Spencer Liff (photo by Bradley Bergeron, courtesy Liff)
Spencer Liff knows how to perform under pressure. Over nine seasons of "So You Think You Can Dance," the Broadway wunderkind has dreamed up number after Emmy-nominated number within the show's punishing under-a-week rehearsal period. You might not realize from watching his fast-paced, endlessly inventive numbers that "SYTYCD" was Liff's first solo choreographic gig, coming right after he danced for and assisted Broadway royalty like Rob Ashford, Kathleen Marshall, and Sergio Trujillo. Liff's choreo for the acclaimed revival of Falsettos is now streaming on BroadwayHD, and keep an eye out for his latest Broadway show Head Over Heels, hitting the boards in early 2018. —Helen Rolfe
Liff traveling around St. Petersburg (courtesy Liff)
Last March, I was directing a show in Russia and had two weeks afterward before I had to be back in NYC. I decided I'd travel to places I'd never been, all alone, with no itinerary or agenda. I went to Copenhagen, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Paris, and Amsterdam. I took pictures of paintings, images, and sculptures I found, and was so filled with inspiration for the projects I did next.
Classic movie musicals taught me so much. Every day after school, I would watch old MGM musicals the way other kids watched cartoons. I loved all of them, well known or obscure, and that style is ingrained within me now: the way Gene Kelly danced, the way Jack Cole choreographed.
Creating the opening number of "Falsettos" (courtesy Liff)
The design for Falsettos came to me in a workout class at Equinox. I was stepping up and down off of a box, like old-school aerobics. In the next production meeting, I told our set designer David Rockwell that I wanted 'March of the Falsettos' to be a black-light number with the actors marching up and down off of boxes, like an '80s step routine. It just goes to show how one tiny little conversation or sentence can spark a greater idea.
I was at a club one night with my friends, and I saw a girl standing on a pedestal, holding a flower. Over 30 minutes, in slow motion, she picked petals off this flower. I was transfixed by her and knew instantly I could make a dance out of that moment—like, 'He loves me, he loves me not.' I'd wanted to choreograph 'Maybe This Time' from Cabaret for five years, but hadn't found the story to go with it. When the next season of 'So You Think You Can Dance' came around, I thought, 'That's the story. It's about a girl who thinks she's found love.'
Liff (center) standing in for one of the lead roles in a "Head Over Heels" rehearsal (courtesy Liff)
My next big project is my favorite thing I've ever done: a punk-rock musical called Head Over Heels, based on the Elizabethan novel Arcadia and set to music by the Go-Go's. The dancing is new-wave contemporary meets '80s jazz meets Fosse. I'm excited to show off some big production numbers when it opens on Broadway in the spring.
A version of this story appeared in the December 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Choreographer's Collage: Spencer Liff."
School of American Ballet students (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy SAB)
Do you have a "Strictly Ballet"–sized hole in your heart? Good news: The upcoming docuseries "On Pointe" just might fill it.
The School of American Ballet is teaming up with Imagine Documentaries and DCTV for the project. Though it's not yet clear where "On Pointe" will air, we do know that it'll follow talented SAB students preparing for professional ballet careers—much as Teen Vogue's popular "Strictly Ballet" web series did back in the day. But "On Pointe" marks the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed access to the school, and it sounds like it'll paint an even more complete picture of the dancers' lives inside and outside the studio.
Choreographer Bob Fosse's signature style—with its jazz hands, inverted knees, and slouched shoulders—is still a huge influence in the dance world (and, thanks to the gloriously dancyFX series "Fosse/Verdon," the TV world). But while you know to expect plenty of Fosse-isms during a stage performance of Chicago or Sweet Charity, Fosse's legacy has also seeped into pop music culture, inspiring the likes of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. Here are just six of the many music videos that reference Fosse's iconic works.
Gabrielle Hamilton in John Heginbotham's dream ballet from Oklahoma! Photo by Little Fang Photo, courtesy DKC/O&M
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, extraordinary ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several Dance Spirit faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list: