realises what a commitment it is for me too. I’d like to think she does!

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  6. It is a massive commitment. And a pro pantomime unlike the ones we used to dance in. Our dance school used to get roped in to do the dance numbers in the town’s panto each year. But because it was our dance school we’d just learn and rehearse as part of our modern classes/extra sessions with our dance teacher. We’d be told the sort of dance we needed, for ballet parts she’d provide (mostly) the tutus, for any other bits, parents would need to make them. The best was dancing a ‘Persian Market’ – story within a story. Fab fun to do, although the stage people in the amateur panto didn’t have any idea about resin and how to make a stage less lethal for dancing on…their idea, put down coca cola. Lots of ballet shoes were wrecked that year.

    Bet you’ll all feel lost once it’s over.

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    • Ha ha, that really made me laugh about the Coca Cola on the stage! It sounds like my daughter has been very lucky to be in a professional pantomime rather than an amateur one.
      It finished yesterday and at the moment it just feels like it’s a day off. We will miss it tomorrow when it would be due to be on again!

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  7. It is interesting to hear things from a parent’s point of view as I have had a lot of the previous years’ choruses talk to me on social media because of my involvement with the theatre. I have to say I never thought about the fact that they don’t get paid – and I very rarely pay for parking there but guess that would take even more of your time up.

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    • I”ve been lucky a lot of the time not having to pay to park, but I’ve had to pay on a few occasions! Luckily it’s pretty cheap. A lot of people have been shocked that they don’t get paid or even travel expenses. I never expected her to be paid, but it’s important for parents to be aware of the financial implications before kids audition.

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  8. I didn’t realise how much hard work it would be for a parent – I bet it wa all totally worth it though when you saw her on stage x

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    • It was absolutely worth it! It’s been one of the best experiences ever for her and it’s really cheered up winter for the whole family, but it is still a huge commitment!

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  9. What a journey and experience you have been on with the panto! It is such a huge commitment for you all and it sounds as thought it has been a really positive experience but it is really interesting to see how expensive it is and the time and effort needed, a real heads up for any parents who are thinking about their kids getting involved. Are you counting down to next year now?

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    • We’re definitely counting down to next year! (Or this year, in fact!) The information they give you in advance makes it very clear how much time you have to commit, so parents should go in with their eyes wide open. It’s been totally worth it though!

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  10. This is fascinating to read. As a child I used to go to the theatre and see pantos (and other things) and always dreamed of being one of those girls up on stage. Interestingly I could see my daughter at our pants this year looking at those same girls and asking me how they got to be there. I guess I maybe out to start looking into dance lessons – and saving up!

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    • Ha ha, definitely! At our panto they were looking for Grade 2 in ballet or modern as a minimum. They work quickly and need a good standard of dance from the kids.

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