13 goes to Broadway
In a NYC studio, an intense dance rehearsal is underway. Concentrated dancers follow as choreographer Christopher Gatelli demonstrates lightning-speed footwork. After he teaches, each dancer repeats the movement until it’s perfect.
A few minutes later, there’s an enthusiastic celebration as the team pins down the steps. But these aren’t just any performers—they’re the cast of Broadway’s 13, the new musical that played at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A. from December 2006 to February 2007, Goodspeed Opera House’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, last summer and finally hit Broadway in October. The cast is made up of professional performers with acting, singing and dancing chops to rival the industry’s elite. But the most unusual—and best!—aspect of the entire team is that they’re all teens playing characters their own age in a show about being 13!
Penned by Tony-winner Jason Robert Brown, the story centers on Evan, a 13-year-old New Yorker. He’s uprooted by his parents’ divorce and must make his way in foreign Indiana. Although navigating the Big Apple had been a cinch, Evan’s new life isn’t. He deals with cliques and must figure out how he fits in. For anyone who’s ever felt confused, frustrated and alone during those awkward teen years (meaning all humans), this show strikes a personal chord.
To get the inside scoop, DS sat down with Gatelli to learn more about the show that’s making teen trials come to vivid life with huge dance numbers, enthusiastic songs and plenty of teenage emotion.
The Man with Moves
Unassuming and smiley with huge brown eyes, Gatelli has that inviting persona that makes you want to tell him about your day. His choreography chops are equally amenable: He’s created the moves for funny hits like Altar Boyz, plus classic ones like South Pacific (for which his choreography was nominated for a Tony award!). Clearly, his swing to 13 isn’t out of sync with his diverse career.
“The thing that runs through all of my work is my sensibility,” says Gatelli. “I always try to find the humor and focus on storytelling.”
In 13, this means instead of trying to make the cast look uniform or overly trained, he focuses on their strengths. During “Here I Come” at the end of the first act, all of the characters groove on Dance Dance Revolution sets. While the footwork is fast and specific, the arms are loose and individualized.
A sharper “step” piece is set to “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani. The rhythms are fierce, the energy is explosive and the dancers hit each count precisely. Moves that start off straight on Gatelli morph into bouncy, lanky stylings on the cast.
“Even though there are set dances, we’re not trying to make it like everyone has perfect technique,” explains Gatelli. “We want the kids to be kids—that’s what makes it exciting and charming.”
To put his theories and style into practice, Gatelli requested an individualized performance right from the audition: “I said ‘Just be yourself and let go,’” he explains. “It’s way more interesting to me to have a group of individuals than a chorus.” (However, he adds that ballet and technique classes are essential.)
As a result, watching the dancers in rehearsal is thrilling; no two are doing the steps exactly the same way. Often, these differences are reflections of what’s going on with the character—and the cast member. “Some of them have grown inches since Goodspeed in Connecticut,” says Gatelli. “Steps that felt good before are awkward now, because as they grow, they lose their center. But I embrace that!“
The Teenage Team
Even with all the challenges, the benefits of an all-teen cast are obvious, showcasing these young performers as dedicated and energetic professionals. Gatelli notes that upon arriving at rehearsals, he often finds them working on their own. “The best part is they are relentless with their energy,” he says. “They want to, and will, do things for as long as it takes to get it right.”
To harness focus amid this deluge of passion takes careful handling. This is especially true when working on material that cast members involved in the early-summer Goodspeed production know, but added cast members don’t (three new cast members and six swings have rounded out the Broadway roster). So, to combat any possible boredom, Gatelli adds an arm or changes a rhythm to keep the entire team on their toes.
When all the hard work of the young wonders and Gatelli comes together, an authentic, heartfelt show emerges. “13 is so true to life. We’ve all felt like an outsider, tried to do the right thing, seen the consequences of our actions for the first time—it’s all dealt with in this show,” he says. “It’s so wonderful when you realize after watching: Amazing teens just did all that.”
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽
Guys, we all knew this was coming—"World of Dance" was eventually going to eliminate someone. But man, is it brutal to watch these talented dancers give their all, only to be sent home. It's the name of the game, though, and after last night's episode, only two dancers per division remain. (At least Misty Copeland guest-judging was a silver lining!) Here's what went down last night:
They've impressed the judges, now it's time for the Top 100 dancers to enroll at The Academy—and to impress the All-Stars. Welcome to So You Think You Can Dance Academy!
The 100 dancers who made it through auditions in NYC or L.A. are now at The Academy, which is basically a beautiful building with floor-to-ceiling windows. The show opens with that Mandy Moore-choreographed Academy routine which, even after watching it 12 times and trying to learn all the choreography at home, is still delightful.
This Nationals season, Dance Spirit followed four talented dancers from The Dance Awards, NYCDA, Showstopper, and Starpower for an inside look at everything that goes into the biggest competitions of the year. First up: Isabella Torres from Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts in Baltimore, MD, who competed at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals for the first time this year. (All photos courtesy Shannon Torres.)
Merritt Moore is a ballerina who just so happens to be graduating from Oxford University with a PhD in quantum physics. Is she even human? The jury is still out on that - but the 29-year-old, who earned her undergrad degree from Harvard, has actually found dance to be a powerful tool that assists her in her studies.
Happy #WorldEmojiDay, dance friends! 🎉 👯 🎉 👯
Because it's just the cutest, we thought we'd share the emoji challenge the Royal Opera House is currently hosting on Twitter. They've retold a series of ballets (and operas, for that crowd) in emoji form. If you correctly guess the name of a ballet, you'll be entered for a chance to win two tickets to a ROH production.