The Little Mermaid comes to Broadway!
With Disney lining up more and more productions on Broadway, it was only a matter of time before The Little Mermaid appeared on the Great White Way. The show officially opened in NYC on December 6, so get in line now: It promises to be jam-packed with innovative costumes, water-like set pieces and extra accessories sure to do the movie justice.
In case you’re the one in a million who has yet to see the popular 1989 flick, here’s the scoop: Ariel, a mermaid princess whose biggest dream is to become human, makes a deal with a sea witch to win the prince she loves. Fans of the film—which picked up two Oscars, one Golden Globe and a Grammy, all in major music categories—can expect their favorite tunes paired with fresh choreography, makeup, set pieces and more.
Tim Federle, a California-born dancer who grew up and trained in Pittsburgh, PA, plays a wide range of roles in the show, including “Sailor,” “Mer-man,” “Seagull,” “Catfish,” “Chef” and “Lily Pad,” in addition to understudying the roles of “Scuttle” and “Jetsam.” Here, Federle gives DS a peek into what fans can expect from the world under the sea.
DS: How did you score your spot in The Little Mermaid, and what were the auditions like?
Tim Federle: I went to an invitation-only audition, and my agent helped me get into a small audition group. We were taught a dance and had to show different skills, like double pirouettes and Russians. We also had to tap—that’s the area I’m the most comfortable with.
Then, we had to use Heelys—you know, the shoes with the wheels on the bottom? Disney had 100 dance shoes custom-made to use the Heelys technology, and we had to roll around on them and show that we could use them. I eventually had to “Heely” in front of the creative team, and it wasn’t easy. It’s a lot harder than kids make it look!
After that, Disney sent over a script, and I read for them. At the audition, someone said to me, “If we don’t use you, know that we think you’re great.” When someone says that, you figure you didn’t get the part, but I had three callbacks.
Right before Christmas 2006, I literally got the best Christmas gift ever. They called to tell me that I’d gotten the role!
DS: When did you start rehearsing, and what was the process like?
TF: We started rehearsals in May 2007. First, we sat around a table and read through the script, and it was really fun because everyone knows songs like “Under the Sea”—sometimes I can’t believe I actually get paid for this!
Next, we worked on dance vocab, which refers to experimenting with how the choreographer styles the steps—like taking a basic pirouette, but doing it with a flexed foot instead of a pointed foot in passé. Then we started learning chunks of choreography. The process was great because everyone had input, and everyone could give the choreographer feedback or suggestions.
DS: How did the out-of-town performances go?
TF: We went to Denver for two-and-a-half months, and it went really well. The goal of performing out of town is to discover what in the show can be improved before the NYC opening, so we did a lot of rewriting and some of the steps and costumes changed. Our set is so big that after our out-of-town performances, it took three weeks to move it back to New York.
DS: What does the set look like?
TF: George Tsypin, a well-known designer, did the set. It’s suggestive of water—some of the pieces are made of Plexiglass—but there isn’t any actual water. In Act Two, everything is larger than life because that’s how Ariel sees things. Her view of the world is different because she’s a mermaid, so her sense of reality is heightened. We try to do that with the show, and it gives great visual effects.
DS: What’s the choreography like?
TF: It ranges from Broadway tap dancing as interpreted by a seagull (so traditional time-steps, but with wacky, bird-like flapping arms) to dancing like you’re underwater. The sea sequences are achieved with fluid arms, Heelys and of course the costuming. There’s an interplay between hitting the movement sharply and moving through a line in a manner that suggests being underwater.
DS: What can people expect from The Little Mermaid on Broadway?
TF: Magic. This is such an iconic title—we have little girls in the audience who are three years old and wearing their “mermaid” outfits, and we have dads who love the show, too. There’s a lot of positivity, and anyone who loved the cartoon will love the Broadway show—it has a lot of star power.
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.