What Inspires Broadway Choreographer Spencer Liff
Spencer Liff knows how to perform under pressure. Over nine seasons of "So You Think You Can Dance," the Broadway wunderkind has dreamed up number after Emmy-nominated number within the show's punishing under-a-week rehearsal period. You might not realize from watching his fast-paced, endlessly inventive numbers that "SYTYCD" was Liff's first solo choreographic gig, coming right after he danced for and assisted Broadway royalty like Rob Ashford, Kathleen Marshall, and Sergio Trujillo. Liff's choreo for the acclaimed revival of Falsettos is now streaming on BroadwayHD, and keep an eye out for his latest Broadway show Head Over Heels, hitting the boards in early 2018. —Helen Rolfe
Liff traveling around St. Petersburg (courtesy Liff)
Last March, I was directing a show in Russia and had two weeks afterward before I had to be back in NYC. I decided I'd travel to places I'd never been, all alone, with no itinerary or agenda. I went to Copenhagen, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Paris, and Amsterdam. I took pictures of paintings, images, and sculptures I found, and was so filled with inspiration for the projects I did next.
Classic movie musicals taught me so much. Every day after school, I would watch old MGM musicals the way other kids watched cartoons. I loved all of them, well known or obscure, and that style is ingrained within me now: the way Gene Kelly danced, the way Jack Cole choreographed.
Creating the opening number of "Falsettos" (courtesy Liff)
The design for Falsettos came to me in a workout class at Equinox. I was stepping up and down off of a box, like old-school aerobics. In the next production meeting, I told our set designer David Rockwell that I wanted 'March of the Falsettos' to be a black-light number with the actors marching up and down off of boxes, like an '80s step routine. It just goes to show how one tiny little conversation or sentence can spark a greater idea.
I was at a club one night with my friends, and I saw a girl standing on a pedestal, holding a flower. Over 30 minutes, in slow motion, she picked petals off this flower. I was transfixed by her and knew instantly I could make a dance out of that moment—like, 'He loves me, he loves me not.' I'd wanted to choreograph 'Maybe This Time' from Cabaret for five years, but hadn't found the story to go with it. When the next season of 'So You Think You Can Dance' came around, I thought, 'That's the story. It's about a girl who thinks she's found love.'
Liff (center) standing in for one of the lead roles in a "Head Over Heels" rehearsal (courtesy Liff)
My next big project is my favorite thing I've ever done: a punk-rock musical called Head Over Heels, based on the Elizabethan novel Arcadia and set to music by the Go-Go's. The dancing is new-wave contemporary meets '80s jazz meets Fosse. I'm excited to show off some big production numbers when it opens on Broadway in the spring.
A version of this story appeared in the December 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Choreographer's Collage: Spencer Liff."
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
"Whole, low-fat, or skim?" The question of which milk to drink has gotten a little more complicated lately, with a wide variety of nondairy milks popping up in grocery stores. To find out which ones are worth your milk money, we had registered dietitian Monika Saigal answer some FAQs.
Yesterday, the dance community was heartbroken to learn that Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran, both 14-year-old dancers, were among the 17 people killed on Valentine's Day in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane charms audiences with her bright energy and crisp technique. The San Francisco, CA, native first started dancing at age 4 at a local community center, and at age 7 started training in Memphis, TN, at the Classical Ballet Memphis. Her family later moved to Rochester, NY, where she continued studying at the Draper Center for Dance Education. In 2002, she was a YoungArts Foundation winner in dance, allowing her to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 2003, was made a soloist in 2007, and was promoted to principal last fall. Recently, she originated the role of Princess Praline in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream. Catch her later this spring during ABT's Metropolitan Opera season. —Courtney Bowers
You and I both know that dancing is the best thing since chocolate chip cookies! But its always nice when dance gets the recognition it deserves from non–dance-world peeps. That's why we did our own happy dance when we saw Shape magazine's article on how dancing can actually make you a better athlete.
When Ruby Castro became a Top 10 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 13, she was a fresh, feisty new face to most at-home viewers. But in the dance world—particularly on the ballroom circuit—Ruby was already a household name. Miami-based Ruby grew up as a belle of the ballroom: Her parents, Manny and Lory Castro, are veritable superstars of the scene. They're the owners of Dance Town, an ultra-competitive studio in Doral, FL, and raised Ruby to follow in their furiously fast footsteps. Before she graced the "SYT" stage, Ruby had already been named a U.S. Junior Champion in Latin Ballroom, and competed on "America's Got Talent"—twice!
So, we know she's talented, we know she's versatile, we know she's stunning, and we know she can dance. But here's what you may not know about Ruby.
You know that thing when you're onstage at a competition and you catch your teacher unconsciously marking through every step of the choreography in the wings, just willing you and the rest of the group to dance perfectly?
Yeah—that happens in ice dancing, too. Case in point: the scene at the Olympic rink yesterday, as Canadian ice-dancing legends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated their way to their third Olympic gold.
Obviously, their performance was all kinds of epic. But the off-ice "performance" given by their coach, Marie-France Dubreuil, was EVERYTHING.
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I want to dance in a ballet company, but I'm insecure about my body. I'm not skinny, and I don't think I ever will be, because that's just not the way I'm built. Please be honest with me: If I don't have the traditional ballet body, do I have a future in professional ballet?