Corbin Bleu Taps His Way Back to Broadway
Corbin Bleu's theater gigs are the skimpiest part of his resumé, which includes not just High School Musical, but everything from horror films to "Dancing with the Stars." His first two Broadway shows, In the Heights and Godspell, didn't particularly showcase his dancing, but in 2016, he tapped and fox-trotted his way to a Chita Rivera Award in Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical. Last year, he did Singin' in the Rain in St. Louis and the 1934 Cole Porter musical Anything Goes in Washington, DC. This month, he returns to Broadway in another classic Porter show, playing Bill Calhoun in Kiss Me, Kate at Studio 54. But when we caught up with him, there was another Bill on his mind—he had just opened as Billy Crocker in the Arena Stage production of Anything Goes.
You’ve done several vintage musicals lately. Is this where you’re taking your career?
I have always bounced back and forth, but if I'm honest, I prefer being onstage. I love having the audience as another character to bounce off of—I feel so much more alive. But it's wearing to do eight shows a week month after month. It is really wonderful to do a show and live in that world, and then go back and be on a set, where I'm not necessarily killing my body eight times a week. And you know, film and television pay the bills.
You’re going to have just a week between Anything Goes and the first rehearsal of Kiss Me, Kate. How will you make that transition?
I'm gonna be in extra-top shape going into rehearsal. And my mind will be in theater mode, Cole Porter mode. And now that Anything Goes is open, I have my days free, so I'll start to dive into the Kiss Me, Kate script and music, and start working on character—all that fun, all that pre-work. And because we have the Shakespeare backdrop, I'll also dive into The Taming of the Shrew, read it again, break that down again. Should be fun.
Doesn’t the Shakespeare scare you?
No, I went to an arts high school. I studied Shakespeare there. I've done other Shakespeare productions. Three years ago I did a really cool Romeo and Juliet in Los Angeles, set in the '90s. There was music by Pat Benatar, the text was Shakespeare.
Bill Calhoun was originally played by iconic Broadway dancer Harold Lang. You also did the Fred Astaire role in Holiday Inn. Does that intimidate you?
No, because I'm not them. I just finished doing Singin' in the Rain—what bigger shoes to fill than Gene Kelly's? The second you start to think that way, you're in trouble. There are aspects we will honor, that I will look to for inspiration. But we're gonna do our 2019 version, with my shoes.
Whenever anyone does High School Musical, the new Chad will be anxious about filling your shoes.
I would say the same thing for anybody that plays Chad: "Don't try to fill my shoes. Do you."
Looking back, what did playing Chad mean to you?
The years that I spent with that project— three films and two international tours, concert tours, continuing a music career, putting out my own solo albums—it was quite a whirlwind, and also surreal. We were teenagers living like rock stars. It was a wonderful thing, and I'm very appreciative of it. At the same time, you can't live in the past. It's good to honor it, and look back and learn, but it's always about moving forward.
What do you look forward to in Kiss Me, Kate?
I'm super-stoked to work with Warren Carlyle! Tap is my all-time favorite form. I've been tapping since I was 2 years old. For some reason, my feet really enjoy the movement.
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Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.