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On Broadway: Slippers and Twirls
Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana. Photo by Jerry Anderson, Broadway.com.
It happens all the time at the ballet and in the movies: Boy and girl meet, boy and girl dance, boy and girl fall madly in love. On Broadway, however, it’s been a while since audiences watched romance blossom on a dance floor. But the long drought is over at last. This season, at the Broadway Theatre, Cinderella (in the person of Laura Osnes) and her Prince (Santino Fontana) fall hopelessly, helplessly in love as they whirl through a crowded ballroom singing “We are dancing, we are flying.”
It’s the freshly branded Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, the 1957 made-for-television musical that has finally been brought to the stage, with a new book that has some new twists by Douglas Carter Beane and direction by Mark Brokaw. And the lucky choreographer assigned to design that number for Cinderella (or Ella, as she prefers to be called) and Prince Topher (short for Christopher) is Josh Rhodes, who calls the opportunity to choreograph a ball “a dream come true.”
His first instinct was to base the dance moves on competition waltzing. But he quickly came to the conclusion that something softer and more romantic was needed. “So I went back and watched a lot of classical corps de ballet,” he says. “To me this is the most romantic thing. Watch two people in ballet, when they’re just ravishing, and they grab each other in lifts, and the arms are willowy and wispy—that is love. I’m a sucker for stunning ballet lines. It’s fun to make the girls look like they’re just floating across the room while the man is lifting them.”
The ball is the show’s pivotal scene. But Rhodes, making his Broadway debut as a choreographer, has other opportunities to show what he can do—including several that didn’t exist in the original television version. In the course of amplifying and updating the book, Beane has added characters and interpolated several discarded Rodgers and Hammerstein songs. One of the new characters, a political-minded villager named Jean Michel, provides a love interest for the more sympathetic of Cinderella’s stepsisters, and the couple does a comic duet that has their attempts at flirtation sabotaged by their physical awkwardness.
Once he figured out the dramatic content of the number, the actual choreography, with its loopy collisions and missed connections, was easy. “I’m a vaudevillian at heart,” Rhodes says. “It’s all about figuring out the comedic beats. They’re trying so hard to be this gorgeous, romantic couple, and there’s just nothing about them that’s going to make it happen. Not everybody is a natural Cinderella.”
And not everybody is a natural dancer. Unlike so many kids who land in dance class because their moms pick up on their kinetic ability, Rhodes started his training as a 10-year-old, in Decatur, Illinois, when his mother noticed how much trouble he was having with the dance steps he was trying to learn for a show. He blossomed, and by the time he was a teenager, his teacher, Gary Shull, was not just encouraging him as a dancer but pushing him to choreograph. He studied musical theater at the University of Michigan and came straight to New York after graduating in 1993, winning gigs in Fosse and Chicago as well as other shows.
Rhodes worked frequently as a swing, which, he notes, helped him think like a choreographer: “You’re not looking at the dance selfishly, from your one track,” he explains. “You’re looking at the entire picture.” He also credits the “meticulous composition” and musicality of the Fosse dances he performed, the ballet-based approach Christopher Wheeldon took in choreographing The Sweet Smell of Success, and the insights, both practical and artistic, gleaned when he assisted Casey Nicholaw on The Drowsy Chaperone. By the time he went into Chicago, he was getting his own choreography jobs. He refers to Chicago as an “adult” show, “because they treat you like an adult there.” Rhodes, 41, was able to take time off for his own projects and then return to the ensemble, affording him “the stability of a Broadway contract and the chance to be creative on the side.”
Ultimately there were more side projects than he could comfortably juggle, and he reluctantly hung up his dancing shoes. “I had a wonderful career,” he says. “I didn’t leave it because I was bored with performing. It’s just that opportunities came as a choreographer that were too good to pass up.”
The Cinderella job didn’t just fall in his lap. He got it the old-fashioned way—auditioning for it. On a $2,000 budget provided by the producers, he staged two of the show’s numbers, renting a studio, hiring an arranger for the music, and enlisting his friends to dance for free. He’s already repaid one of them, with a spot in the Cinderella ensemble, and he’ll undoubtedly get to the others. Rhodes is on Broadway to stay.
Sylviane Gold writes on theater for The New York Times.
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."