Ashley Blair Fitzgerald as the Dark Lady. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy Rubenstein

What's It Actually Like to Dance a Solo on Broadway?

Dance on Broadway is usually more about ensemble work than stealing the singular spotlight. That's true for most of The Cher Show, with Christopher Gattelli's choreography supporting the titular diva. But for one second-act number, dance takes center stage.


Enter Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, who steps out of the ensemble to captivate with a sensual solo to the song "Dark Lady." In a show stuffed with catchy pop songs and dizzying costume changes, it's a scene unlike any other: The lead actors drop back, and Fitzgerald becomes the sole focus as she's partnered by a bevy of men and spends much of the number in the air. On the night I attended, her electric stage presence resulted in the longest applause of the evening, aside from the curtain call. We spoke with Fitzgerald about being in The Cher Show and commanding the stage with this literal show-stopper.

A head shot of the performer. She has long blond hair and is wearing a red shirt.

Ashley Blair Fitzgerald

Courtesy Rubenstein

How She Booked the Show

"I went to the invited dance call, and over the course of four months was called back five times to dance, read and sing. Three weeks before the lab started, I got the call!"

On Working with Gattelli

"Chris encourages an ego-free, collaborative experience. If something didn't work he never made me feel inferior. He would just say, 'Okay, how can we make it work for you and your body?' Because he worked like this, I gave him my complete trust."

A photo from The Cher Show. Cher is pointing toward the audience and wearing a silver, sparkly costume. She is surrounded by dancers holding open umbrellas.

Joan Marcus, Courtesy Rubenstein

About That Solo

"Being given the opportunity to do what you love, on a Broadway stage, is a monumental experience. It's taught me the value in being part of a creation. Performing something that you feel a part of is really a dream come true."

On Choreography That Travels Through Time

"The different dance styles are what makes this show fun. One moment you're doing a '60s twist, the next you're a Vegas showgirl. We did our research to make sure we were executing the intention of the step correctly, which has allowed our bodies to live injury-free within the steps."

A line of female dancers arch backwards. Their hair is down and they're wearing black boots, tights, a bra and jacket.

Joan Marcus, Courtesy Rubenstein

Her Pre-Show Ritual

"Sixty minutes before curtain, I go down to the concession area and give myself a full ballet barre. I love to listen to Adele, Fleetwood Mac or Etta James. The music really helps clear my mind.

"Then I do about 10 to 15 minutes of spot-training for injuries and maintenance, which includes lots of bridges, stretching and crunches! At intermission, I repeat the spot-training. Just before I take the stage for 'Dark Lady,' I run through the dance, stretch my legs and say a prayer for the dance to go well and that no one gets hurt."

Onstage Shenanigans

"In the second act we have a reporter/paparazzi scene where the ensemble is used as a silhouette. Since the opening of the show, myself and two other cast members have made up a completely fake news company, with fake names and fake stories. We're currently working on a story about a 'duckefant.' The first ever duck/elephant hybrid animal. It's so silly but it keeps things fresh and fun."

The three Cher characters sing downstage while wearing white. Backup dancers in black move behind them.

Joan Marcus, Courtesy Rubenstein

The Most Challenging Part of the Show

"We have an action-packed finale with many different dance styles, including something called 'theater street jazz.' Grasping this style has been the biggest challenge for me. Every performance I try to execute it better than the last. However, I sometimes feel I come up short. But I will never stop trying!"

Fitzgerald's Advice for Broadway Hopefuls

1. Train. "There are no shortcuts to technique. It will help you with injury prevention, prolong your career and allow you to dance any type of style."

2. Step outside your comfort zone. "Take an acting class, a voice class. Dancing is acting with your body. This will help you tell the story."

3. Take risks, but stay grounded. "Trust your choreographers and coaches. It takes courage, but if you do the work, magic can happen."

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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