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Oct
09

VIEWPOINTS with Nick Palmquist

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Our Viewpoints series allows you to hear directly from our dancers as they blog about the process and experience of working withBroadway Dance Lab.

Nick Palmquist was most recently seen dancing with The Little Orchestra Society (Prince Charming) at Lincoln Center! Other New York Credits: American Dance Machine for the 21st Century at The Joyce Theatre, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Guggenheim’s 2014 Works & Process series, and The Astaire Awards (dancer).

I became really invested in the power of music theatre storytelling while attending Oklahoma City University, majoring in Dance Performance. I trained in all styles of dance and took several History of Dance/Music Theatre History classes. I remember learning about how stars were discovered in the ensemble or tracks were created for a certain performer because in the audition, the choreographer saw exactly in that person what they didn’t know they were looking for. I wrote several papers about famous choreographers and found one thing across the industry: for each legendary choreographer there was often a muse that personified his or her genre of dance storytelling.

I have absolutely no proof in saying this, but I think it got quite expensive and time consuming in the process of making a Broadway show to allow a choreographer the opportunity to find exactly the right vessel for each project. Instead we’ve asked them to create entire shows, every single step, and hope there is a dancer in the room that can fill the shoes of the dancer in their head. The training and expectations of music theatre dancers has changed and so has the process of creating a *need* for those dancers in storytelling.

Broadway Dance Lab has given me the opportunity to be one of twelve muses for six distinctly different choreographers. My favorite part of this company has been how many conversations it has created between a choreographer and his or her dancers. Because the ideas are mostly forming in the moment, there are also questions that inevitably mirror them. Fortunately for all parties, the point of this company can be to answer those questions!

I am very used to the way my body moves and what I can count on it for, so this has been a really cool opportunity for two things to happen. Either the way my body tells the choreographer’s story is exactly what they wanted or didn’t yet know they wanted and I get to feel like a gratified actor and dancer, or they discover that my body can’t tell the story correctly unless I do something consciously to fix it; and because they have identified, from an idea, what my dancing isn’t yet saying, I have a much more important understanding of why I’m dancing at all! We haven’t even had mirrors in the rooms we’re dancing in, so I am relying almost solely on the way a choreographer is describing what movement he or she wants to use in telling a story. It has forced me to dance in unfamiliar, deliberate ways and I’m learning things I would have no similar opportunity to learn. Likewise, I have also watched the choreographers learn, from one hour of rehearsing in an uninhibited space, what is going to be the most effective and efficient way of using dance to tell a story over word or song.

I have only ever dreamed of dancing in New York City. I never really got more specific than that and I am so grateful I am dancing for this company, with these people, in this city.

-Nick


Oct
03

VIEWPOINTS with Courtney Kristen Liu

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Our Viewpoints series allows you to hear directly from our dancers as they blog about the process and experience of working with Broadway Dance Lab.

Courtney Kristen Liu can currently be seen in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera. Additional NYC credits include Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Ensemble, Ballerina Bear) and Queen of the Night. Courtney has danced professionally with Cincinnati Ballet and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Duke University where she earned her BA in Psychology and Business.

Imagine you are in High School and your English teacher gives you an assignment: you must write a 30- page paper about Hamlet. The paper must appeal to a wide range of readers. It must have a sufficient amount of “wow” sentences without seeming too corny or wordy. You will only have access to pens and paper for seven hours a day for two weeks. Your English teacher and their various colleagues will stand over your shoulder and give feedback at various times. The paper will be read aloud to 1,000 people at the end of the two weeks and your talent will be evaluated.

This is essentially the job of the choreographer. And it is terrifying.

The Broadway Dance Lab is an organization that supports choreographers in this journey by providing pens and paper and giving them an “teacher free” library to write their drafts.

