Dancer to Dancer

Let's Take This Show on the Road: How "Phantom" Goes on Tour

The Phantom cast in "Masquerade" (photo by Alastair Muir, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

The North American tour production of The Phantom of the Opera is massive, with a large cast and a fabulously elaborate set (including that famous chandelier). How do all those moving parts get from city to city, giving audiences across the country the same spectacular show? Unsurprisingly, cast and crew alike have their travel routines down to exact sciences. We talked to Emily Ramirez, a former professional ballet dancer who stars as Meg Giry, and to production stage manager Heather Chockley about how Phantom hits the road.


A crew member adjusts the famous chandelier (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

When your show includes a one-ton chandelier, a huge revolving wall, double-height opera boxes, 100 moving lights, and almost 100 wireless microphones, preparation for each stop on the tour has to begin well in advance. "About a year out, our production guys will go to each prospective theater and get every possible measurement," Chockley says. "Then we'll drop our show map onto their theater map, and troubleshoot sticking points." Large theaters, like the Kennedy Center in DC or the Hobby Center in Houston, don't require many adjustments. But in smaller locations, significant changes might have to be made to accommodate the complicated production. "For one theater in South Bend, IN, we had to add a big structural steel beam over the audience to hang the chandelier from," Chockley says.

The chandelier in its cover (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

"The chandelier is its own beast," Chockley says. "It fills the whole width of its truck, and has its own traveling cart. We usually have to build some portable decking over the seats to roll it out, and we'll have previously installed some motors in the ceiling to pick it up. Then, there's all kinds of safety testing that happens based on the height it'll travel in the theater."

Ramirez as Meg Giry (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

For the cast, traveling looks a little different every time. "There's always a company travel option—a flight, or a bus, arranged by the show," Ramirez says. "But you don't have to take it, and a lot of people do their own thing. You might be able to take a buyout for the price of the flight and book a ticket home for a day or two, for example. I tend to switch it up."

The corps de ballet in "Hannibal" (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

Because Phantom's set covers the entire stage, including the floor, the dancers don't have to worry much about variations in stage dimensions or floor surfaces. Backstage, however, is a different story. "We might get lucky and have a full mirrored, marleyed studio to warm up in," Ramirez says. "Or we might be warming up in a triangle-shaped storage closet with carpet on the floor!"

Dancer Daniela Filippone warming up (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

Staying in shape on the road poses a special challenge for the show's dancers. "If I know I'm going to be stuck on a plane or bus for a while, I'll do little things to keep the juices flowing," Ramirez says. "In the airport, I never get on the people mover or take the escalator; I'll always walk. If I have a long layover, I'll walk the entire airport!" Once in her hotel room or Airbnb, she'll do some kind of workout that involves her own body weight—Pilates, yoga, or TRX. And she counts her humidifier, collection of essential oils, probiotic supplements, and neti pot among her travel must-haves. "Just keeping yourself healthy on the road is a full-time job," she says.

Tutus backstage, ready for the dancers' quick change (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

To transport sets and costumes, the show uses 20 semi-trailer trucks. All of the show's scenery breaks down into "manageable, or at least truck-sized, pieces," Chockley says. Most costumes travel in big rolling closets with hard shells, which the crew calls "gondolas."

Ramierez prepares for "Masquerade" during intermission (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

Despite the complexity of the show, load-in and load-out happen quickly—feats made possible by the intensive advanced planning. "Standard load-in is three days, with a show the evening of the third day," Chockley says. "Then we'll have about 15 hours to get everything out afterward. It's always easier to take a puzzle apart."

Ramierez and the corps onstage (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

The cast has relatively little prep time before the first performance in a new theater. "Usually we'll be called in at 5 pm, and we'll run different pieces from a couple numbers and then one number in its entirety," Ramirez says. "But that's not really for us; it's for the sound people, to get their levels right in the space." At 8 pm that same day, they perform their first show. "Unless we're putting in a new person, we don't have other rehearsals built into the schedule," Ramirez says. "We might go a month or two without rehearsal. But when you're performing eight times a week, you know what you're doing."

Dance Captain Lily Rose Peck repairing her shoes (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

Despite the sometimes less-than-glamorous daily realities, Ramirez finds touring life deeply fulfilling. "This show has such an incredible reputation and history," she says. "There are a lot of variables when you're on the road, but no matter how I'm feeling or what kind of warm-up I just had or what my flight was like, the thing that's always consistent is that I want the audience to have an amazing experience. That's what keeps me grounded."


A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Let's Take This Show on The Road."

The Conversation
How To
San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung in rehearsal (Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet)

Even for natural turners, pirouettes from fifth can be a challenge. You need to take off from a small crossed position and stay straight over your supporting leg, from start to finish. "It's the hardest place to turn from, because you can't access your plié as much as you can from fourth," says Jennie Somogyi, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Jennie Somogyi Ballet Academy in Easton, PA. "I'm always telling my students to plié more!"

If you're struggling with pirouettes from fifth position or want to refine your approach, try these pro tips.

