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On Broadway: Making Beautiful Moves
Josh Prince looks back to the '60s for inspiration.
Carole King is most famous for the gentle, contemplative songs on her 1971 smash album Tapestry. It transformed her from a composer to a performer, dreamily accompanying herself onstage at the piano. So when Josh Prince learned that the producers of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical wanted to talk to him about choreographing the show, he was a little perplexed.
“What kind of movement or dancing is involved in a Carole King musical?” he wondered. “Dance is not the first thing you think of when you think about Carole King.”
The show, opening next month, follows King’s career from her start as a teenage songwriting phenom in the early days of rock ’n’ roll, through her troubled marriage to her writing partner Gerry Goffin, to her emergence as a star. And the ensemble consists of “singers who move well,” not true triple threats like Prince himself.
Still, he says, “There’s a lot more dance than people might expect.” And he notes that he found a certain irony in the timing of the show, which was offered to him last spring. He was then focused on founding the Broadway Dance Lab, a nonprofit aimed at making choreography part of a musical’s earliest developmental process. “On one hand I am trying to create an organization that showcases dancers,” he says, “and at the same time I’m going to a job that asks me to work with singers.”
The tricky part, they discovered, was not so much learning steps as learning how to do them together. “They have to work as a team,” he says, “the way dancers know instinctively how to work as a team—being in specific formations, with specific gestural elements that have to be stylistically correct. You have to feel each other; you have to create a unified picture.”
Keeping the moves true to the period was another challenge. King and Goffin had their first No. 1 hit in 1961. That was before Prince, 38, was born. When he did his research, he found that “our collective thought about that period is different from what it was. The actual dancing was nothing that we would expect on a Broadway stage today.” He finds it more “elegant and refined” than we might recall, and, he says, “It’s been nice to present the audience with movement that affects them in a subtle way.”
He admits, however, that the most fun he’s had on Beautiful is the “really aerobic” staging of King’s 1962 dance song, “The Loco-Motion.” It was a dance song without a dance, so Prince was free to choreograph his own, based on the twist and the pony and other dances of the day.
This was not exactly where Prince thought he was headed when, at the age of 7, he followed a friend to tap class and “took to it.” Born and raised in Indianapolis, he also tagged along when his mother auditioned for a community theater production of Annie Get Your Gun. She didn’t get the role of Annie, but he ended up playing Little Jake. He danced, sang, and acted his way through school, but never considered a show business career until his junior year in high school, when he had to pick a college and opted for a musical theater major at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
After graduation, he came to New York and got his first job in the national tour of Cats. In his late 20s, he decided to concentrate on acting, moving to Los Angeles and working in television. He returned to New York when he “fell out of love with auditioning and more in love with the process of creating theater.” He’d been directing and choreographing as a sideline all through his performing years. Three weeks after his presentations at the 2007 Dance Break showcase, he was asked to choreograph the Broadway production of Shrek.
The job, his first Broadway choreography gig, came just in time—he’d been going to bartending school. Odds are his bartending career will have to wait.
Dance Captain: one of the show’s swings, Sara Sheperd, who has been in Cry-Baby and Legally Blonde.
Associate choreographer: Alison Solomon, who has worked with Luis Salgado, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Joshua Bergasse.
Biggest number: “The Locomotion,” which features 8 of the 12 cast members.
Influences: the twist, the pony, the stroll, the jerk.
The fate of the National Endowment for the Arts has had us on tenterhooks (and off...and on again) since the election of Donald Trump. (Actually, we've been on and off tenterhooks about it more or less since it was founded.)
You don't need to convince us that dance can be a powerful vehicle for change. But in case you had any doubts, Dance Theatre of Harlem's new promotional video is all the proof you need. As part of their 2018 New York season, DTH will be hosting a gala on April 4 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (this inspired the founding of the company by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook less than a year after his death).
Raise your hand if you've ever walked out of the studio with just one thought on your mind: a big, juicy cheeseburger. But raise your other hand if instead of getting that burger, you opted for a hearty salad or stir-fry.
While dancers need to fuel their bodies with nutrient-dense meals and snacks, plenty of foods get an unfair bad rap. "The diet culture in this country vilifies various food groups as being bad while championing others as good," says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "But black-and-white thinking like that has no place when it comes to food."
Some foods have less nutrition than others, admits Hogan, but if you're eating what you crave and honoring your hunger and fullness cues, she says you'll probably get the variety of nutrients your body needs. Here are seven foods that can have a place on your plate—guilt-free.
When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.
"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."
There must be something in the water: Last week, we announced that Madonna is directing Michaela DePrince's upcoming biopic. And yesterday, we got wind of another major dance film: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox Searchlight has sealed the deal to make Ailey Ailey's life and work into a movie. Yes, please.
While some movies falter along their way to the big screen, we think this one's got legs (and hopefully a whole lot of lateral T's and hinges and coccyx balances, too). Why?
Back in 2012, after 14 years dancing with Mark Morris Dance Group, choreographer John Heginbotham ventured out on his own. Don't think of it as going solo, though.
Almost from the outset, Heginbotham has embarked on a series of fruitful collaborations with other artists, via his namesake company, Dance Heginbotham, and through a stream of independent projects. His creative partners have covered a range of talents and genres: illustrator Maira Kalman (in 2017's The Principles of Uncertainty), opera director Peter Sellars (for Girls of the Golden West, which debuted at San Francisco Opera in November), and contemporary-music luminaries such as Tyondai Braxton and Alarm Will Sound.
Here's What He Has To Say: About starting his company, his rehearsal process and why he's drawn to creative mash-ups.
Ten years is a long time for a dance production to run, but Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Sutra, an athletic, meditative spectacle featuring 19 Shaolin monks and a malleable set of 21 wooden boxes (designed by Antony Gormley) is still striking a chord with audiences worldwide. To celebrate the milestone, Sutra is returning to Sadler's Wells, where it all began. March 26–28. sadlerswells.com.
Whether playing a saucy soubrette or an imperious swan, Irina Dvorovenko was always a formidable presence on the American Ballet Theatre stage. Since her 2013 retirement at 39, after 16 seasons, she's been bringing that intensity to an acting career in roles ranging from, well, Russian ballerinas to the Soviet-era newcomer she plays in the FX spy series "The Americans."
We caught up with her after tech rehearsal for the Encores! presentation of the musical Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes and running March 21–25 at New York City Center. It's another tempestuous ballerina role for Dvorovenko—Elizaveta Grushinskaya, on her seventh farewell tour, resentfully checks into the Berlin hostelry of the title with her entourage, only to fall for a handsome young baron and sing "Bonjour, Amour."
When Andrew Montgomery first saw the Las Vegas hit Le Rêve - The Dream 10 years ago, he knew he had to be a part of the show one day. Eight years later, he auditioned, and made it to the last round of cuts. On his way home, still waiting to hear whether he'd been cast, he was in a motorcycle accident that ended up costing him half his leg.
But Montgomery's story doesn't end the way you might think. Today, he's a cast member of Le Rêve, where he does acrobatics and aerial work, swims (yes, the show takes places in and around a large pool) and dances, all with his prosthetic leg.
Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.
An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.
"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."