Moulin Rouge's Paloma Garcia-Lee on Getting Her Dream Job, Working With Sonya Tayeh and Choosing Polyamory
Paloma Garcia-Lee has one of those careers that most dancers only dream about. She's worked with a growing list of top Broadway choreographers—like Joshua Bergasse and Andy Blankenbuehler—and done shows from the edgy Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 to the classic Phantom of the Opera. Did we mention she's only 27?
Her latest gig has been one of her most exciting yet: the pre-Broadway production of Moulin Rouge, choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. Garcia-Lee opened up about why it's unlike any show she's worked on before, and about her personal life, including her choice to practice polyamory in her marriage.
Why Moulin Rouge Is Her Dream Job
"I am a huge Baz Luhrmann fan and grew up loving Moulin Rouge. I thought it was whimsical, magical, sensual, extravagant, rich, wild, raw and indulgent. I would watch the dance sequences over and over, mesmerized. Getting to do this show is an actual dream come true. My inner 14-year-old fangirls every night when I hear 'Roxanne' and the Can Can."
Why She Was Dying to Work With Sonya Tayeh
"She is a strong, clear, daring artist. I have admired her work from afar for so long. I would watch her numbers on 'So You Think You Can Dance' and be brought to tears. There is something about her choreography that speaks to the deepest part of not only my dancer but my human. Her movement is so intuitive for my body and challenges me at the same time. She lets women be strong and sensual and lets us work in a way that is usually reserved for men in musical theater."
What Makes Moulin Rouge Special
"I have waited for the opportunity to flex myself in the way that this show demands of me for a long time. I feel like I get to bring so much of my heart and soul to my track. From the moment you walk into the theater and see the vast universe we have created you will know you are in for something you've never experienced before. Getting to play and live inside this gigantic piece of art makes my heart race every show."
What It's Like to Dance For Tayeh
"She sets the bar high and demands a lot but I have never been happier to meet such demands because I feel so deeply respected by her. Everyone she works with she hand picks and loves and wants to see shine in their own unique way. She believes that we are limitless. I feel like she sees me so clearly. "
Why She And Her Husband Chose Polyamory
"I am in a loving marriage to the most glorious person I have ever met. We currently have an open marriage and are practicing ethical non-monogamy, a term for any relationship that is not physically and/or emotionally exclusive by the explicit agreement of all parties. My husband and I support each other in dating and cultivating relationships with other people. Everything is completely transparent. It is a lot of work, and more communication than you can imagine. We spent years discussing and studying before deciding to 'open up.' We have found a lot of joy, trust and connection with each other through exploring the world in this way. We are deeply committed to each other—we just don't define our commitment through fidelity."
How People Have Responded to Her Relationships
"Our family, friends and community have been incredibly supportive. We have also faced some judgement, coming from a lack of understanding. Patience and strength have been necessary to move through those moments. I don't think being open works for everyone, nor do I think anyone should be limited by any label. There are people who will never understand why I choose this path, and I accept that."
Why She Isn't Afraid to Be Open About Her Choices
"The benefits of being out in the open about my marriage structure have time after time outweighed the negative. I've had the unique opportunity to be there for friends and even strangers who are questioning their own structures and views on relationships. I believe many people are examining the same questions I have and by speaking up about it I learn about so many others who are on similar paths. This connection and community is why I choose to continue to share and be transparent."
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It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.