Ali Stroker: First Wheelchair Performer on Broadway
Her movements are searingly sharp and her sense of rhythm is unerring. Her face is full of fierce determination, befitting the cast of the feisty, fevered youngsters in this musical. Her singing voice is strong with an edge of sassiness. If you follow only this one ensemble performer throughout the evening, you would know the whole arc of the story, its emotional peaks and valleys.
A scene from "Spring Awakening," Stroker singing down front, all photos © Joan Marcus
She is Ali Stroker, an unforgettable presence in the new production of Spring Awakening on Broadway. And though she says she’s danced all her life, she does that dancing from a wheelchair. Since the age of two, when she was in a car accident, she’s been paralyzed from the chest down. She acted and sang through high school in New Jersey and attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in Drama.
Choreographer Spencer Liff uses Stroker’s talents brilliantly. She and her chair are often the keystone in his stage formations. The timing of when and where she glides adds to the sense of harmony, and when she uses her arms to push her own wheels, powering herself—willing herself—to another part of the stage, she embodies the struggle of the characters confined by society.
Through my brother-in-law, I got to meet Stroker after the show, which is produced by Deaf West Theatre. What she talked about was her admiration for the deaf actors in the show. With pride in her voice, she marveled at how they perform the intricate choreography—a speedy melding of American Sign Language with other gestures— without being able to hear the music. She mentioned that all the hearing cast members had to learn ASL, and that the preparation time took a year because “all the pieces of the puzzle” were so complicated.
She also talked about her time as a drama student at Tisch, where she took dance lessons in several genres like modern and jazz. She’s also appeared on TV in "Glee" and "Sesame Street."
On our way out, I could see her greet other guests with as much gusto as she greeted us. Onstage and off, Ali Stroker is someone who clearly enjoys life to the hilt. Her program bio says, “Ali believes any limitation can be an opportunity.” Amen.
What do Percy Jackson, Princess Diana and Tina Turner have in common? They're all characters on Broadway this season. Throw in Michelle Dorrance's choreographic debut, Henry VIII's six diva-licious wives and the 1990s angst of Alanis Morissette, and the 2019–20 season is shaping up to be an exciting mix of past-meets-pop-culture-present.
Here's a look at the musicals hitting Broadway in the coming months. We're biding our time until opening night!
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
Ah, stretching. It seems so simple, and is yet so complicated.
For example: You don't want to overstretch, but you're not going to see results if you don't stretch enough. You want to focus on areas where you're tight, but you also can't neglect other areas or else you'll be imbalanced. You were taught to hold static stretches growing up, but now everyone is telling you never to hold a stretch longer than a few seconds?
Considering how important stretching correctly is for dancers, it's easy to get confused or overwhelmed. So we came up with 10 common stretching scenarios, and gave you the expert low-down.