Kendra Moore helps keep The Lion King’s choreography tight.
Kendra Moore. Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography, Courtesy Disney Theatrical Productions.
If you’re a member of the corps de ballet it would be unusual—and probably awkward—to get notes after a performance from the swan behind you. But that’s exactly what Kendra Moore does as one of two dance captains for The Lion King’s long-running North American tour. “The resident dance supervisor is out front and there are things he’ll notice,” says Moore, “but we are his eyes and ears onstage.”
Moore joined a touring cast of The Lion King in 2003 after dancing for Ballet Austin, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. Her first two years with The Lion King—one long run in Chicago, followed by another in San Francisco—were relatively simple, performing in the zebra track. But in February 2005, her tour’s dance captain left the show. Moore wasted no time seizing the opportunity. “I immediately e-mailed the higher-ups to let them know I was interested,” she says. She landed the dance captain job, along with a pay raise.
On top of her onstage duties—she performs 11 different combinations of female characters as one of the production’s swings—Moore is responsible for knowing each part of the 52-member cast. She keeps everything straight with a mini library of spiral-bound books of index cards. Each logs a role’s choreography and cues, and includes blocking diagrams for song numbers. She’s always watching the show when she’s not in a scene and writes down corrections and questions between costume changes. “Otherwise I’ll forget,” she says, laughing, “and I hate that feeling of getting through three notes and thinking, ‘I just know there was a fourth thing…’ ”
Moore also works with the crew to look out for potential issues before they become problems. When the monitors are too quiet, she goes to the stage manager before dancers complain they can’t hear the music; if a costume looks too long, she alerts the head of wardrobe before a lioness trips on it and falls. When everything’s running smoothly, being a dance captain doesn’t keep her up too late, but she has to stay ready for the next rough patch and be willing to work overtime when contracts turn over or someone gets injured.
Above: The touring cast of The Lion King. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy Disney Theatrical Productions.
She admits that being a leader one moment and just another cast member the next can be tricky. “We do have to be diplomatic,” says Moore. “People come ask me, ‘Hey, can you look at this part? I think so-and-so might be in my spot,’ or, ‘He’s traveling too much.’ You just have to listen to everyone and not take sides.”
It’s a special skill not all performers have. “A dance captain has to be compassionate,” says associate choreographer Marey Griffith. “Kendra’s been great because she’s a collaborator, a people person. She’s very open and she’s a good listener.”
After having a concert dance career, Moore says, “I never saw myself doing this. I was kind of, I don’t know, snobby about musical theater. But it’s become my dream. I want everyone onstage to be the best that they can be.”