Amber Gray and Patrick Page. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy Hadestown

How Hadestown's Patrick Page Overcame His Greatest Fear: Dancing

There's a rare moment in Broadway's Hadestown where the audience is able to breathe a sigh of relief. The smash-hit success is not well-known for being light-hearted or easy-going; Hadestown is a show full of workers and walls and, well, the second act largely takes place in a slightly modernized version of hell.

But deep into the second act, the show reaches a brief homeostasis of peace, one of those bright, shining moments that allows the audience to think "maybe it will turn out this time," as the character Hermes keeps suggesting.

After songs and songs of conflict and resentment, Hades, the king of the underground, and his wife, the goddess Persephone, rekindle their love. And, unexpectedly, they dance. It's one of the most compelling moments in the show.

But when Patrick Page, who plays Hades, first learned that his character's transformative moment would be a dance, his first thought was denial, he says. "I tried to ignore it, but I was scared."

Page has a tumultuous history with dance. He's always loved to watch others dancing (in particular, his wife, Paige Davis), but he's never considered himself to be someone who can dance. In his first Broadway show, Beauty and the Beast, Page was cast as Lumière, the singing candelabra, and his character's big moment was a soft-shoe tango—which posed an immediate challenge for him.

"I was sure I was going to be fired," says Page. "Every day I could see that I was frustrating the choreographer tremendously, so I kept going to my understudy, secretly, and asking him to work the dance with me because he could do it, and I couldn't."

Of course, Page wasn't fired. "Eventually, I got comfortable with it, and I got to love the movement of Lumière," he says. After Beauty and the Beast, he went on to shock audiences with some of the most iconic Broadway villains, like the Green Goblin in Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, the Grinch in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, and Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was formidable in every role—and rarely expected to dance.

Patrick Page and Amber Gray rehearsing Hadestown

Courtesy Hadestown

Which brought him to Hadestown. And dancing, again. So, of course Page was initially scared, even frightened, as he describes it. But there was something about this show in particular which meant he had to push through his fear.

"If you've been in the business as long as I have, you learn that good material like this doesn't come along that often—it comes along once a decade or so," says Page. "But when it does, you grab, and you hold on through whatever your terror is, whether your terror is dancing, or singing, or being up in front of people, because you get to work on this incredible material that's going to keep feeding you."

He worked closely with the show's choreographer, David Neumann, and his Persephone, Amber Gray. He tried to embrace his own mistakes, however numerous they might be.

"As with anything in life, with dance, you have to first embrace imperfection. You have to allow it to be imperfect for as long as necessary," says Page. "And if it's me, it's never going to be perfect. But you have to be comfortable with it not being right for as long as it takes."

For Page, it's been a three-year process—and it's an ongoing one. He's been with Hadestown through every ideation of the show, through New York Theatre Workshop, through Edmonton, through the West End, and now, on Broadway. Today, he cites his dance with Persephone as his favorite scene.

"I worry about it every night," he says. "But the fact that it's still challenging for me is part of what makes it fun."

In order to find more ease within the number, Page focuses on the intention of his character, Hades. "Since the movement itself terrifies me," he says, "I think about what I'm saying with each movement—and then I can forget that I'm frightened."

Onstage, this translates. Page's Hades looks at comfortable, almost devil-may-care (pardon the pun) at times. Even amidst Hadestown's moving set pieces, he seems at ease, whether he's scaling staircases, crossing turntables, or descending into his underworld.

Of course, some of this might come with experience. "I did Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark," Page says. "So, there's no amount of automation that can intimidate me."

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021