As a dancer it has been a completely new experience to work with choreographers in a space free of judgment and deadlines. Normally I walk into rehearsal and the choreographer starts throwing out sequences of steps. We work in a linear fashion because it feels more efficient and the progress is easy to track. If a choreographer is unhappy with a section they may ignore it and move forward for fear of running out of time.

At BDL choreographers are free to work in circular patterns or with no roadmap at all! They allow themselves to be inspired by the artists and energy in their immediate environment rather than creating phrases in their living room and hoping the ideas translate to a group of bodies in a larger space. Sometimes we will work on a single phrase for an hour to really find the perfect way to tell the story.

As one of the living and breathing pens working for BDL this cycle, the process has been a lot of writing and crossing out, of starting at the end and moving to the beginning and then to the “third drum set section”, and of sinking into unknown territory. As dancers we must let go of knowing… knowing where the process will lead, knowing if the steps we love will make it into the final piece, and even knowing what shoes to wear!

The unknowns are countless but I am certain of one thing… by pushing ourselves to work differently, we are slowly emerging as better choreographers and dancers. And after eight weeks we will be in a better place to tackle that 30- page Hamlet paper in the normal time and process constraints of the dance.

-Courtney


Oct
01

STEP BY STEP with Geoffrey Goldberg

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As a performer, Geoffrey has worked on Broadway with Mary Poppins, and on National Tours including Mary Poppins (First National), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (First National), and 42nd Street (Asia). 

As a Director & Choreographer, Geoffrey has worked on Broadway (Associate Kids Director with Mary Poppins), internationally (Assistant Director of the Mexico City Spanish-language production of Mary Poppins), regionally (Mary Poppins, Alluvion Stage, Playhouse on the Square), and at festivals (NYMF, Fringe, TADA!), University productions (At The Chelsea, Footloose, at CAP21 Conservatory), and on readings throughout NYC.

We asked Geoffrey a few questions about his background, his work and the goals he has for his residency with BDL. 

BDL: Tell us a bit about your background and how you started choreographing.

Geoffrey Goldberg: I had taught dance classes and choreographed routines there since I was a teenager, but it wasn’t until I became Dance Captain of Mary Poppins on Broadway that I considered a career as a Director and Choreographer. After that show, I went full steam ahead, choreographing festival and university productions in NYC, to large scale productions regionally around the country. It’s been a lot of fun, and a huge learning curve!

BDL: What was it that made you want to become a choreographer?

GG: I love storytelling. I have always been a writer, in addition to a dancer, and see movement and choreography as another means of telling a story. And the reward of telling that story with no words, with only bodies, emotions, relationships, moments, and movements is so great – and the discovery of how to tell that story is even greater!

BDL: Are you coming to Cycle 3 with any specific goals in mind?

GG: I have done a lot of choreography with tap, and I am looking forward to choreographing more traditional musical theater style, as well as with some more ensemble-based contemporary movement. I have a few new pieces I’d like to explore, as well as some potentially crazy and fun ideas to toss in there, too!

BDL: How does your process in the studio generally unfold? Do you start with the music or an idea or simply let yourself be inspired by the dancers?

GG: I usually start with the music, which leads me to an idea. I’ll listen to the music countless times until I feel like I understand each nook and cranny, and eventually images and moves and stories come out. When I am in the studio, it is simply a matter of relaying those ideas to the dancers, to the team, and that might be done through conversation, movement, or some other sort of exercise. I feel like I develop my way of choreographing each time I choreograph.

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

GG: Classic, quirky and strong.

BDL: What’s next for you after BDL?

GG: I am off to Philadelphia to Direct and Choreograph a production of Billy Elliot at the Media Theater! I absolutely love this show, and cannot wait to work on this production, which will be my second production of Billy Elliot this year!

BDL: Why do you think programs like BDL are important?

GG: I am so looking forward to the workshop – I feel like it is a much-needed space in our industry to explore and discover and try out ideas without the pressure or timeline of production. I am also looking forward to challenging myself to be driven by the process, and not the product, as is many times the case.


Sep
30

VIEWPOINTS with Kory Geller

Kory_Geller_HS_1_thumb-0Our VIEWPOINTS series let’s you hear directly from our dancers as they blog about the process and experience of working with Broadway Dance Lab. First up, KORY GELLER.  Kory earned his B.F.A in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (CAP21). Theatrical credits include Mary Poppins (Ogunquit Playhouse), A Christmas Carol (McCarter Theatre) and A Chorus Line (Fulton Theatre). 

And we’re off! After a month of excitedly telling people that I would soon be starting “this cool dance company called Broadway Dance Lab” the day has finally arrived! Being a part of BDL is such an honor, and extremely rewarding to my dancer self. To be in a room each day where I get to create and express myself through movement satisfies my artistic appetite like nothing else! And it is so fulfilling to be surrounded by people who feel the same way. Not only are the other dancers incredibly talented, they are equally excited about this process. We are already one big, happy, SWEATY family.

I have been fortunate enough to work with Josh Prince before in BDL Cycle 2, so I feel very lucky to be back in the room with him. It is nice to collaborate with someone whose style and process are familiar. I feel comfortable with and attune to his creative wave lengths.

The most liberating thing about BDL is that there is no right answer, no specific thing that MUST be created. We have the liberty to take an hour to work on one count of eight, which may or may not end up ultimately leading anywhere. For me, this process is never tedious, but rather a chance to explore multiple options and discover what works best.

Even thought it’s only been one week, it feels like all of us have been creating together forever. There were no first day jitters, no shyness, and we certainly didn’t start slow or small. We dove into the work right away. I love this as it doesn’t leave room for any trepidation. We go for it no matter what the task is. In addition to working with Josh, we have worked with the wonderful Geoffrey Goldberg and we have many more exciting residencies still to come. All of us dancers thrive on being the vessels for different choreographers to investigate and express their ideas and we all love diving into different styles. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship that occurs in the room between the dancers and choreographers.

Now that I’ve gushed about how amazing this experience is, let me be clear that it is not all fun and games. It definitely has its challenges. It is physically demanding, there is difficulty in retaining the steps and counts, and sometimes it is hard to fully understand the choreographer’s full vision. But that’s why we’re in the room: to challenge ourselves! Sure, we may not know what the outcome will be, but predictability can be boring. And one thing BDL is NOT is boring. So we jump into the unknown and as long as we plie when we land, we can achieve our goals.

Gotta go dance!

-Kory

 


Sep
22

JOSH’S JOURNAL

Josh and Cycle 3 CompanySometimes all one needs in life is to get to the starting line. And yesterday that’s exactly what I did.  After a year and a half of planning and fundraising and meetings and scheduling and emailing and the like, I finally stood in a big, open room with 12 talented dancers ready to create exciting new dances.   I breathed it in.   It is always a momentous occasion that is in no way lost on me.  Just thinking about all that it takes to get to the point where I can even begin the work reminds me why I work so tirelessly to bring BDL into existence. As I explained to the diverse company of dancers anxious to get their bodies moving in space, I have not created in this way since the last time I did BDL, which was March of 2014.  You would think that the floodgates of creativity would burst open and waves of movement generation would break the dam. Instead, I was met with heaping amounts of internal dialogue:  “How on earth will I begin?  What do I really want to work on?  How do I do this again??  Will this idea I have in my head even work?  Will I like it?  Will anyone else like it?  Does the idea dance??  Why am I not moving faster?  What the hell am I doing??”   The list went on and on and on.  It felt like I was riding a rusty old, vintage bicycle with only 2 working gears.  But at least I was pedaling.  I may not have been “in the zone” but at least I was in the game.  Reminds me of the great saying from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming!”  It’s times like this when one realizes that creative work takes faith and perseverance and the willingness to just keep at it.  And often the “work” lies in standing before a group of people who are staring at you and saying to them, “I have no earthly idea what I’m doing, what I’m about to do, what I want, or what I don’t want.  I’m stuck and I will likely need your help getting unstuck.”  But that’s collaboration after all, isn’t it?  And I firmly believe that sitting in the muck, the darkness, is just as important as sprinting towards the light.  And that there needs to be a place to go where failure is, in fact, an option.  As Stephen McCranie so eloquently put it: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”   By the end of the day, we had spent a good hour working on one small phrase of movement that never quite landed the way I wanted it to.  It may very well be the wrong idea entirely.  I half-heartedly proclaimed my “epic fail” to the dancers right before we left and without missing a beat one of the dancers, Jenny Holahan, (pronounced Hoo-la-han) said, “That’s what we’re here for!”  It makes me well up just thinking about it because that’s what I have worked so tirelessly these past three years to create and sustain.  A place were we can all fail big, fail often, and fail boldly…as long as we just keep swimming.

