Why Dancing in "Fosse/Verdon" Was (Thankfully) Nothing Like Dancing for Fosse
It's a bit of an understatement to say that Bob Fosse was challenging to work with. He was irritable, inappropriate and often clashed with his collaborators in front of all his dancers. "Fosse/Verdon," which premieres on FX tonight, doesn't sugarcoat any of this.
But for Sasha Hutchings, who danced in the first episode's rendition of "Big Spender," the mood on set was quite opposite from the one that Fosse created. Hutchings had already worked with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who she calls "a dancer's dream," director Tommy Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire as a original cast member in Hamilton, and she says the collaborators' calm energy made the experience a pleasant one for the dancers.
"Television can be really stressful," she says. "There's so many moving parts and everyone has to work in sync. With Tommy, Andy and Lac I never felt the stress of that as a performer."
We talked to Hutchings about the show's audition process, the challenges of dancing for television, and why Gwen Verdon's legacy had to be an integral part of the storytelling:
On the Unusually Enjoyable Audition Process
"Andy kinda put out bat signals to all these dancers. It was a lovely time for us to dance this iconic choreography. He kept whittling it down throughout the day, and we were all celebrating each other by the end. Andy remarked that they had a lot to pick from, and Tommy spoke about how we were all the best of our town, the best of the best. It was really nice to have an audition that was a true celebration of amazing dancers."
On Her Fosse Roots
"I went to Oklahoma City University and one of the things I love about their curriculum is their focus on American dance forms. You can't study American jazz without studying Fosse. It's one of my favorite styles of movement because it's such a storytelling movement. Every finger, every shoulder is about telling a story. It's a style that is rooted in acting and can be really accessible, especially for someone who may not be a dancer at all."
On Recreating the "Big Spender" Scene
"They did an incredible job of recreating this world and these characters. It looks just like the set from the movie. They made a new costume for me a week before shooting because they figured out the specific material she was wearing in the movie. Nothing was close enough. They were debating about the glitter on my eyelid."
On the Challenges of Television
"I've done acting guest star roles on shows which is just saying lines. It's interesting when you start bringing dance in. Continuity can be an issue. I had an earring fly off and break and we had 30 seconds for them to wire or glue or strap it back together.
"On Broadway you have the ability to be different every single night. But in television you need to know what your hand was doing at this moment or what order your bracelets were in.
"And you have the challenge of doing it over and over and over again and starting in different places. Capturing the climax of the number but it's the first thing you're shooting. And then you have to pull it all the way back to restart at another point in the song. As an actor that can be really hard."
On Gwen Verdon's Influence
"Gwen Verdon helped Fosse craft the vocabulary we know today. Fosse would have an idea but it was nothing without Gwen and she helped him maintain the legacy of it. We really needed that framework. It's not just about this man but about the women that inspired him and the right hand woman who was making these things come to life."
- How Many Iconic Numbers Are in the "Fosse/Verdon" Trailer ... ›
- A Bob Fosse/Gwen Verdon Series From the Creators of Hamilton ... ›
What happens during a performance is the product of the painstaking process of realizing an artistic vision. Whether held beforehand, afterward, offsite or online, audience discussions tend not to be so preordained, easily thrown off track without a skilled moderator at the helm.
"I'm someone who dreaded talkbacks and Q&As," admits Bill Bragin, former director of public programming at Lincoln Center. "While I was in New York, a lot of the time it was just audience members trying to show off how smart they were."
These events present a pile of difficult questions: How much do you reveal about a piece before it's shown? How can a conversation designed to hit key points feel casual and spontaneous? How do you cater to the needs of diverse attendees, from novice dancegoers to lifelong fans to scholars and critics? And how do you avoid smothering dance with language, flattening all its complexity?
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.
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.