Earlier this year, Ari Groover faced the ultimate Broadway champagne problem: She was offered a contract for both Summer: The Donna Summer Musical and Head Over Heels. She ultimately chose Head Over Heels, and watching her in the show, it's easy to see why she's in such demand: Groover is a consummate storyteller, imbuing Spencer Liff's jaw-droppingly complicated choreography with seemingly endless energy and sly wit.
Broadway shows: Currently in Head Over Heels (through January 6, 2019). Past: Holler If Ya Hear Me
Hometown: Savannah, Georgia
Training: Savannah State University (her mother was a dance professor, so she trained there as a child and teen) and Atlanta's Southwest Arts Center and Alliance Theatre
Breakout moment: After high school, Groover mostly stopped performing, instead studying illustration. Then, after Broadway Dreams' 2012 Atlanta intensive, she was invited to try out for the off-Broadway musical Bare. "I was happy just being in New York," she says. After the production, she auditioned for every show she could.
What Spencer Liff is saying: "When Ari auditioned for Head Over Heels, she was not what I was looking for," says Liff. "While other girls were kicking and turning in their improv, Ari was voguing and doing death drops." She became a muse for the show's movement style, and, Liff adds, "Ari was the only ensemble member we made a direct offer to once we knew we were moving from the workshop to Broadway."
Groover (far left) with the ensemble of Head Over Heels. Photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown.
Triple duty: In her featured ensemble track, Groover is one of two "page turners," who dance in every scene transition. She also understudies two principal roles: the dutiful handmaid Mopsa and the enigmatic oracle Pythio. "Dancers are not just behind the scenes in this show," she says. "We play, analyze and lead as much as anyone."
"She's a prime example of breaking the mold to be your own best version of yourself."
Trial by fire: As associate choreographer for American Repertory Theater's Burn All Night, Groover had to step in when choreographer Sam Pinkleton couldn't attend a week of rehearsals. "I came up with a choreographic blueprint," she says. Luckily, it wasn't her first stab at dancemaking. Her 2017 short dance film Permission has collected prizes at regional film festivals. "It's important to me that women of color not only be onstage, but also behind how things happen and how stories are told," Groover says.
Turning the tables: After Holler If Ya Hear Me closed, Groover learned to deejay as a creative part-time job. "It's dance-related in that you need to make songs flow together." Recently, she's spun at Soho House New York and at post-performance parties for Summer and Head Over Heels.