Dancers Trending

Jack Ferver is Playing Tinker Bell, But He's Not a "Playful Queer Person" Right Now

"How to use dance to create mystery is very important to me," says Jack Ferver who choreographs and plays Tinker Bell in a production of Leonard Bernstein's Peter Pan. Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates

"I'm in heaven right now," Jack Ferver smiles over the phone. He was enjoying a leisurely breakfast with a couple of his castmates the morning after Leonard Bernstein's Peter Pan had its first preview performance. This production of the lesser-known Bernstein score, officially opening tonight at The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College (where Ferver teaches), doesn't just feature choreography by the genre-mixing dancemaker: It has Ferver himself performing as Tinker Bell.

Why he begged to choreograph Bernstein's Peter Pan

"Not a lot of people know about this Bernstein Peter Pan, but I listened to it well over a year ago and I fell in love with it. There are parts of it that remind me of Stravinsky, but are in the Bernstein aesthetic. I told Gideon Lester [Bard College's artistic director for theater and dance] that I had to choreograph it. They weren't sure if the director, Christopher Alden, even wanted a choreographer, but we met and I explained that my use of choreography is where language drops off. He was interested in that, and he looked at my work and agreed."

Becoming Tinker Bell

"James Whiteside had asked me to be in a music video of his called "Duck Hunt." Gideon sent that to Christopher, and then Christopher reached out to me about playing Tinker Bell. I didn't think I wanted to do that. It seemed like a little much to bite off.

"My concern was that I would be asked to be some sort of arch, emcee character who looks like they're controlling the whole thing. I was interested in what it means to draft a queer man to play this role, and how to subvert that. I don't feel like a playful queer person right now. I am a body under attack, always have been, so I need to be able to work with that. I can't just portray this as light.

"I felt really obsessed with the images of PJ Harvey from 1995, when PJ was essentially doing drag. She developed this persona with heavy eye makeup and big fake eyelashes, and the persona corrodes as the show goes on; it's playful and terrifying all at once. That was my image of Tinker Bell."

Why concert dance needs previews

Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates

"I wish we had previews in dance. We need them. To not have them is to say that the audience isn't a collaborator. And it is different because my personal work has text in it, so when people laugh or gasp you understand how it's impacting people. Previews are the most luxurious residency I could imagine!"

Taking a psychological approach to Tinker Bell

Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates

"If we think of Tinker Bell in terms of the non-gendered things, it's a mercurial mood; Tinker Bell is borderline, they only have the capacity for one emotion at any time. I let the idea that our moods forget each other inform my choreography.

"The choreography is all over the map. Some of it is controlled, icy, lethal, sonic, a Dionysian quality. Tinker Bell hates Wendy—but how do we have this relationship without it becoming misogynistic? How does Tinker Bell fall in love with Wendy? How does Wendy come to save herself and join Peter and Tinker Bell psychically? How do the three of them triumph over evil?"

Hook and Peter Pan fight—without actual fight choreography

Ferver as Tinker Bell and Peter Smith as Peter Pan. Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates

"This confrontation between Peter and Hook, I'm having Hook facing downstage, not Peter. He's fighting Peter—fighting youth. Peter comes rushing down and starts dancing with the pirates. They become Lost Boys again—this is pleasure, this is the love that can always spring up even in tyranny. Peter keeps dancing. And that's what exhausts Hook."

How he chooses performers

"I feel really lucky that when I make my work, I make it for the people I fall in love with and want to make something for. I've never had auditions. I know what it is to be a performer. I know what it is to be treated like a puppet. And that is not the kind of maker that I am. I'm hyper-interested in people and what they have to say in a live setting."

The luxury of live music

Tinker Bell (Jack Ferver) looks on as Wendy (Erin Markey) and Peter (Peter Smith) dance. Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates

"It was a luxury to have Michael A. Ferrara, our music director, able to play live on the piano for rehearsals, and then being able to work with the live band as we're setting the work. I've never had live music before, it's such a huge gift. Now I want it all the time!"

The Conversation
Frozen put profit-sharing arrangements in place prior to the Equity deal. Photo by Deen van Meer, Courtesy Disney Theatrical Group

For a Broadway dancer, few opportunities are more exciting than being part of the creation of an original show. But if that show goes on to become wildly successful, who reaps the benefits? Thanks to a new deal between Actors' Equity Association and The Broadway League, performers involved in a production's development will now receive their own cut of the earnings.

Keep reading... Show less

Jellicle obsessives, rejoice: There's a new video out that offers a (surprisingly substantive) look at the dancing that went down on the set of the new CATS movie.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance & Science
Via Wikimedia Commons

When Dr. Mae Jemison was growing up, she was obsessed with space. But she didn't see any astronauts who looked like her.

"I said, Wait a minute. Why are all the astronauts white males?" she recounts in a CNN video. "What if the aliens saw them and said, Are these the only people on Earth?"

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Wayne McGregor. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy ROH

It's no surprise that dancers make some of the best TED Talk presenters. Not only are they great performers, but they've got unique knowledge to share. And they can dance!

If you're in need of a midweek boost, look no further than these eight presentations from some incredibly inspiring dance artists.

Keep reading... Show less


Get Dance Magazine in your inbox