 


Sep
22

STEP BY STEP with Karen Sieber

Karen Sieber photo credit: Peter Hurley

Karen Sieber
photo credit: Peter Hurley

Born in Switzerland, Karen began her career with Zurich Dance Theatre (CH); London Studio Center (UK) and Matt Mattox’s JazzArt (France) before coming to New York City. She enjoyed a successful dance and acting career in both the US and Europe before starting to choreograph.

We asked Karen a few questions about her background, her work and the goals she has for her upcoming residency with BDL.

BDL: Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you start dancing?

KS: Up until the age of 12, I trained in Switzerland as a professional ice skater. My routines were theatrical in style and it became clear to my parents that I had a love for the theatre. Both my parents had backgrounds in business but they gave their support and it fueled my desire to express myself through theatre and dance. I was fortunate to have a professional career across Europe and U.S as well as working as an actress on stage, film and TV.

BDL: How did your transition into choreography happen?

KS: When I was performing, I had great opportunities to dance captain and assist choreographers which gave me insight into the process of making dance. I’m the kind of person who’s always looking for a challenge and I find it very challenging to create from nothing; to find the inspiration to even begin. I’m always looking for the deeper story, the meaning behind the dance and the truth that it reveals. I love being able to shape how the story is told and I love collaborating with other creative minds.

BDL: Are you coming to BDL with any specific goals for what you would like to accomplish?

KS: Yes. I am hoping to begin developing an appropriate “physical language” for a new musical I’m working on. I would like to play with some of the themes of the show and begin to see how they might be expressed through movement. It’s going to be an incredible opportunity for me and I’m so grateful.

BDL: How does your choreographic process generally unfold?

KS: Story is key for me. I like to do extensive research on everything related to the piece, be it history, period, style, the way people move or speak, any newspaper articles I can find, or really anything I can find. Then I go to the music and try to let it all go, almost as if I’m handing things over to the creative instinct. The final piece of the puzzle is, of course, the dancers. They influence everything and once I step into the studio with them, a lot of things I thought I knew about the piece begin to change.

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

KS: That’s tough. It really depends on the show I’m working on and the style it calls for. But raw, athletic and elegant are qualities that I value in a dance and dancers.

BDL: What’s next for you after BDL?

KS: I’m currently putting together a presentation of my work to be shown in NYC. I’ll also be working on a workshop of the new musical, Lighthouse, in the spring of 2016.


Sep
15

BDL WELCOMES ANDY BLANKENBUEHLER!

Broadway Dance Lab is honored to announce that Andy Blankenbuehler, the Tony Award winning choreographer of this year’s smash hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, will be joining our roster for Cycle 3!