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Stars
Sykes Photography, courtesy Keisa Glover

At the tender age of 9, Destiny Wimpye moved cross-country with her mom so she could train at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. The leap of faith paid off: Destiny's spent summers training at the School of American Ballet, the Ailey School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet; performed for Michelle Obama at the White House; and danced beside Mariah Carey in a TV special for Disney. Now she's a full-time student at the Colburn Dance Academy under the direction of former New York City Ballet principals Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette, and it seems fated that Destiny will one day dance her dream role, Dewdrop in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. "I'm a jumper and a turner," Destiny says, "so I think it fits me pretty well."

Keep reading... Show less
Dear Katie
Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I've been battling Achilles tendinitis for months—it never seems to get better. How can I deal with it? Could there be an issue with my technique that's causing the problem?

Fiona

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Ever since starting her professional career, Broadway dancer Amber Ardolino has cupped. Using the holistic wellness practice to improve performance and take care of her body, Ardolino cupped before it was cool—even beating the 2016 Rio Olympics' purple polka-dotted athletes to the punch. But Ardolino's only one dancer who has put this therapy to regular use. Dance Spirit asked Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, and performance rehab specialist with St. Vincent Sports Performance who works with Indianapolis' Dance Kaleidoscope; and Thomas Droge, Chinese-medicine doctor and founder of Pathfinder Institute in NYC, to explain the ins and outs of cupping therapy.

Amber Ardolino in "Hamilton" (courtesy Ardolino)

Keep reading... Show less
See photo credits below

What inspires you most as a dancer? What keeps you going on the days when the motivation just isn't there, and makes you feel like all the hard work, rejection and sacrifice is worth it for the pursuit of your dream? What makes you want to run into an empty studio and create something new?

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over four decades of experience, often hangs posters with dance-related quotes on the walls of her studio, on everything from creativity to the hustle to the importance of teamwork. Sometimes the right words from dancers who have been there are just the push you need to spark your imagination and remind yourself why you love what you do.

In that spirit, here are 10 inspiring quotes from dancers on what their art form means to them, and why it's worth fighting through the hard parts:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Inside a Rockette audition (Amanda Schwab/Starpix)

Let's be real: Auditions can be rough. No matter how prepared you are, a lot of variables go into every audition—which means even the best of us mess up sometimes! Here are 7 audition fails every dancer has experienced at one point or another.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Erin Baiano

4 hiring powers-that-be told DS their "do's" for dressing to audition.

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.

Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!

Keep reading... Show less
How To
San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung in rehearsal (Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet)

Even for natural turners, pirouettes from fifth can be a challenge. You need to take off from a small crossed position and stay straight over your supporting leg, from start to finish. "It's the hardest place to turn from, because you can't access your plié as much as you can from fourth," says Jennie Somogyi, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Jennie Somogyi Ballet Academy in Easton, PA. "I'm always telling my students to plié more!"

If you're struggling with pirouettes from fifth position or want to refine your approach, try these pro tips.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Via YouTube

Oh, baby I'm a wreck (wreck) after watching Kinjaz's new music video.

Set to Post Malone's "Sunflower," the lead single from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, the vid features the dance crew's ever-fabulous men—who appear to have Spidey senses, because seriously, how else do they stay down-to-the-fingertips in sync?—performing Vinh Nguyen's super-tight choreography, with an overlay of comic-book-esque graphics by editor Jonathan Shih.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Chloe Misseldine has every reason to be nervous as she and her partner run through the challenging wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Their performance is just days away and the two American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers have only had a week to prepare. Add to that the fact that ABT principal Gillian Murphy, one of the world's most famous ballerinas, is at the front of the studio taking notes.

Keep reading... Show less
Body Buzz
Getty Images

If you haven't followed through on your New Year's resolution to practice more self-care, then Valentine's Day is the perfect time to start. Below, we rounded up the best ways to pamper, indulge, and heal everything from your muscles, to your skin, to your mind. Your body (and your dancing) will thank you.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
State Ballet of Siberia dancer Yury Kudriavtsev wearing Siberian Swan shoes (courtesy Siberian Swan)

As ballet's gender roles grow increasingly blurred, more men than ever are reaching new heights: the tips of their toes.

It's no longer just Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the few pointe-clad male character parts, like in Cinderella or Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. Some male dancers are starting to experiment with pointe shoes to strengthen their feet or expand their artistry. Michelle Dorrance even challenged the men in her cast at American Ballet Theatre to perform on pointe last season (although only Tyler Maloney ended up actually doing it onstage).

The one problem? Pointe shoes have traditionally only been designed for women. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

Are you a college student curious about what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite magazine? You're in luck—because Dance Spirit is searching for an editorial intern for summer 2019!

We'll be accepting applications through March 1. Internships pay an hourly stipend and require a minimum two-day-a-week, onsite commitment in our NYC office from June to August. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resumé and two writing samples to Margaret Fuhrer at mfuhrer@dancemedia.com. Be sure to put "Summer Internship Application" in the subject line. All attachments must be formatted as PDFs.

We will interview selected candidates in March in person or by phone, and let candidates know by mid-April if they have been chosen. Please note that we do not accept high school students, or any students under 18, and that we give preference to college juniors and seniors.

We can't wait to meet you!

Dance on TV
CBS

Need more evidence that K-pop is taking over the universe, one infectiously catchy song and impeccably choreographed dance routine at a time? Look no further than BLACKPINK's fabulous appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night.

Keep reading... Show less

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways