Mia Michaels in Neverland
There’s nothing Mia Michaels can’t conquer. With work for her own dance company (Mia Michaels’ RAW), concert productions (for both Madonna and Celine Dion), feature films (Rock of Ages) and TV shows (“So You Think You Can Dance”) already under her choreographic belt, you may be thinking “What’s left?” But the three-time Emmy Award–winner is far from done: She’s bringing her signature contemporary style to Broadway in Finding Neverland.
Based in part on the 2004 film of the same name about Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie, Neverland opens on Broadway in April, directed by Diane Paulus. (You may remember Melanie Moore performing as Peter Pan in a short preview at last year’s Tony Awards; the show ran in Cambridge, MA, for two months last summer.) Dance Spirit spoke with Michaels about creating the show’s high-flying choreography. —Jenny Dalzell
The cast of Finding Neverland at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA (photo by Evgenia Eliseeva for ART)
Dance Spirit: Congratulations on your Broadway debut! How does it feel?
Mia Michaels: I’ve always wanted to do Broadway, and now that I’m here, I feel like it’s exactly where I want to be. It’s a whole new beast for me. I’ve spent most of my career working on my own—being my own director, designing the sets, the costumes, everything. So coming into a project that’s collaborative has been a great learning experience. If you’re not a good collaborator, you can’t do Broadway.
DS: What was your process like?
MM: The movement came out of the script, the music, the story and the characters. It was a familiar process for me. When I set a piece for “SYTYCD,” for instance, I create a story in which the piece will live. The only major difference for Neverland was that I had to really understand Diane Paulus’ vision. She’s a brilliant director, and very hands-on. She likes to see a lot of options before she makes a final decision. I’d create something, and then we’d evaluate and tweak.
The collaborative process is tough, though. You have to be open to and okay with letting something go—even if you think it works. It’s been a really humbling experience, and I think it’s a new beginning for me. I love theater and working with big groups of people now. I’m walking away a totally different artist.
DS: What’s the choreography like? Will people who know your work from “SYTYCD” be surprised?
MM: It’s different—though you’ll definitely see “Mia” in there. Because the show was so collaborative, there are multiple voices in it, not just mine. But I’d say it’s “Mia” with more of a theatrical, Broadway-esque feel.
DS: What will people love about the show?
MM: There’s a whole lot of heart and soul. When I first attended the reading two years ago, I was so inspired by the story: It follows an artist who’s stuck and feeling like a failure. We’ve all been there. But it’s also about children who have already lost their father, and are now dealing with losing their mother, too. That part of the story was very real to me. After seeing the show, you leave the theater feeling inspired—you’ll feel like you have wings and can fly.
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."
Last month, we asked why there wasn't a Best Choreography category at the Oscars—and discovered that many of you agreed with us: Choreographers should definitely be acknowledged for their work on the super-dancy movies we can't get enough of.
Now, we're taking matters into our own (jazz) hands.
We've decided to create a Dance Spirit award for the best cinematic choreography of 2017. With your input, we've narrowed the field to four choreographers whose moves lit up some of the best movies of the year. Check out our nominations for best choreography below—and vote for the choreographer you think deserves the honor. We'll announce the winner on Friday, March 2.
Contemporary phenom Christina Ricucci has super-flexible hips, which means she can stretch her legs to unbelievable heights. But when she noticed herself making contorted positions in class, Ricucci realized she was approaching her extensions all wrong. "I went back to the basics in class, squaring my hips and using my turnout," Ricucci says. "I learned to create proper positions, rather than whacked-out versions of them."
Some dancers are so wonky they have a hard time supporting their high legs, while others struggle with limited flexibility. But no matter your facility, you can find a balance of stretch and strength to achieve your fullest range of extension. It's not about how high (or not) your legs can go: It's the quality of the movement, and how you get those legs up, that counts.
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.
Once upon a time (until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded, to be exact), figure skaters had to compete to music without words. Before this rule change, a skater faced an automatic point deduction if the music even hinted at vocals. Understandably, there were *a lot* of Olympic programs skated to classical music, and you'd tend to hear the same music selections over and over and over.
There are plenty of current Olympic figure skaters who'd make beautiful dancers (first among them Adam Rippon, whose gorgeously choreographed long program won the internet, if not the gold). But today, as we wait for the women's figure skating competition to crown its new champions, we wanted to throw it back to one of the most beautifully balletic skaters of all time: Sasha Cohen.
The high-flying leaps of grand allegro are meant to be incredibly exciting. But at the end of an intense ballet class, when you're exhausted, it can be hard to give them the attention they deserve. Want to pump up your big jumps? Follow these 10 vital tips from Jennifer Hart, curriculum director and instructor at Ballet Austin.
"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.