Andy Blankenhuehler

Andy Blankenhuehler

Mr. Blankenbuehler won the 2008 Tony Award for his choreography in the Tony Award-winning Best Musical In The Heights (also Lortel, Calloway, Outer Critics and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography). Other Broadway credits include the new musical Bring It On (Tony nomination for Best Choreography and Drama Desk nomination for Best Director), 9 To 5 (Tony nomination), The People In The Picture, The Apple Tree, and the recent revival of Annie. Other theatrical work includes the world premiere of the new musical FLY (Dallas Theatre Center), The Wiz (City Center Encores), Desperately Seeking Susan (West End), A Little Princess (Andrew Lippa), and the current national tour of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His choreography can be seen in the new musical Hamilton at the Public Theatre, opening on Broadway this summer. Upcoming projects include Bandstand at the Paper Mill Playhouse, as well as Only Gold with British singer/songwriter Kate Nash.

Mr. Blankenbuehler has staged concert work for both Elton John and Bette Midler, and he conceived, directed and choreographed the hit Caesars Palace production Nights On Broadway. On television, his work has been seen on America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, the Sopranos, MTV, Sesame Street as well as many national commercials.

As a performer, Mr. Blankenbuehler has danced on Broadway in Fosse, Contact, Man of La Mancha, Saturday Night Fever, Steel Pier, Big and Guys and Dolls. He has toured the US and internationally with West Side Story and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Music of the Night. He teaches across the country with the New York City Dance Alliance. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr. Blankenbuehler resides in New York City, with his wife Elly and two children, Luca and Sofia.

 


Jul
04

INTRODUCING: KAREN SIEBER

Broadway Dance Lab is thrilled to welcome Karen Sieber to Lab Cycle 3.  Karen approached BDL asking us for help finding space and dancers with which to create.  We are excited to be able to offer her that very thing.

Karen Sieber photo credit: Peter Hurley

Karen Sieber
photo credit: Peter Hurley

Born in Switzerland, Karen began her career with Zurich Dance Theatre (CH); London Studio Center (UK) and Matt Mattox’s JazzArt (France) before coming to New York City.  She enjoyed a successful dance and acting career in both the US and Europe before starting to choreograph.

Karen is the Resident Choreographer for A2K Productions, LLC(www.a2kproductions.com), a New York City based theater production company with a division for film and television.  A2K Productions specializes in creating works that cross over into various genres and uses theatre as a platform for current debates or issues that are not openly debated. The company is developing the soulful pop rock musical, Lighthouse, which Karen is choreographing and helped co-create.

Karen is the Associate Choreographer on All That Glitters, the new Liberace Musical, which finished a Broadway workshop in NYC and is slated for an out of town try-out in San Francisco and, most recently, she was commissioned to choreograph a Gershwin Ballet, Passage, for the European dance company Weave Dance Collective.

In New York City, Karen also served as choreographer on the original Off-Broadway children’s musical Quiet Clock, The Musical; Zarra, Unmasked At Last (37 Arts-starring Chita Rivera, Assoc.); and Broadway’s 27th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition (Minskoff Theatre, Assoc.). Film and regional credits include the Hallmark Entertainment film A Christmas Carol: The Musical, which starred Kelsey Grammer (Asst.); Goodspeed Musical’s Very Good Eddie (Asst.); the world premiere of TUTS’ Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (Asst.); and Nice Work If You Can Get It, Cabaret, Les Miserables, Guys and Dolls, Spamalot, and Legally Blonde at Weathervane Playhouse.

Karen also worked with Broadway choreographer Dan Siretta on the re-development of the First National Tour of Some Like It Hot, starring Tony Curtis; and has provided choreography for numerous stage and film industrials in the US and Europe.

Find out more about Karen by visiting www.karensieber.com


Jul
04

INTRODUCING: GEOFFREY GOLDBERG

Broadway Dance Lab is proud to introduce you to Geoffrey Goldberg, an up-and-comer who was looking for a place to test his dance-driven stories.  Then he found us. We are happy to be a home for his creative process this fall!

