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May
23

Choreographer Spotlight with Artistic Director JOSH PRINCE

We sat down with BDL founder and artistic director JOSH PRINCE to find out more about his background and his reasons for wanting to start the company. A transcript of that conversation is below.

BDL: At a point in your career where you were really taking off as a Broadway choreographer, what made you want to add Broadway Dance Lab to your to-do list?

JP: After I choreographed Shrek, The Musical for Broadway, the 1st National Tour, and London’s West End I wanted to flex my artistic muscles and try new ways of creating dance. All choreographers live with ideas that they wish to explore. We are inspired by music on our iPods, people we meet, books we read, art we see…the list is endless. After Shrek I looked around for a place to practice my craft and test new ideas and saw that there was no supportive environment in which to do that.  I tried making one new dance with friends who donated their time and that cost me $1000 on space rental alone. I remember always having an eye on the clock and battling strong self-judment when the idea didn’t really work that well. The spaces I worked in were small and it was nearly impossible to secure dancers for more that one full day.  This model seemed broken to me and the cost of exploration (and possible failure) seemed like an insurmountable deterrent for most of my colleagues in the field.  After all, would you take the bold risks necessary for growth if every time you went to do it it cost you a minimum of $1000? I wanted to solve this and challenge the unspoken double-standard that theatre dance makers are supposed to just wait for their next jobs that will dictate what they are allowed to explore artistically. Can you imagine if a composer could only touch the keys of a piano when an employer called? Or if an author could only put pen to paper when told what subject matter they were to explore? What would happen to the art form? This just seemed like a recipe for artistic atrophy and I set about changing it.

BDL: Can you talk about a specific project that you’ve developed through Broadway Dance Lab that might not have been possible otherwise? How has that piece gone on to have a life beyond the Lab?

JP: One of my favorite dances I’ve created is to the famous standard “Sing Sing Sing” by Louis Prima.  Bob Fosse famously choreographed this music for his Broadway show Dancin’ and I really wanted to explore it. The sad truth is, without BDL there simply would have been no safe place to test my own interpretation of this music.  Challenging my judgements of what this dance was “supposed” to look like and creating my own vision wholly separate of Bob Fosse’s was a painful and rewarding creative exercise that will serve me in my career forever.  In addition, as a Broadway choreographer people sometimes call me to present dance pieces of mine in festivals. Where, exactly, was I to create a dance festival piece if not for BDL?  Shrek, The Musical and Beautiful, The Carole King Musical are wonderful musicals. But there is no room for a “Sing Sing Sing” within that context.  Nor should there be.  The bottom line is that theatre choreographers should have a supportive place in which to create stand alone works of art. Works of their own imagining.  I am so proud to say this piece was premiered at The Guggenheim “Works And Process”, was recently seen at the Dance Against Cancer benefit for the American Cancer Society, and will likely be performed again at the Actor’s Fund benefit in New York City in November.

BDL: Can you tell us a little about The Trevor Project and its relationship to BDL?

JP: About a year ago, the producers of a wonderful new musical called Trevor approached me about choreographing.  Marc Bruni, the director of Beautiful, was attached and we were excited to collaborate again on this adaptation of the Academy Award Winning short film of the same name – a film that would later serve as inspiration for The Trevor Project.  The producers had only ever seen the show read at music stands in small rooms and asked me if BDL could help them explore what the movement vocabulary could look like. Of course, we did just that and it was an invaluable resource to the authors.  In July, we head to the prestigious Writer’s Theatre in Chicago where we will mount an out of town tryout of this gorgeous new musical.  Because of BDL’s involvement, the writers, director, and producers were all able to come together to gather important information on staging and even casting, dialogue about movement early on, and be inspired by the choreographic ideas that were presented.  It’s exciting to know that Broadway Dance Lab played a vital role in this musical’s early development.

BDL: What has the response to BDL been like from participating choreographers?

JP: Feedback from choreographers about their time in the Lab has been overwhelming.  Every choreographer who has worked in the Lab has validated the need for its existence. And when other established Broadway choreographers make the case for it, like Andy Blankenbuehler does in his video interview, it really emboldens me.  But I have to say one of the best emails I have received is from Lorin Latarro (Waitress).  She wrote: From the bottom of my heart, these hours with dancers have been incredible. I was so nervous because I walked in with little pre pro due to a very full work schedule…but this week gave me the gift of risking being courageous again, asking questions again, practicing process again.  It reminded me how much I love dance and dancers, and how many ways to spend eight counts there are in the universe. It has been a personal rediscovery of myself as a choreographer. Thank you for this incredible gift. I am eternally grateful.   I think this pretty much says it all.

BDL: There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the art of creating new musicals and new works of dance. What don’t people know and how does BDL play into that process?

JP: I think there’s a common misconception that choreographers make up dance in their heads and just walk in a room and teach it.  But the creation of dance requires community.  It’s pretty difficult to find a lot of master choreographers without also discovering their muses.  Great dancers are essential to great choreographers…and vice versa.  BDL offers choreographers a room full of muses who are there to help achieve the their grandest vision. We also offer choreographers large space in which to create. To create big dance, one needs big space. This is hard to come by in New York City.  BDL solves this for choreographers.  Now, the creation of new musicals is a process of constant, often years long writing and rewriting.  Unfortunately, the dance elements of the musical are too often tacked on to the tail end of this process, leaving very little time for true exploration, trial and error, problem solving, collaboration, and discovery of new ideas.  BDL provides a platform for collaborators to come together early in the process to get the conversation going about dance and how it can help story tell most effectively.

BDL: Where do you see BDL headed in the next 5-10 years? What’s your long term vision for the company?

JP: Think of BDL as a Tin Pan Alley for dance – a busy hub in which choreographers incubate their own ideas and nurture new creations with their collaborators. In 5-10 years we will be housed in our very own building that acts as a beehive of dance activity, gestating new ideas every single day.  This building will serve as a crossroads for choreographers of all backgrounds to interface with one another, be inspired by one another, and feel wholly supported by the New York theatre and dance communities. In a city like New York – the capital of the Arts world – Broadway Dance Lab deserves a spot to call home.  Dance makers deserve it and the theatre community deserves it.  And, most importantly, audiences deserve to be treated to fresh, new ideas that emerge only when creativity is properly nurtured.


May
17

Choreographer Spotlight with JEREMY MCQUEEN

JeremyWe sat down with BDL Spring 2017 Cycle choreographer JEREMY MCQUEEN to get to know a bit more about his background, process, and goals for working with us. Below is transcript of that conversation.

BDL: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you find your way into the world of dance?

JM: My mom took me to see the national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera when I was about 8 years old and from that moment I was hooked on all things related to the performing arts. She enrolled me in acting, singing and dance classes at San Diego Junior Theater, a local educational theater organization and from there my love for theater continued to grow.

My first job working professionally in theater was at age 15, at a local regional theater in San Diego. My first season I was cast in one production and my second season I was cast in three! I was so stoked to be onstage doing what I loved with such inspiring professionals, and also to have a little spending money to go shopping! I went on to study ballet in various summer programs with companies such as American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, and Alonzo King’s LINES ballet before obtaining my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance through a program with The Ailey School and Fordham University in 2008. From there, I threw myself back into the world of theater and have been so blessed to have been able to dance on stages across the country and in New York in a number of Broadway tours and regional theater productions. And over the last few years I’ve been spending a lot more time offstage focusing more on developing and nurturing my choreographic voice. I also established The Black Iris Project which is a ballet collaborative that brings professional, Black ballet dancers together to create to new original ballets that are rooted in Black history and/or the Black experience. We just presented one of our new ballets about Nelson Mandela’s life, entitled MADIBA, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in D.C.

BDL: What led you to start choreographing and what was that transition like?

JM: I have always relished the opportunity to express myself through movement, though there’s always been an extra special interest of mine in creating my own works of art. After seeing Phantom, I distinctly remember going to Sam Goody and buying tons of Broadway soundtracks, including the one I had just seen live, and I would go home and start to create my own routines to my favorite musical numbers in my bedroom. It was what I did for fun. While other kids were out learning how to ride bikes, I was either dancing, singing, acting, researching, or all the above.

To be honest, the transition from performer to choreographer, in the last two years especially, has been challenging. As a choreographer and artistic director of a collaborative, there are so many responsibilities. Making dances is the fun, creative part, but the business aspects of putting yourself out there, fundraising, scheduling, marketing, and budgeting, is all very demanding and time consuming. On top of that I also teach dance. So dancing or performing myself, or even just going to take dance class, was forced to take a backseat for a bit because I have had so many business demands to support my career as a choreographer.

I’ve made a ton of sacrifices, but to be able to see my own voice and vision come to life onstage has been tremendously fulfilling and I have no regrets about the sacrifices. I still can shake a tail feather, though, and am looking forward to making a few cameos onstage soon!

BDL: Can you list three words you think describe your choreographic style?

JM: Versatile, athletic, and musical.

BDL: Can you talk a bit about the difference in choreographing for concert dance versus theatre?

JM: Choreographing a musical is different in that there is a spoken and sung narrative that leads the storytelling, and choreography helps bring the atmosphere or energies of the plotted environment to life. In concert dance it’s different in that we often use only our physicality to convey the emotions, plot, concept or feelings across to audience. So when I’m creating work for a musical I try to really dig deep into the actual words that are being spoken and sung. I think a lot about how the choreography I create can enhance and amplify those words and lyrics and not necessarily pull focus in a way that takes us away from the story. It’s easy to hear a catchy tune and want to just create something flashy to it. But I prefer to dig deeper and really say to myself “ok, how does this particular step or set of movements that I’m creating help carry the musical story forward?”

I work in a similar fashion in concert dance though I have a bit more wiggle room because the ballets I create generally have a plot and are some times based on factual events. I can use a lot more abstraction with how I put together the overall story arc – what the story is and what I want to highlight. In concert dance the dance takes center stage. And it’s not quite that way in theater. There’s a lot more to consider.

BDL: What interested you in working with BDL? Are you coming to the project with any specific goals in mind?

JM: The opportunity to explore with so many wonderfully talented dancers without the pressure to present a completed premiere is what really sparked my interest. As I mentioned before, we grow by really pushing ourselves. These moments that I have had to choreograph with a deadline forces you to learn, but there’s also something really wonderful about just having time to play and explore for fun.

BDL also didn’t tell me I had to do traditional “theater dance,” and I think that’s very progressive of them. Broadway is evolving so much these days and we are seeing a lot more on Broadway stages aside from just jazz and tap. The demands on dancers nowadays to be versatile is extraordinary. It’s exciting to me that we are evolving as a field because it means we are inviting more diverse stories to be told and attracting new audiences.

In terms of my goals, I want to focus on developing one musical number from one classic Broadway show for the whole week. Professionally I have choreographed only one complete musical and that was a regional production of HAIR a few years ago. I want to do more of the older classics on a professional level, so I figured now is a really great time to explore and work on that.

BDL: Tell us a bit about your process. How do you begin?

JM: When making work for concert dance, I’m generally sparked by a story that I’m eager to share or create. My work is very socially conscious, so I often draw from my own personal experiences or something that I have observed or have an interest in. From there I create a general outline for the story of the bullet points. Next I try to find appropriate music that helps me bring that story to life. This is often the challenging part, trying to find the perfect piece of music that inspires me and matches my idea/concept.

When actually creating the ballets structure I think a lot about how I want the audience to feel or what I want them to know at the end of the ballet. And then I try to work my way backwards so that the movement I create builds up to the climax. Then there are other times, especially if I don’t have such a hard deadline for a premiere, when I walk into the studio with dancers, with a few pieces of music I like, and we talk about what’s going on in our lives and in the world at that moment and start play around with movement.

BDL: Can you name three choreographers you admire and tell us why?

JM: That’s a tough question! There are so many choreographers that I admire. I think Christopher Wheeldon is brilliant with telling stories through movement. The way he transitions from one scene to the next and how the bodies move through the space feels so natural and fluid. I’m also always impressed by the versatility of his works. Every Wheeldon ballet I’ve seen feels fresh – like a new experience. You never really know what you’re gonna get with him, but it’s sure to be a great experience.

I like Rob Ashford, because he dances! I’ve never worked with him, but the guy gets his dancers dancing! I love going to see Broadway shows that really utilize dance in an intelligent way, and I am often left leaving his show feeling like, “Wow, I want to dance THAT!”

And then there’s Susan Stroman. The way she uses physicality of movement to paint dynamic moving pictures of time periods and stories is so inspiring. My first job out of college was dancing in a production of her musical Contact. I’ve gone on to dance excerpts from the show for her at various galas, and she is always a joy to work. She’s always so sweet and professional, and has become someone that I really look up to. Dance is hard. It’s really wonderful to work with choreographers that make you feel respected and valued.


May
08

Choreographer Spotlight with WENDY SEYB

WendyHeadshotWe sat down with BDL Spring 2017 Cycle choreographer WENDY SEYB to get to know a bit more about her background, process, and goals for working with us. Below is transcript of that conversation.

BDL: Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did dancing come into your life?

WS: I remember my Mom asking me, “Do you want to try dance?” My memory of my answer was “of course!” I started when I was 4 years old at a strip mall competition school in rural/suburbia Minnesota.  I ate up whatever dance they threw at me. I even made my older sister, who was two levels above me, teach me her dances, much to her annoyance. Luckily, when I was 10, we moved closer to Minneapolis where I was able to switch to a more challenging school, Minnesota Dance Theatre. My love for ballet really began there as I started training and performing in their young company, working my way up to their professional company. In college I studied jazz and hip hop, then in NYC I jumped into the world of modern; then ended up in musical theater. So my training is eclectic, but my love for it began with ballet.

BDL: What led you to start choreographing and how did you make the transition from performer to choreographer?

WS: I started like most kids, creating dances on my friends in their basements. Then, as I got older, I was one of the few trained dancers in my school and the task of choreography fell to me for projects like Swing Choir or the school theater pieces. The idea of it being a job didn’t hit me until college, when the company I joined required all members to choreograph. After college, I moved to NYC to pursue a dance career but quickly realized choreography both satisfied and challenged me much more than performing. Once I made that leap, I never looked back. I began the long and wonderful journey of finding my style and voice as a choreographer.

BDL: What are three words that you feel describe your choreographic style?

WS: Story, comedy, and athletic.

BDL: Your resume is very diverse, including theatre, TV and film work. Can you talk a bit about the difference in choreographing for those different mediums?

WS: They all start the same for me. What story are we telling? Who are the characters, and what style of music are we using? For theater, story is the driving force, but in film and TV, it is mainly about steps and what looks amazing in the frame. Theater is a bit of a longer process spread out over the rehearsals, production, tech, and previews. TV and film, depending on how much movement/dance is needed, can happen in a matter of days.  As I started in film/TV, the fantastic challenge was not being confined to a proscenium.  Yes, you have a frame to build in, but the camera could be anywhere – on the ground just looking at the dancers feet, moving through and past them, even looking down from above. You have more control on what you want the audience to see. Maybe you want them to see a look or the flick of an arm. They might miss that in the back seat of a theater. As I begin to bring my work, Silent Dance Comedies, to film, I am delighted to see how many more choices I have to capture the dance. It is very exciting!

BDL: What interested you in working with BDL? Are you coming to the project with any specific goals in mind?

WS: I have had the pleasure of knowing Josh a long time, and I think it is a fantastic opportunity he has created for both the choreographer and the dancers.  Rarely do we get the chance to just play around and workshop a piece. Usually we are on a deadline and don’t have a lot of chances to try different choices. The project I am bringing in is a piece I workshopped four years ago in a ballet lab in California, which I plan to be the opening scene of my feature film. Having the chance to revisit it through the lens of it being a filmed piece is incredibly valuable for me, and I am so grateful BDL gives me the chance to do so with the amazing company they have picked!

BDL: Tell us a bit about your process. How do you begin?

WS: It starts with music usually. A song grabs me and I can smell a narrative in it. Then I walk around my neighborhood and listen to it endlessly until it finally reveals the story and characters.  Then we are off to the races!

BDL: Are there choreographers you look up to and admire?

WS: Agnes de Mille as she started the dream ballet concept with Oklahoma.  She also brought in company trained dancers instead of chorus girls, to give the dance more strength and character. That choice helped Oklahoma become the game changer is was for musical theater.

I love Gene Kelly for helping move the idea of dance as a narrative forward with the amazing dream ballets he had in his films.  I remember seeing Broadway Melody from Singing In The Rain and thought, “well why isn’t the whole film expressed like this?” He fought each time to have a dream ballet in his films as he knew the moviegoer was interested in it and wouldn’t get bored. Also, he helped bring dance to the people. It was for everyone, not just the elite. He was the everyman dancer, and showed that dance could be athletic.

And then, of course, Jerome Robbins helped to revolutionize dance as a main storytelling element, along with helping to further what Gene started by opening up the dream ballet to a longer form. He also showed men can be tough, sexy, and still be incredible dancers.


Apr
29

Choreographer Spotlight with RON TODOROWSKI

RonSquareWe sat down with BDL Spring 2017 Cycle choreographer RON TODOROWSKI to get to know a bit more about his background, process, and goals for working with us. Below is transcript of that conversation.

BDL: Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from originally? How did you start dancing and how did your transition into choreography occur?

RT: I’m from McDonald, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh. I took a summer program of gymnastics when I was eight years old and my teacher’s mother had a dance school. He suggested I take dance and acrobatics there because of my flexibility. My desire to choreograph didn’t come until much later in my career.

BDL: Tell us a bit about your first choreographic job. Is there any advice you would give that young, budding choreographer now? 

RT: My first professional choreographic job was assisting Mia Michaels on Celine Dion’s Las Vegas show. We had about 50 dancers and could pretty much do anything we wanted. It was overwhelming and tough, but life changing as well.  It was the first time I felt that perhaps I wanted to do choreograph. Mia really encouraged me. The first choreographic job I had was for Wayne State University. I created an eight minute piece without much rehearsal time. My advice now would be to focus on editing. Most of the time, less is more.

BDL: Name one choreographer you admire and tell us why.

RT: Twyla Tharp! Her overall artistry, experience, knowledge, intellect, versatility, work ethic…I could go on forever.

BDL: And you’ve spent quite a bit of time working with her. Tell us more about that experience.

RT: It’s been incredible. She allows an artist the space to find character using dance as the dialogue. Her process has absolutely influenced mine, but my vocabulary I would say is all over the map. I’ve been inspired by so many choreographers I’ve worked with.

BDL: Tell us more about your process now. How do you usually begin? 

RT: It really depends on the project, but I’d say most of the time, the music is where it begins. The ideas and other elements manifest from there.

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

RT: The opportunity to work with a company of versatile dancers with the space and time to work out ideas is extraordinary and any choreographer’s dream!

BDL: Do you have any specific goals for your BDL residency? Are there any ideas you know you want to explore or techniques you’d like to test?

RT: Yes! I’d like to work on an idea I’ve had for several years. My goal is to work on four songs by the same artist, introducing characters and exploring what the full show could be. I really want to stay in the present moment during rehearsal and create from there without hesitation.

BDL: What is it like working with a company of dancers you’ve never met before?

RT: I’ve actually danced with three of the company members before, so that’s exciting! As for the rest, I’m sure I will get to know them very quickly. Sometimes I start rehearsal with yoga and breathing to get connected, but most likely we’ll just dive right in!

 


Sep
30

Viewpoints with Mary Kate Hartung

jpatterson-224Our 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.

Mary Kate Hartung, a Wisconsin native, received her training from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and The Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance. Post University, she has had the pleasure of working with Twyla Tharp, David Dorfman Dance, Keigwin + Company, Bugge Ballet, BOINK Dance, Rosie Deangelo, Jacklyn Walsh, Broadway Asia, The Kuperman Brothers, and ChristinaNoel and The Creature, among others. Her own choreographic work has been performed both nationally and abroad. When not dancing, MK can be found teaching dance, tutoring English, history, and SAT, and meandering the streets in search of NYC’s hidden gems.

BDL: Can you tell us a bit about your dance training?

MKH: My training began at an “all inclusive” studio in Wisconsin. We did ballet, modern, jazz, tap, The Nutcracker, contemporary concerts, and competitions. I had a ton of opportunities there. Then I came to New York to study dance at Tisch NYU, with supplemental training in Salzburg, Austria. Since graduating, I’ve been working as a freelance artist, exploring opportunities in both concert dance and theatre.

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

MKH: I was initially interested in BDL because of the amazing lineup of choreographer for this Cycle. Once booked, and as it got closer to start time, I became equally excited about working with the incredible dancers who were going to be involved.

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

MKH: Process is my favorite part of dancing. I love being creative and lending my own artistic voice to the arena. It’s been so amazing having different processes each week. As dancers, we’ve really had to keep our brains turned on and tuned in to what each choreographer needs and wants. I can’t yet comprehend how many networking relationships I have made in the past two months. I imagine ripples of opportunity will continue to come to me through BDL for a very long time.

 

 


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.


Jun
13

Q&A with choreographer JEFFRY DENMAN

Jeffry DenmanThis summer, NYC-based choreographer JEFFRY DENMAN is partnering with BDL to workshop material for a new, dance-driven musical based on the harrowing true story of immigrants traveling from Independence, Missouri to California in the winter of 1846. Denman’s choreographic credits include Broadway workshops of YANK! and Spongebob The Musical; and Off-Broadway productions of YANK! (SDC Callaway, Lortel Noms), Naked Boys Singing, and Assistance and Bullet for Adolf. He is the founder and artistic director of The Denman Theatre & Dance Company.

We sat down with Jeffry after a rehearsal and got to know a bit more about his background, his goals for the workshop and what made him want to work with Broadway Dance Lab.

BDL: It’s such a pleasure to be working with you, Jeffry! Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where are you from originally and how did you get started as a dancer?

JD: I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. I didn’t really start dancing until high school when the Swing Choir choreographer at my school, Lynne Formato (currently a professor of Musical Theatre at Elon University) created a solo for me. Ever since then, I’ve been dancing. So, “thank you, Lynne!”

BDL: How did your transition into choreographic work evolve?

JD: I went to the University of Buffalo and as a musical theatre dancer, I had to take three full years of the other dance disciplines, plus partnering classes, choreography classes, etc. I loved choreographing, and started to choreograph my classmates’ midterms and finals. Then I started creating my own projects – ballets and musicals – that were produced in Buffalo.

BDL: What are three words that you would use to describe your choreographic style?

JD: I actually think other people would answer this better, so I’ll use words that directors and colleagues have used: “classic”, “athletic”, and “moving.” They are certainly qualities I strive to achieve.

BDL: Tell me more about the project you’ll be working on during your time with BDL. You’ve described it as being inspired by the movement rather than the text, can you explain that further?  

JD: The Donner Party Project has to do with the true story of a group of immigrants who traveled from Independence, Missouri to California in 1846. They ended up getting trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains, outside of Lake Tahoe, during one of the worst winters to ever hit the area. 87 people went into the mountains and only 42 came out. Most people had to resort to cannibalizing the dead in order to survive.

When the piece first began materializing, I was working with choreographer Liz Lerman. I told Liz about my ideas and that I wanted to depict potentially disturbing events through dance. She had done the same with a piece I worked on with her at La Jolla Playhouse, called Healing Wars. Within that piece, Liz had managed to depict PTSD, amputation, war and death in artful, haunting and beautiful ways. I loved the way the movement made the topic it was portraying incredibly poetic, without losing any emotional impact. I began to think I might be able to do a similar thing with the events surrounding the Donner Party story.

Liz encouraged me to “get right into the studio” and start to move. “Don’t worry about the text,” she said. “Just move.” And she was right! So now, as we continue to develop this project, my playwright, Joy Tomasko, and I are very conscious of making sure the movement is driving the work’s creation as opposed to the text. It’s also become the motto of the Denman Theatre & Dance Company. “First, we move.” Thank you, Liz!

BDL: That’s so wonderful! What made you want to contact BDL for this project?

JD: I’ve known and admired Josh for a long time, and had been keeping my eye on what he was doing with BDL. It seemed to me that this project would fit well within the company’s mission. It’s not a musical in the strictest definition of the term, but then neither was Susan Stroman’s Contact. So I reached out to Josh and he was very excited about the prospect for that very reason. He didn’t want to categorize the work, and was interested in the fact that it was being born out of movement. I’m so excited to be working with BDL on this!

BDL: What specific goals do you have for this residency period?

JD: We’re really hoping to take the movement we’ve already created and further develop it. We’ll also be introducing the new component of text into the work. I’m very excited to see how it all fits together. We’re also currently looking for a theatre or producing entity that might want to partner with us on the piece.

BDL: What’s next for your after you finish this residency?

JD: I currently have three additional projects that I’m interesting in developing. And I’m hoping the Denman Theatre & Dance Company can work with BDL again very soon!