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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Aug
17

Q&A with choreographer JOANN HUNTER

JoAnn M. HunterJOANN HUNTER has 20 Broadway shows to her credit as either a choreographer, associate choreographer or performer. Choreography for Broadway: School of Rock, Disaster, On a Clear Day…with Harry Connick Jr.. Off-Broadway: Dedalus Lounge, The Twelve (workshop). National Tour/Regional: Harmony by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman at the Ahmanson Theatre, world premiere of The Nutty Professor, directed by Jerry Lewis, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Pump Boys and the Dinettes, Grease, Oliver, Curtains. She has directed Debra Monk in her one woman show with special guests Ron Rifkin, Andrea Martin, Victor Garber, Charlotte D’Amboise, Jimmy Newman, Brandon Victor Dixen, and David Hyde Pierce. The Drama League Galas honoring Angela Lansbury, Kristen Chenoweth, and Neil Patrick Harris. In development for RFP of Rock and Roll Refugee about the life of Genya Raven, Lourds Lane superhero rock musical Chix 6 and Perfect Spiral, a ballet with words about the will to do what you were born to do regardless of a possible outcome.

We spoke with JoAnn Hunter about her training, impressive Broadway career and the specific goals she’s bringing with her to Broadway Dance Lab.

BDL: Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the world of theatre and dance?

JH: My mother is the one who introduced me to dance. She wanted to dance but came from a very poor family in Japan. At age 11, she asked if I wanted to take ballet. My first mentor, Nancy LeFebvre DiCicco was my dance teacher and she was brilliant. She taught me to study from as many teachers as I could to learn about style and the way they work. I was very fortunate that she had such insight. I received a scholarship to dance with Chuck Kelley in NYC the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I fell in love with NYC and at the age of 17 I moved here and have never looked back.

BDL: How did you being choreographing and what was that transition like?

JH: Oh well this may not be the norm, or maybe it is. I had no intention at all of choreographing. After performing in my 12th Broadway show, I knew I needed a break. I was so lucky but doing 8 shows a week, 50 weeks a year… I wanted a bit of time off. Rob Ashford asked if I would like to be his associate. I said, “ok,” and I loved it. I loved being in the room, the banter, the creative juices that come at once or not at all, and I could have a glass of wine at dinner. I was happy being an associate. You do not get the accolade or monetary satisfaction it if succeeds, but you also do not get blamed if it does not. One day, a director I knew called me and asked if I wanted to choreograph the national tour of Chitty…. I thought long and hard and decided to try it. If I was bad, it was on tour. No one in New York would see it. Well, I loved it more than I could have imagined. Being in the rehearsal room with dancers is the absolute best place to be!

BDL: What skill sets do you feel someone needs to possess in order to be a good choreographer?

JH: Point of view!!! And for me, always, the ability to tell a story. I like narrative. It was how I danced. With story there is a reason and a why.

BDL: What interested you in working with BDL?

JH: Josh Prince! And this incredible opportunity. It is crazy that programs like this simply do not exist out there. I can not tell you how much I have spent out of my own pocket to just play and practice what I do.

BDL: What specific goals are you bringing with you to BDL?

JH: I am working on a “dance with play” that I have been creating and working with BDL will be such a luxury! My director will be here, along with my composer. I hope to complete the first four sequences of this piece or at least see if it works and has an emotional impact.

 


Aug
16

Q&A with choreographer LARRY KEIGWIN

Larry KeigwinLARRY KEIGWIN is a native New Yorker and choreographer who has danced his way from the Metropolitan Opera to downtown clubs to Broadway and back. He founded KEIGWIN + COMPANY in 2003 and as Artistic Director, has led the company to perform at theaters and dance festivals around the world. Since the company’s premiere performance at Joyce Soho in 2003, Keigwin has created dozens of dances for company’s such as Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, Royal new Zealand Ballet, The Martha Graham Dance Company, New York Choreographic Institute, The Juilliard School and many others. His work in musical theatre includes choreography for the 2011 production of “Tales of the City” at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and the off-Broadway production of “Rent,” for which he received the 2011 Joe A. Callaway Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation. In 2013, Keigwin choreographed the Broadway musical “If/Then,” starring Idina Menzel. 

We sat down with Larry Keigwin to discuss his background, body of work, and the specific goals he’s bringing with him to Broadway Dance Lab.

BDL: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get started in the dance world?

LK: I was the gotta dance kid. I was always moving. My earliest dance memory is dancing on my front lawn with abandon, performing choreographed routines for any passing cars. Fast-forward ten years later to high school, I became obsessed with the “Club MTV,” a dance show on the channel during the time when it used to play music videos. When I heard they were holding auditions, I took the LIRR, auditioned and got that gig, my first paying dance job! Shortly after that, I made my stage debut during a high school production of My Fair Lady. When I landed flat on my back during an unfortunate, overly-eager hitch kick, it was clear I needed to start training. I ended up attending Hofstra University, danced for several modern dance companies, as well as on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera and now I am a choreographer.

BDL: That brings me to my next question, what was the transition from performer to dancer like?

LK: It was actually rather seamless, with a natural progression. I was working for a choreographer who encouraged me to create my own work and I did. When I began sharing my work, I was surprised by how many people came out to support me. It was the support from others that gave me the confidence to keep creating. I would say it was also an overlap, I continue to dance while also choreographing.

BDL: What skill sets do you feel are necessary to be a successful choreographer?

LK: Observant, playful, flexible, patient, musical, organized, and curious.

BDL: You obviously have extensive experience in the world of concert dance. But you’ve also done some crossover work in the world of commercial theatre. What are some of the differences you find working in those two fields?

LK: I think one of the things that changes is the story. Concert dance can be very abstract, while creating for the theatre usually involves a story line. The focus becomes the character and their journey. Regardless, I like to keep my process the same. The dancers are the inspiration and the music drives me. I choreograph because it brings me closer to dance and therefore closer to our community. I’ve always enjoyed putting things together. A puzzle. I often give the analogy of being a dress maker. The dancers are creating the fabric, the color and the texture. It’s my job to edit and help it all come together.

BDL: What interested you in working with Broadway Dance Lab?

LK: I am currently very interested in seeing how I can build a dance narrative using my abstract process, while featuring the fierceness of theatrical dancers. I am ready to tell a story through dance, a story that is about the dancers.

BDL: What specific goals are you bringing with you for your BDL residency?

LK: I am looking forward to creating a dance about the inner lives of the dancers told through the framework of a costume quick change.


Aug
14

Q&A with choreographer LORIN LATARRO

Lorin LatarroLORIN LATARRO choreographed Broadway’s Waitress, Waiting For Godot with Sirs’ Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, Curious Incident of the Dog…(Associate), Queen Of The Night (Drama Desk Award), The Public’s Twelfth Night and Odyssey at The Delacorte, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 21 Chump Street and Peter and The Wolf at BAM, Encore’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and Fanny, Best Yet To Come (Drama Desk Award), Broadway’s American Idiot (Associate), Beaches-Drury Lane, Kiss Me Kate-Barrington, The Met’s Rigoletto (Assoc). Lorin is a Bucks County Playhouse Artistic Associate: Company, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Buddy, Rocky Horror, Taste of Things To Come (Director). Performed in fourteen Broadway shows, danced with Twyla Tharp, Momix, Robert Wilson, Graham. Lorin is a graduate/adjunct professor at The Juilliard School and founder of artammo.org, Artists Against Gun Violence. Upcoming: La Traviata at The Met Opera. LorinLatarro.com

We recently sat down with Lorin to discuss her training background, impressive Broadway career and the goals she’s bringing with her for her residency with Broadway Dance Lab.

BDL: Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you enter the world of dance?

LL: I grew up dancing in New York City and auditioned and was accepted into The Juilliard School. That’s when my life changed; dance and choreography wholly became my focus.

BDL: Can you speak a bit more about your transitioning into choreography? What was that evolution like?

LL: I was choreographing since I can remember. In college, Juilliard had opportunities like taking composition classes and Bessie Schoenberg, for whom the Bessie award is named after. We also go to work on high profile creative projects with Lincoln Center and opera and Shakespeare plays on top of dance choreography. I performed in many companies and Broadway shows, but ultimately always knew my love of creating would supersede performing. The transition was metamorphic and cathartic in many ways. I assisted many great artists along the way to both supplement my income and continue to learn.

BDL: What skill sets do you feel are necessary to be a successful choreographer?

LL: A combination of textual and kinetic skills are necessary. You have to tell the story at every given moment, while lifting the text off the page to a larger, visceral event. It is a position of artistic service – serving the story, serving the director, serving the actors and dancers and serving and nurturing your own creative impulses amongst all the diverse needs of the show.

BDL: You’ve worked in the worlds of concert dance AND theatre, what are some of the differences you find working in those different fields?

LL: Personally, I am always interested in telling a story. In concert dance, it is lovely to have dance be the center of the storytelling, instead of the periphery or background, but the worlds are continuing to merge and dance is an agnostic language that everyone can understand.