Geoffrey Goldberg photo credit: Billy Bustamante

Geoffrey Goldberg
photo credit: Billy Bustamante

Geoffrey Goldberg is a Director, Choreographer, Writer, and Performer, having worked on Mary Poppins on Broadway, off-Broadway, regionally, and around the globe. Geoffrey was an Associate Director and Dance Captain with Mary Poppins on Broadway, and the 1st National Tour, as well as Assistant Director for the production in Mexico.  He recently directed two new productions of the musical around the country (Alluvion Stage, VA; Playhouse on the Square, TN). In New York City he has directed and choreographed numerous shows including Bradley Cole NYFringe); , Everyday (West Village Musical Theater Festival – Awards for Best Director, Best Musical); At The Chelsea (CAP21); Grease (Manhattan JCC), and A Year On The Road (Washington DC, Writer/Director). His choreography has been showcased at BC Beat and on film in “A Tap Dance On The Pier,” an official selection for the 2015 Dance On Camera Festival.

Geoffrey has also performed on Broadway (Mary Poppins), on National and International Tours (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 42nd STREET), and regionally.  He is a lyricist in the BMI Workshop and winner of BMI’s Jane Banks award.  He has had his music and shows performed in cabarets and performances across the country including: West Village Musical Theater Festival (Everyday; Winner, Best Original Lyrics, Best Musical); Kennedy Center Millennium Stage (A Year On The Road) and on the Broadway New Amsterdam Stage (Gypsy of the Year). He is currently working on directing and choreographing two new regional productions of Billy Elliott, as well as a brand new movie musical being released this year!

Geoffrey teaches tap and theater dance at Mark Morris, CAP21, and STEPS.  To find out more about him, visit www.geoffrey-goldberg.com


Jun
25

ANNOUNCING MARCELO GOMES!

Broadway Dance Lab is thrilled to welcome the incomparable Marcelo Gomes to our roster of choreographers joining us in the lab this season.   We are honored that this superstar of the ballet world supports BDL’s mission to “reach across the aisle” and invite choreographers of all backgrounds to explore the Broadway idiom.

Marcelo Gomes Photo by: Jade Young

Marcelo Gomes
Photo by: Jade Young

Marcelo Gomes is one of classical ballet’s most sought-after male dancers. A native of Brazil, Mr. Gomes joined American Ballet Theatre in 1997 and was promoted to soloist in 2000 and principal dancer in 2002. He has performed in every full-length ballet in the company’s repertoire, and has worked with and/or created leading roles for virtually every major choreographer in the last 18 years including George Balanchine, Mikhail Fokine, Anthony Tudor, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Jerome Robbins, Sir Frederick Ashton, John Cranko, and Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp, John Neumeier, William Forsythe, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Jiri Kylian, Lar Lubovitch, James Kudelka, Nacho Duato, Jorma Elo, Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, Matthew Bourne and Alexei Ratmansky.

Mr. Gomes’ performances have been seen throughout the world. In addition to his touring with ABT, he has appeared at many international dance festivals, and has been a guest artist with the Bolshoi Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, The Royal Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Teatro Colon, Mikhailovsky Ballet, Universal Ballet, Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, and New York City Ballet.  He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Hope Prize at the Prix de Lausanne, a Bessie Award, and the Pris Benois de la Dance.

Marcelo Gomes Photo by:MIRA -American Ballet Theatre

Marcelo Gomes
Photo by:MIRA -American Ballet Theatre

Mr. Gomes has recently begun a successful choreographic career, and has created pieces for American Ballet Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, La Scala and Kings of the Dance. His ballet Apothéose, created for Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle, had its premiere on the opening night of American Ballet Theatre’s Metropolitan Opera House engagement in May 2013.  His newest work, AfterEffect, will enter the repertoire of ABT in October 2015 at the David H Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City.

In January 2015, The HARID Conservatory initiated the Marcelo Gomes Scholarship Program, which provides invaluable assistance to gifted young male dance students.

Find out even more about Marcelo Gomes by visiting www.marcelogomes.co