Rosalie Ham | Use what you know: the curtsey - Rosalie Ham
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December 4, 2014

Use what you know: the curtsey

We found the deep curtsey difficult to master in Deportment class at school. Most of us toppled over several times, but practice makes perfect, and we retain a certain amount of muscle memory, I’ve discovered.
For our last scenes, we extras travelled together. This time unit base is erected along a white gravel road in a stark landscape beside the Jung cemetery. Kate and Hugo are shooting the pen ultimate scene – their last scene – at the cemetery. The day is blisteringly hot and the buses, trailers and tents that make up the unit base lean in the gritty sideways wind. The crew has not bothered with the tent walls and so the makeup mirror reflects the dry, hard paddocks stretching out around us. Then a truck arrives to empty the portaloos and we flee to the catering tent to finish dressing for our next roles – enthusiastic supporters outside the Dungatar – Winyerp eisteddfod hall. It is the final scene, our last, and will be filmed in Murtoa.
Meanwhile, over at the Jung cemetery, Tilly and Sergeant Farrat, beautifully but sombrely frocked, stand weeping beside a newly dug grave. The tree sized apparatus that is the camera works amid the crumbling headstones. Because Kate and Hugo’s last scene is a sad scene, we stay away until Jocelyn calls ‘cut,’ then we are summoned for the speeches. We follow the eisteddfod participants to the cemetery, acto1rs in ridiculously high baroque wigs, ostrich feathers sprouting, brocade suits with lacy cuffs, buckled boots and white stockings, hooped crinolines of gold and azure, pale breasts swelling over crimson velvet corsets. We gather beside the mound of fresh earth in our 50s costumes with the baroque eisteddfod contestants, Sergeant Farrat and Tilly Dunnage, the grave gaping. The speeches begin; first the producer, then the director, then the actor. Mid speech, the luminous, silver girl with the flawless complexion and emerald eyes points to me, ‘…and the girl who wrote the book is standing just there.’
All eyes turned from Kate, to me. Flies buzz, wind muddles, light glints from flat marble, people clap. I hear Miss Rose, ‘Back straight, steadily down, don’t pause, don’t topple.’ I pinch my pink sunspray skirt seams and lift, move one foot behind the other and sink, knee folding behind thigh, then rise. I do not topple into the grave. Though Kate Winslet isn’t the queen, she’s English, and the queen has pinned a medal to her chest, so she would have also practised, and therefore appreciated, my perfect deep curtsey.
Sometime in the future, I anticipate using the full catwalk turn and the two half turns we learned in deportment class. ‘Incorporate the turn into the stride, be fluid, glide through your turns and smile, girls.’

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