Monday, December 13, 2010


Ben Needham-Wood in a "mix of styles"

OK, the DANCE!  How do create dance without dancers?  I wish I could post my notebook of drawings and meticulously calculated counts for each dance style segment.  Once I created materials at the National Choreographers Initiative this summer, the new challenge was how to get dancers in NYC who were available to randomly rehearse, and perform- and work for free.  Not so easy.  I loved the Marvin Hamlisch music for the dance segment, arranged by David Caldwell.  David and I worked together earlier in the year on the musical The Promise, he as musical director and arranger, me as choreographer -- which was performed at the Shanghai Expo 2010 in May (see China blog).   I asked if he would arrange the new song by Marvin and he was thrilled to do so.  We all met one dripping hot summer day in July at Marvin's place, where he sat down at the piano and played the melody and sang the lyrics.   "Don't mind me," Marvin said, "I can only sing in the key of C - that is not how the song is written!" He basically gave us permission to do what we wanted with it. Keeping the idea of having mature artists....maybe 3 or however many I "stars" I could get, juxtaposed against the dance which would portray a mix of styles and a spectrum of years.

Ben looking at Natalie Enterline (Marvin at the Piano)

This year I had about 130 performers who volunteered their time and talents for the Gala.  There were 38 alone in this new piece!   To put it together I had to make myself available to go work independently in different rehearsal spaces with the different groups.  I knew I had Ben's materials and would bring him in the Friday before the Monday gala.  Then I sought out Natalie, at the same time figuring out how to integrate Tony Waag's American Tap Dance Foundation Youth Program kids.  It was a puzzle.  The process itself being fragmented and over a 6-month period.

Natalie Enterline ia a unique artist who has a fantastic dance/baton routine down to extraordinary perfection. I asked her if she would be willing to let me rearrange her material and have her open the top of the show, be integrated during it and then kick off the dance break section in the new Marvin song. She was willing....

(with American Tap Dance Foundation Youth Program)

Ben, from the NCI workshop, got released from his company -- The Louisville Ballet -- and I began to edit materials of him on a video........and passed on the idea to him via MobileMe.....steps re-arranged, and edited yet similar to him.  Something easy for him to do 3 days before the show, combining ballet, modern moves, hip hop, and acrobatics.  Mind you, not easy for everyone....but for him!

Ben in side split jump

ABT II (American Ballet Theater's apprentice group)

Now, where was I going to find a group of dancers that existed as a unit?   I knew I would never be able to get 10 freelance dancers in a room at the same time to re-create anything. So, I first thought of Dance Theater of Harlem. Virginia Johnson was the new artistic director -- and she willingly explored the possibility of using them, but scheduling did not permit. Next I asked Wes Chapman who was the Artistic Director of ABT II, via Kevin McKenzie.   If they were free, just like the were in 2005 for another gala event, that would be fantastic.  I waited, sweating for no other solution.  When I found out they were free I convinced Wes that the segment would not take much of their time.  Having calculated that I need them specifically for 8 - 8's of dance music.  8 more 8's of movement in place.  And then a final 8 - 8's for the end finale. 

World Cup All Stars

Finally, I needed my cheerleaders! How could there be a Finale number without them!  The World Cup All Stars New Jersey Cheerleading are the #1 top competing group in the world.    I originally found them in 2005 when Toni Basil was performing "Mickey" on the program.  She loved them, and since I've used them again.  I called up their coach, Elaine Pascale - said that I probably needed just one stunt group this year.  Yes, they were "IN." And bring-it-on they did.


The link below is a video of brief rehearsal of some of Natalie's materials at the top of the Dance Break, with notes about where Ben enters, where the Tap kids are; then some of ABT II and where they Cheerleaders are. It was what  I sent to Lori our stage manager, and Brad our lighting designer because I had nothing to show them in the studio, since I could never get everyone in the same room together!  And, it is incomplete.
Watch video

Last but not least is Ted Keener below and standing behind Trisha Brown who received the Capezio Award from President Anthony Giacoio (left).  Ted was in the summer workshop and consequently assisted me in staging the choreography for the I'M REALLY DANCING.


Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]