“The Dance Captain is a very important part of the life of a Broadway show. When the company has to perform the same material 8 times a week, my job is to help inspire the cast to keep it as alive as it was on opening night, even if it is show #876. As well as keeping the story alive, I have to keep it clean and detailed so that the whole company is working towards telling the same story. This means that during the creation of the show, it is my job to absorb every last detail of the choreographer’s vision. What are the most important things for the company to maintain so as to accomplish his/her story? These details include storytelling and intention (why does Woman 3 stand upstage left with a basket of muffins and then suddenly exit stage left wing three in a huff) to choreographic details (what is the angle of our pinky on counts 3 E & A 4). In the whirlwind of the creative process, often times not all of the choreographers thoughts have been delivered to the dancers. This means that when the dust has settled after opening night, I am responsible for tightening any loose details.
My first time with the honor of being Dance Captain was for the revival of Cats. I was very fortunate that this experience was with a choreographer I have worked with for a very long time, Andy Blankenbuehler, and was also under the mentorship of Kim Craven, the shows resident choreographer. Kim, being one of Broadways best Residents, taught me about how to best manage a position that comes with this kind of responsibility. First and foremost, your job is to maintain the choreography and keep the show clean as repetition and routine affects the execution. In doing so, you have to allow the dancers to keep it fresh for themselves because on show #876, they need some sense of freedom. You also have to remember that you are dealing with several different kinds of dancers who handle corrections and information very differently. Learning to communicate with the individuals of the company so as to get the best results is a necessary and tricky skill as a Dance Captain. Kim’s wise words always echo in my head:
- “You get more with honey than you do with vinegar.”
- “It is never personal. Everything about these exchanges between dancers and Captain are about the work, not the individuals.”
Trying to balance this is the hardest aspect of the job as it is an ever-evolving, day-by-day adventure. If that’s not enough, a Dance Captain also has to know the show inside and out so you can teach replacements and understudies the material. They have to think quick on their feet if there are ever mid-show emergencies and dancers suddenly go out. Of course, they have to be able to perform any and all tracks in the show at the drop of a hat. But somehow, I haven’t ever stopped loving being a Dance Captain. It definitely requires a certain kind of brain, a certain kind of patience, and a certain amount of determination. But watching show #876 and #1876 and still feeling the electricity that was in the show on opening makes it all worth it.”