Inside "Cats": Georgina Pazcoguin Becomes the White Cat
New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin is taking a leave from the company to dance a lead role in the revival of Cats on Broadway. She's no stranger to musical theater, as she's played a sizzling Anita in West Side Story Suite with NYCB, completed a short stint on Broadway as the irresistible Miss Turnstiles in On the Town, and performed with American Dance Machine in its collection of classic musical theater dance numbers. Her flair for the dramatic was captured in our cover story of June 2013. But for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, which is now in previews and opens July 31, she faces new challenges. I caught up with Pazcoguin by phone the week before previews started.
Your role is Victoria, the White Cat. Who is she?
She's the balletic cat, the super graceful cat. She represents innocence and purity, a symbol of what Grizabella, who is our heroine, longs for, a memory of her lost innocence. Victoria possesses this purity; she has her whole cat life ahead of her.
Pazcoguin as Victoria, photo by Ellenore Scott
What is the most fun about this production?
I'm having a blast not being a human! I love playing a feline. I've had my share of animals roles at NYCB. I usually play a very strong woman or an evil character like Carabosse, so it's nice for once to have a slow variation—no grand allegro. It's helping me explore a softer facet of my artistry and I'm loving it.
Gillian Lynne choreographed the original Cats in 1980. How does that work with the additional choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler?
Gillian Lynne's choreography is very much still there. Andy is incredible at drawing attention to new parts that you may not have seen before.
Is there some kind of audience involvement for people who sit up close?
We're all over the theater. No matter where you are sitting, there are cats that leave the stage.
What's the most challenging things about being in this show?
First, singing. It didn't hit me until we got to the theater how much I have bitten off. For me to sing practically a whole two-and-a-half-hour score, it's challenging and I'm hoping I'm rising to the occasion. Second, Andy's movement is very different. For the balletic sections, I'm a quick study; that's what NYCB has trained me do, to pick up choreography quickly. But it's been an adjustment to learn how to be more of a hip hop dancer and syncopate my movement.
Are you taking singing lessons?
I've been steadily working on my voice since about 2004, and this past year and a half I picked it up a notch; I have a great coach I see every other week. I do not know how to read a score; I learned to play the piano by ear. Now I feel like I'm playing catch-up a little bit.
How are you dealing with the raked stage?
Any weaknesses you have on flat ground, the rake only makes them more apparent. I've been focusing in on my core strength. The major elements of dance I'm okay with, but if I roll my head a certain way, I'll lose my balance.
What advice do you have for dancers trained in ballet who would like to do Broadway?
My advice to any dancer is to expose yourself to as many styles as you can. Don't just focus on one thing. And when you can, crosstrain and find different ways to move. I used to go to jazz or African class. If you're aiming for Broadway, you're going to have to sing. Don't limit yourself.
What's the role of dance on Broadway these days?
I think dance is coming back in a big way into musical theater. You can tell stories through dance. As a ballet dancer, I want to expose my art form to new eyes. Broadway is so accessible, but sometimes there's a feeling that, Oh the ballet is only for certain people.
What do you want the Cats audience to come away with?
We're playing cats but we're also going through emotions as people. If you think about what's happening in the world….This show is about acceptance; we hate Grizabella and turn away from her because she's different. But in the end, we all grow as cats and as people. We can all get along. We just need to open our eyes and see how we all fit together.
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What if there was a way to get your dancing in front of the likes of Desmond Richardson, d. Sabela grimes and Vincent Paterson all at once? Just in case you needed another excuse to break out your best moves this week, the Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival is back, and Richardson, grimes and Paterson are among this year's judges.
Dancers and non-dancers alike are invited to submit short dance films to the international online festival, with one caveat: The dancing has to take place in a public space.
The dancers file into an audition room. They are given a number and asked to wait for registration to finish before the audition starts. At the end of the room, behind a table and a computer (and probably a number of mobile devices), there I sit, doing audio tests and updating the audition schedule as the room fills up with candidates. The dancers, more nervous than they need to be, see me, typing, perhaps teasing my colleagues, almost certainly with a coffee cup at my side.
When we're talking about the history of black dancers in ballet, three names typically pop up: Raven Wilkinson at Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Janet Collins at New York's Metropolitan Opera and Arthur Mitchell at New York City Ballet.
But in the 1930s through 50s, there was a largely overlooked hot spot for black ballet dancers: Philadelphia. What was going on in that city that made it such an incubator? To answer that question, we caught up with Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet founder (and frequent Dance Magazine contributor) Theresa Ruth Howard, who yesterday released her latest project, a video series called And Still They Rose: The Legacy of Black Philadelphians in Ballet.
Janie Taylor didn't know if she'd ever return to the stage. But that's exactly where the former New York City Ballet principal has found herself: Nearly three years after retiring, she is performing again, as a member of L.A. Dance Project.
Taylor officially debuted with the company at its December 2016 gala in Los Angeles, then performed in Boston, via live stream from Marfa, Texas, and at New York's Joyce Theater before heading off on tour dates in France, Singapore, Dubai and beyond.
"She is wildly interesting to watch—and not conventional," says LADP artistic director Benjamin Millepied. "There are films of Suzanne Farrell dancing, where you feel like the music is coming out of her body," he says. "I think Janie has that same kind of quality."
Last night was not your average Thursday at Bay Ridge Ballet in Brooklyn, New York. Studio owner and teacher Patty Foster Grado—a former Parsons Dance Company dancer—was teaching a boys class, when with only five minutes left, she heard commotion in the waiting area and someone yelled, "There's a lady giving birth in the bathroom!"
Where can you watch Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, Coppélia and Le Corsaire all in one place? Hint: It also has extra-buttery popcorn.
Yep, it's your local movie theater. Starting this weekend, theaters across the country will be showing Bolshoi Ballet productions of classical and contemporary story ballets.
When commercial dancer Danielle Peazer took on an ambassadorial role with Reebok in early 2016, she didn't realize the gig would also lead to a career shift. But while traveling with and teaching workshops for the brand, the idea for DDM (Danielle's Dance Method) Collective started to take shape.