The day I danced for a place in Danny Boyle's Olympics spectacular

Tom Peck auditioned for the London 2012 opening ceremony. But was he asked back?

Badged up like cattle at a county fair, I am 70 places from the front of a 200-person conga line, obediently following a purple stripe marked out on the floor of a dark, cavernous hall. Hyper-bubbly "dance captains" on elevated platforms bellow instructions: "Row the boat. And back. Double time. Reach up. And forward. Dust yourself. Dust yourself." For many of our number, the decision to audition to dance at the Olympics opening ceremony was a consequence of those coveted preliminary round Taekwondo tickets just not coming through. But others evidently see it as their ticket to the big time. One barked instruction divides us: "Freestyle!"

A younger, bestubbled gent in red leggings throws his arms upwards and pirouettes with such force he is at risk of ending up in Australia. The dance captains crane their necks, inspecting the masses and making marks on their clipboards and I try to remember what I do at weddings, but the bar has only bottled water on offer. The Olympic dream may already be over.

When David Cameron more than doubled the budget for the Olympic and Paralympic Games' opening and closing ceremonies in December, from £40m to £81m, a call went out for more manpower. We are those swollen ranks. We are met at the Three Mills Dance Studios in east London, next to the Olympic Park, where for months the ceremony director Danny Boyle has already been planning the greatest show on earth. A few weeks ago, Boyle announced the ceremony would be called "Isles of Wonder", inspired by some poetic lines in Shakespeare's The Tempest.

A short video of rehearsals thus far features dancers with giant golf balls for heads, "zorb" balls being pushed uphill and what looks like an old man in a neon bed. On the floor of the giant studio is a vast grid. "It's like a big game of Battleships," Steve Boyd says. He is a Canadian "mass-movement specialist". This grid, evidently, is the secret behind how you make thousands of people fashion themselves in seconds into Olympic rings, St Paul's Cathedrals, Routemaster buses, or whatever it is that Boyle has planned.

Auditionees are asked not to divulge details of what they have been asked to do. It will not come as too much of a shock though, that there is a straightforward routine to be learnt. I am definitely not the worst, but red-leggings man is already adding his own interpretation to the moves. Later he describes himself as a "professional dancer". It seems unkind to point out he is auditioning for a six-month gig for which there is no fee. That Usain Bolt might be coming to Stratford for any reason other than to watch him hand jive dressed as Shakespeare doesn't appear to have occurred to him.

"We put in for tickets for the opening ceremony, like everyone else," Susan, from Kent, says. "But we didn't get them. We didn't get any. I just really want to be a part of it. It's once in a lifetime."

After going through the routine for a final time, people with specialist, and secret, performance skills, are asked to stay behind briefly at the end. Neither Trivial Pursuit nor Super Mario Kart are among them so that's me done.

But the waiting doesn't last long. Eight hours later and I am invited back to a "role-specific" audition. Sir Steve Redgrave is still the current favourite to light the Olympic cauldron, what with his five gold medals. Expect to see those odds come down in the near future.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone