The Tonys Arenâ€™t Everything
We’re seeing the excitement mount for the Tonys, but for dancers, the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards are just as major. These awards have honored dancers and choreographers in Broadway musicals since 1982, but get very little media attention. As a member of the Astaire Awards committee, I try to see nearly all the new musicals each season. Here is my wrap-up of the Astaire nominations, just announced last week.
It’s no secret that After Midnight has the most dancing of this year’s musicals. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, it also borrows star dancers from the concert dance world. Karine Plantadit! Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards! Desmond Richardson! Jared Grimes! It's a no-brainer that they've all been nominated for an Astaire Award.
Right: Karine Plantadit in After Midnight. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
So has Neil Patrick Harris for Hedwig and the Angry Inch; James Monroe Iglehart as the jazzy genie in Aladdin; heavy-hearted, light-on-his-feet Andy Karl as Rocky; and Karen Ziemba as the hyper puppy-carrying actress in Bullets Over Broadway. Too bad Sarrah Strimel didn’t get enough nominations to make the list; I thought she slithered through Stroman’s Big Fish with big style.
In terms of Outstanding Choreographer, there’s a lot to choose from. Yes, Carlyle skillfully mixes different genres in After Midnight and his goofy/witty “Peckin’” routine for the male ensemble is lots of fun. But Stroman’s Bullets Over Broadway has hilarious numbers; Rob Marshall’s Fosse-style choreography for Cabaret is ingeniously naughty; and Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine’s fight choreography in Rocky throws you (or drags you) into the visceral suspense of a boxing match. I found Casey Nicholaw’s numbers for Aladdin to be more like pageantry than choreography—except for the hip-hop jiggles of jivin’ genie James Monroe Iglehart.
Above: A scene from Cabaret. Photo by Joan Marcus.
As far as Hollywood stars trekking onto the Broadway stage, my vote goes to Bullets Over Broadway's Zach Braff, who was very funny as the nebishy playwright David Shayne—and he could move. I have to say that Dulé Hill was a disappointment as the host of After Midnight. Michelle Williams’ singing and dancing are just adequate in Cabaret but she gives a nuanced performance as Sally Bowles anyway (more thoughts on her in my Stage Animal vs. Screen Animal posting). Sorry, but I haven’t seen Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig yet.
For a complete list of Astaire Award nominations, check out Broadway World. The big Astaire Awards show take place on June 2 at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.