BDL: What interested you in working with BDL?

LL: BDL is affording me the opportunity to try out some ideas on paid dancers that have been swimming around in my head for a while now. Choreographing is an expensive endeavor. Studio rental and dancers cost money and liability.

BDL: What are some challenges you face as a choreographer that people may not be aware of?

LL: Choreographers unfortunately tend to be the last creative artists brought on to a project. How can you have deep choreography that works on many levels and finds things off the page, and lifts the entire show, if it is only given the last four weeks of a usually very long process of writing the piece? If choreographers were invited to early writing meetings, theatre would be more progressive in how the storytelling is accomplished instead of the more traditional – come in and paint on the dances six weeks before audiences are invited.

BDL: What specific goals are you bringing with you for your residency with us?

LL: I am interested in creating an evening length danced piece of theatre. I have a story I desperately want to tell and thanks to BDL’s generosity, I’ll be able to physicalize some of ideas and see if they stick.

 

 


Aug
12

VIEWPOINTS with Kory Geller

Kory Geller Headshot-1Our Viewpoints series allows you to hear directly from our dancers as they speak about their training, the rehearsal process, and the experience of working with Broadway Dance Lab. 

Kory Geller is thrilled and honored to return to BDL, having taken part in Cycles 2 and 3. Born and raised in Yardley, PA, he trained at Spirit in Motion Ballet Theatre, Princeton Ballet School, Luigi Jazz Centre, American Ballet Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Broadway Theatre Project. A graduate of NYC Tisch School of the Arts (CAP21), Kory has also danced with The Chase Brock Experience, and at the Guggenheim, Symphony Space, 92nd Street Y, Judson Memorial Church, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Theatrical credits include The Music Man (Flat Rock Playhouse), Mary Poppins, Joseph… (Ogunquit Playhouse), and A Christmas Carol (McCarter Theatre). Kory also loves to share his passion for dance, and has taught at CAP21, Rider University, and McCarter Theatre, as well as coaching students privately.

BDL: Can you tell me about your training and dance career thus far?

KG: After seeing Footloose when I was 8, I started taking dance classes. I went to a studio where singing and acting training were also emphasized, so I immediately set my sights on theatre and Broadway. I then trained at various dance and theatre programs before ending up at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where I graduated with a BFA in Drama.

BDL: What interested you in working with BDL?

KG: I saw Parsons Dance Company perform at the Joyce in January 2014, and sat there thinking, “I want to dance in a company.” When I got home, I googled “dance company auditions,” and a posting for BDL came up. It was the perfect company! Theatre and dance combined in one package. I’ve done shows where numbers were shortened, even cut, and creatives said things like, “this will do,” or “we’ll fix that in the next production.” This was all because of lack of time, especially when it came to exploration. It’s the sad reality of our current creative climate. But it doesn’t have to be that way. BDL really changes all of that.

BDL: This is your third Cycle with BDL. What’s it been like to watch the company grow and expand?

KG: It’s crazy to think about just how much it has grown. My first time doing BDL was a four week Lab in which Josh was the only choreographer. Our first presentation was in a studio, and I remember Josh talking a lot about his dreams for the company and hopes for expansion. It’s really hard to establish and sustain company in the arts and few people succeed. It’s been incredible to be a part of BDL and see that everything Josh hoped for the company has been met (and surpassed!) The company is consistently growing and achieving what it strives for and I couldn’t be happier or prouder to be a part of it!

BDL: What has BDL given you as a dancer that you didn’t have before?

KG: So many things! In addition to getting to work with so many incredible choreographers, it has given me the chance to be in a company, something I always wanted but never thought I’d achieve.  Also, it have given me a sense of ownership and pride in my dancing and abilities. The choreographers ultimately want you to bring your ideas and strengths into the room and apply it to their work. Working with so many different people and different styles, I have learned how to be myself, trust what I can do, and then dive into new waters. It has been an invaluable experience.

BDL: What has it been like to watch choreographers of all different styles use the Lab?

KG: I constantly think to myself, ” This is so cool!” I have gotten to watch so many geniuses work. Everyone works differently, so each person uses the Lab differently, whether it is bringing in fully fleshed out ideas and finally being able to use bodies to express them, or having the start of and idea and beginning to shape it. Not to mention the different forms of work that have been developed, from concert dance pieces to musicals to movie sequences. It shows how endless BDL’s resources are! Also, it shows that no matter what you are creating, the need to play and explore is universal.