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.
What a week in the "Dancing with the Stars" universe, amirite? After we bid farewell to Drew Scott and Emma Slater on Monday (in a surprise to pretty much nobody, despite the duo's strong performance in a super-fun freestyle that evening), it was time, last night, for Season 25's Grand Finale. And goodness, I don't know if we've ever seen quite so many perfect scores thrown around the ballroom. The final three—Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson, Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold, and Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas—performed a total of six routines on Tuesday, and five of them earned straight 10s. Yes, those scores were well-deserved; the finalists danced their bedazzled behinds off. But it also felt like the judges were channeling Oprah. YOU get a 10, and YOU get a 10, and YOUUUU get a 10!
Turkey is great and all, but the best part of Thanksgiving? It's watching some truly fantastic dancing on television, courtesy the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. On Thursday, when your arms are sore from mashing potatoes and/or you need to escape crazy Aunt Linda, head to the living room to catch these super-dancey parade highlights:
Taja Riley's bold, full-out presence and unique ability to mix hard-hitting hip hop with smooth, sensual choreography paved the way for her success in the commercial industry. She's danced with music icons like Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, Ne-Yo, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Pitbull, and Bruno Mars, and has assisted with choreography for Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour, Demi Lovato's Skyscraper tour, and Beyoncé's Mrs. Carter tour. She also appeared in Beyoncé's groundbreaking visual album Lemonade. Raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Riley grew up training at Denise Wall's Dance Energy. Currently, she's on faculty at New York City Dance Alliance, where you can catch her touring the convention circuit. —Courtney Bowers
P!nk, known for her high-flying, acrobatic awards show sets, has literally raised the bar for pop stars everywhere. For her performance at last night's American Music Awards, P!nk decided to break out some flips and tricks ON THE SIDE OF A BUILDING. WHILE FLAWLESSLY SINGING HER FACE OFF. You know, just casually, like you do when you're a full-on goddess.
After 13 seasons, "So You Think You Can Dance" viewers probably thought they'd seen it all. From "Ramalama (Bang Bang)" to Bollywood, Travis Wall to tWitch, it seemed like there couldn't possibly be any room left on Mary Murphy's Hot Tamale Train.
Then came 19-year-old Lex Ishimoto. When Lex showed up at the show's Season 14 NYC auditions with an improv solo in lieu of a choreographed routine, the judges were shocked—and then brought to their feet by his show-stopping creativity. From there, the jaw-dropping moments kept coming. In week one of the live shows, Lex busted out a super-crisp tap (!) routine. In his Episode 12 solo, he pulled off a triple (!) tour en l'air. And in Episode 14, he and fellow finalist Taylor Sieve revealed that they'd been dating on the down-low (!!!).
To dance insiders, Lex's name isn't new: It first popped up in playbills when he joined the national tour of the musical Billy Elliot at age 11. Last year, he was featured in Sia's "The Greatest" music video, and he's toured with Travis Wall's critically acclaimed contemporary company Shaping Sound. But now, Lex is officially a household name as America's Favorite Dancer—and has a first-class ticket on that Hot Tamale Train.
Oh hey there, Hallmark Channel! The producer of all those sweet, homey movies best watched in your PJs with your mom has a super dance-y film on its holiday lineup this season: A Nutcracker Christmas. And the casting is—to use a very Hallmark-y pun—perfectly on pointe.
A Nutcracker Christmas tells the story of a talented professional dancer, Lilly, whose supportive sister dies just as Lilly is about to perform the role of Clara in The Nutcracker with New York City Ballet. (Nit-picky fact-checking: In New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, she's known as Marie and danced by a child, but OK.) Lilly's boyfriend and dance partner, Mark, keeps her from performing in the show, which makes Lilly declare she'll never dance again. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Lilly's niece, Sadie, is about to dance Clara in a different company's Nutcracker—a company run by, of all people, Mark. And tons of drama ensues.
Yes, it's a whole lot of plot to wrap your head around. But the real story here is that Sadie is played by none other than the phenomenal Sophia Lucia, and the ever-dashing Sascha Radetsky is also involved in the project. (Radetsky's exact role is unclear from the press material, but he seems like a pretty natural fit for Mark, no?) The odds seem good that we'll get the gift of some very high-quality dancing. Merry Christmas to us!
Sophia Lucia showing off those banana feet (via @sophialucia5678)
You can catch A Nutcracker Christmas on December 10 at 8 pm. Get your slippers and hot cocoa ready.
When you think of a dancer, a double leg amputee may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But Eric Graise, who's one of the stars of the upcoming "Step Up: High Water" YouTube Red series, hopes to change that. Graise, whose legs were amputated as a child due to missing fibula bones, will play a character named King in the new dance series, set to debut early next year.
We all suffer from Nutcracker fatigue sometimes. After a zillion performances, it's hard not to. But there's nothing to restore your little-kid sense of Nutcracker wonder like a look at the sheer scale of a world-class Nut.
New York City Ballet's iconic production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker opens on Friday, and for the past week, the company has been Tweeting out some seriously eye-popping #NutcrackerNumbers. The stats cover everything from the number of jingle bells used on each Candy Cane costume (that'd be 144) to the watts of light used in the show's grand finale (ONE. MILLION. WATTS.).
One of the most beautiful things social media has brought us is the ability to feel like we're up close and personal behind-the-scenes with all our favorite dancers. And one of our favorite stars to Insta-stalk are actually two casts of 36 scintillatingly synchronized precision dancers. I'm talking, of course, about my mild obsession with the legendary Radio City Rockettes.
Have we mentioned lately how much we love dance dads? Especially ones who show up to their daughter's ballet class sporting a tutu, like Thanh Tran.