Once a Broadway show officially opens, most choreographers direct their attention to a new project, and in high school productions, frequently the choreographer can't be present during the entire rehearsal process. That's where the dance captain comes in: Their job is to maintain the integrity of a show's choreo as originally set by the choreographer. "I'm always very careful about who our dance captains are because they're representing me," says choreographer and director Rob Marshall, known for the 2014 Cabaret revival and the 2002 Chicago film.
Working as a dance captain can seriously pay off career-wise. "It's a wonderful job because you learn how to run a show after the director and choreographer leave," Marshall says. "It's a really important position, especially if you're interested in something further in the directorial or choreographic world."
So, what are the steps to dance captain success? We asked pros from across Broadway to weigh in.
If you've been dying to answer the phone with, "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?" all year, we've got a show for you! Elf, the Broadway musical, has returned to the Great White Way just in time for the holidays. Based on the hilarious Will Ferrell flick, Elf promises lots of laughs, holiday cheer and great dancing. We caught up with associate choreographer, dance captain and swing Callie Carter to learn a little more about being in Broadway's most joyful show of the year.
Dance Spirit: What's the dancing like in the show?
Callie Carter: There's quite a bit of dancing in Elf. "Sparkle Jolly" is a full-impact dance number that make me feels like I'm being shot out of a cannon! But my favorite piece in the show is "Just Like Him." It's a jazzy number where I get to let my hair down and have a lot of fun.
DS: Tell us about your role as associate choreographer.
CC: I got to help director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw put the show together. I would take the choreography Casey created and put it on the cast—cleaning it and making it flow. It was a lot of work, but it was really fulfilling to be part of the creative process.
DS: How do you keep your stamina up when performing multiple shows a week?
CC: I try to take yoga and Pilates classes every week. I'm very injury-prone, so I have to be conscious about staying strong and keeping myself fit. When I was on tour I would go to the gym a lot, but now that I'm in the city, there are more classes to choose from. I also frequent Body By Simone for killer cardio classes.
DS: Talk about being a swing in the show.
CC: Being a swing means I have to know all the tracks in the female ensemble and be ready to go on at any given moment for any one of them. It's a lot of work, and it's really scary going on for the first time in a new "track." But the great thing about it is that once you're finished with a show, you feel a huge sense of accomplishment because you got through it!
DS: What's your advice for DS readers who want to be on Broadway?
CC: Take voice lessons! So many dancers forget that when they come to NYC they're going to have to sing. If you can sing and dance, you're already way ahead of the pack. There's so much competition here and having an edge is really helpful. Sing all the time, and get used to singing in front of people.
Catch Carter in Elf through January 6 at the Hirschfeld Theater. Click here for tickets.