(photo by Kristen Sawatzky)
At last year's Capezio A.C.E. (Award for Choreographic Excellence) Awards in NYC, Lindsay Nelko tied for third place, winning $3,000 to produce her own show in conjunction with Capezio and Break the Floor Productions. Next week, we'll see the fruits of that partnership: Nelko will present the world premiere of her evening-length work, Awakening, at Ailey's Citigroup Theater on August 6 and 7.
Nelko, who has choreographed for "The X Factor" and "So You Think You Can Dance," has made some top-notch connections over the course of her career, so it's unsurprising that the cast of Awakening is pretty spectacular. Of the 24 dancers, eight are appearing courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, four are current or former members of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and others have performed with San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet and the Bad Boys of Dance. It's a seriously out-of-this-world roster.
Dance Spirit caught up with Nelko to learn more about Awakening.
How would you describe the show?
Awakening is loosely based on my life, and on the moments of realization—or awakening—in certain feelings or events. There are 18 small narratives woven together that depict those feelings, including sadness, anxiety, joy, friendship and young love. There's also the theme of awakening in terms of sleep. The show moves between reality, the dream state and hypnagogia, which is the state between wakefulness and sleep.
(L to R) Mark Caserta and Casey McIntyre appearing courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Lindsay Nelko's Awakening
(photo by Matthew Murphy)
That seems pretty deep.
It is! I've been inspired by my life's journey. I feel like artistic work frequently stems from our selves. It’s been like therapy to have my own show. I've been able to dive deeper, bring those experiences to life through incredible dancers and share it all with a wider audience.
Jeffrey Sousa and Ashley Fitzgerald in Awakening
(photo by Matthew Murphy)
How has Awakening evolved over time?
Well, the process really started in May 2013, when I created and workshopped Awakening for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. (Then I presented an excerpt at the A.C.E. Awards.) At that time, however, not all of the pieces were finalized, and I've since added a few more to the work. And while my first cast was amazing, I've been blessed to have an incredibly diverse cast this time around. There will be 18 classical and contemporary ballet dancers, in addition to modern, jazz and musical theater dancers. It's going to be an interesting mix, but also a truer representation of my work.
Can't wait for August 6? Watch a clip of Awakening from last year's ACE Awards below, and click here for more information.
Nadine "Hi-Hat" Ruffin's resumé reads like a rundown of Hollywood's hottest talent (Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Shakira, Missy Elliott and Ke$ha, to name a few), and you'll find her name in the credits of just about every major dance flick. Now, she's received an MTV VMA Best Choreography nomination for her work on the music video for Rihanna's hit "Where Have You Been." (Tune in on September 6 to see if she takes home the award!) We caught up with Hi-Hat to learn what it's like being at the top of the industry.
Dance Spirit: What's Rihanna like as a dancer?
Hi-Hat: Rihanna is Barbadian and I'm Jamaican, so we both understand the Caribbean vibe, and that gives us the connection we need for her dance moves. She picks up choreography pretty quickly, and through experience, I can predetermine what will work on her body and what won't.
DS: Who is your favorite artist you've worked with?
HH: All of the artists I've worked with have unique qualities, so I consider them all to be favorites. But one in particular is Missy Elliott. Missy is a trendsetter and an innovator who has kept me on my toes throughout my career!
DS: What advice do you have for dancers hoping to break into music video choreography?
HH: Remember that there are many ways to advertise your skills. Social media is a great source, and dance studios often look for choreographers to teach. Build your skills by continually creating routines. Be great at it, be original and most of all, stay passionate.
DS: What do you look for when hiring dancers?
HH: Personality, edge, groove, uniqueness and a love of dance.
DS: What's next for you?
HH: I'm blessed to be working on Rihanna's 2012 MTV VMA performance and other upcoming shows. I'm also working on projects for Shakira and "The Voice" Season 3.
Want more Hi-Hat? Check out this awesome behind-the-scenes video from the making of "Where Have You Been."
Photo by Michael Higgins.
Around this time every year, the Dance Spirit staff starts buzzing about Broadway. We're smack dab in the middle of working on our July/August NYC issue and seeing all of the new shows on the Great White Way. We find ourselves singing the oh-so-catchy tunes ("I'm the king of New York!") in the shower, on the subway and just about everywhere we go.
Our Broadway fever culminates each season with the Tony Awards—awards recognizing the best of the best in live Broadway performances. This year's Tony Awards will be held on June 10 in NYC. But get excited—the nominees were announced today! (Click here to see a complete list of who will battling it out for theater's most coveted trophies.)
We were super excited to hear that one of our favorite new musicals Newsies has received eight Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Choreography. (Leading the pack is Once with a whopping 11 nominations.) We won't lie, we definitely get the most excited about the Best Choreography award, so we've listed the nominees below.
Rob Ashford, Evita
Christopher Gattelli, Newsies
Steven Hoggett, Once
Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Do you have a favorite show? Any early predictions? Tell us what you think in the comments below!