FS: From the Experience of a Choreographer

By Veronique Lalley

I attended FS in my first and second year before deciding to apply to be on the choreography team as I entered my third year. In attending the show as a spectator, I loved the adrenaline and the way the models interacted with the audience members, most of them being their peers. This, to me, was something unique to the Fashion Show experience. In school, I had participated in many years of performing arts, of which I chose to discontinue when I started at St Andrews as a fresher. The sheer volume of activities, clubs, and scenes to delve into within the three streets had made me realize that I had everything I needed to pursue other interests. But as I entered the marquee for FS2019, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to experience this kind of show experience. At the point of applying for the role, I didn’t know a single thing about fashion show choreography. They just walk up and down the stage, right? I was sorely mistaken. It was starkly different to everything I had done prior, but I was ready for the challenge.

An interesting aspect of working on a creative team for FS, and for any Fashion Show of that matter, is the fact that you are ultimately working from the ground-up. There is no script, no musical score, no stage directions, nothing. You have a theme, the support of your fellow committee members, and a show date: that’s it. This really startled me when I first started choreographing for the show. With no leg to stand on, I couldn’t gauge whether what I was suggesting was “good” or not. But in a choreography team of three, I immediately felt comfortable and supported. The three of us would get together in one of our flats, and just shoot ideas off of one another. It was quite surreal to realize that these sequences that we were devising in a quaint living room on South St would eventually be seen by over 2,000 people. You have the responsibility to build something from nothing, which for me has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working on FS.

Working with models was another aspect of the role that terrified me when I accepted my position. Their comfort levels and ability to execute the movement relied completely on us, and in October when we began rehearsals, many of us didn’t know one another at all. For our first rehearsal, our head choreographer fell ill and couldn’t attend unexpectedly. My now co-head and I, who were both new to the committee, had to lead the first rehearsal, even though neither of us had ever been in an FS model rehearsal before. Before panicking, I realized that we had the power to set the bar for the FS experience that these models would experience in the coming months. From there, it became less of an “us and them” mentality, but rather a team of people merely trying to create an exciting show that our peers, family members, alumni, sponsors, and staff would enjoy. It is these kinds of situations that, though initially daunting, become the most exciting parts of the process. In a committee of solely students, things go wrong all the time. Communication between subcommittees gets lost, music cuts out, people get sick, shipments get delayed, and so on and so forth. What I learned most from my experience doing choreography is to work hard, trust your gut and your creativity, and roll with the punches. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable; this is what I reminded myself during the weeks leading up to February.

To be backstage during FS2020 was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I have had to date. With my headset on (of which made me feel like the most important person alive), I scanned the backstage area and was reminded that it is the students that have the impact here. Student choreographers, student designers, student models, student musicians; these were the people that stood beside me. Though I had been involved in performances before coming to St Andrews, and thus the backstage scene wasn’t completely foreign to me, it was surely different. I notably remember sending our female models on stage at the beginning of our second intro, accompanied by Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’ instrumental and the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” speech. We had been rehearsing this sequence for weeks on end, and to hear the audience members cheering, specifically that of young women, was a moment I admit I will remember for a long time. I was able to stand on the sidelines as each model stepped out to perform something we had been working on for months and months. I felt like they were my children. You can’t actually see what the show looks like, but you can hear everything. And unlike other show experiences, we didn’t have two, four of six performances to get it right; we had one shot. While this instills a certain level of pressure, it also allows for everyone to rally around the same mission: to put on an amazing show.