This had to be one of the most challenging gigs I have done thus far. The stage was small and had many stairs to navigate, and there were only four performers which meant the choreography was very revealed. Over fifty Berlin tunes made up the score and there was no script or continuous plot, which meant that almost every song required choreography.
I prepared for the show by taking some ballroom and partnering classes to refresh myself on the accurate way to do partner work from this time period. With many incredible films by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to refer to, I had a lot of homework. I was very quickly reminded that the dancers of that time were incredible. Their precision, timing, and execution was remarkable...and very hard to capture the essence of in a 2016 production.
I would recommend that anyone who plans on a career in musical theatre should take ballroom classes. It is incredible how many of us find it very challenging even to do a simple waltz with a partner. We are all looking down, bonking our heads into each other, and worrying over our feet. And every musical contains at least one moment where the leads dance together. It is very hard to make it look effortless, when in fact it is quite hard to execute partner work in a way that looks effective.
This exact show was done 20 years ago, and so I had the task of creating movement that was similar to the previous show (we were doing a straight re-mount) but not the same because that would be stealing the original choreography. I often felt that my creativity couldn't be fully realized because I was shaping the movement to fit into tidy boxes that already existed. It also prevented me from utilizing the strengths of my performers because we were trying to re-create and honour what was done twenty years ago instead of creating from scratch as you normally would.
So in the end I learned a lot, and realized that I need to get better at teaching men how to lead and ladies how to follow (it's not an easy position for us strong ladies out there) when doing classical partner work. I wasn't fully happy with my work, but hopefully it paved the way for better choreography in the future. The performers were wonderful to work with, and I was honoured to work with the wonderful Glynis Leyshon.
I guess you can't win em' all folks!