Playing a prince ain’t easy!
Not that I’d know — my biggest theatrical role was portraying a munchkin — and that was a few years ago.
But Drew Seeley does know it. The singer and actor — whose work you’ll recognize from High School Musical (he co-wrote “Getcha Head in the Game,” among others, and sang Zac Efron’s part) — is playing Prince Eric in Disney’s The Little Mermaid on Broadway.
My friend and colleague Colleen Knopeck and I interviewed Drew this spring while he was on tour. We caught up with him a few minutes before his concert at Darien Lake Theme Park in upstate New York, and just several days before he began his limited engagement on Broadway, which runs through August 30.
During our first interview, which you can watch here, Drew told us that he was working hard to nail the choreography and even practicing standing tall like a prince. (Shoulders up! Back straight! Chest out!) Colleen and I checked back with Drew by phone earlier this month, after he’d been playing the prince four about four weeks.
“It’s going great,” he told us. “I’m still learning. We have a dance rehearsal right before the show tonight, just to freshen up and go over everything again. But I feel like I’m falling into it now, finally, and it’s a lot easier.”
Drew told us the job has been made easier by Chelsea Morgan Stock, who plays Ariel and “is a great dancer.” (Which I have to say is impressive, considering she wears fins for feet!) The most challenging number is “One Step Closer,” which he performs halfway through the second act. At this point in the story, Ariel still can’t speak, so Prince Eric teaches her to communicate through movement.
“It’s about teaching her how to speak through dance,” said Drew, who both sings and dances through the entire piece. “It takes the most stamina out of any song in the show for me, but it’s also a beautifully written song and something we also get to showcase our dancing skill in, so it’s my favorite.”
Check back tomorrow to find out how Drew deals with on-stage mishaps and Broadway audiences’ often unpredictable feedback.
You can visit Dance Spirit writer Tim O’Shei at his websites www.livestarringyou.com and www.timoshei.com.
Playing a prince ain’t easy!
We've all been stubbing our toes and whacking our elbows dancing in less-than-roomy indoor spots lately (hello, 5' x 8' patch of bathroom tile). If you're lucky enough to have access to a backyard or other big green space right now, you're probably itching to take your grand allegro outside, especially as the weather gets warmer. But how can you dance safely and productively in the great outdoors? We got pro tips from Mike Tyus of Jacob Jonas The Company and Xin Ying of Martha Graham Dance Company, both of whom were dancing outside long before COVID-19 hit.
Make Smart Footwear Choices<p>What you put on your feet can make or break your outdoor dance experience—and, if you're not wise, your ankles, too. Your footwear should reflect the style of dance you're doing and the purpose of the outing. "If I'm just posing, like for a photo shoot, I might take my shoes off for the shot," Ying says. "But if I'm really dancing, that's not a good idea. I stick to sneakers that protect my feet." Tyus looks for a combination of flexibility and support. "I like to wear shoes that I can feel my feet in, yet still have a sole for protection," he says. "I like canvas shoes, like Converse or Vans." </p>
Find the Right Location<p>If you're dancing in public outdoor spaces, choosing a safe location is crucial, especially in this era of social distancing. "You want to avoid as many people as possible," Tyus says. "With restaurants and grocery stores closed, many parking lots are completely empty, leaving some great open spaces." Tyus also likes to dance in empty parking garages. "The smooth concrete floors are ideal for turning," he says. </p><p>Beyond practicality, choose a location that inspires you. "The greatest thing about dancing outdoors is what the location itself adds to your dancing," Tyus says. Ying likes outside spots with a view. "Go up on your roof or out to the park," she says. "Use the sensation of the wind through your hair, or the way the birds are singing, to dance in a way you never have before." </p>
Jacob Jonas The Company's Mike Tyus (Jacob Jonas, courtesy Jonas)
Manage Unpredictable Surfaces<p>The natural world doesn't come equipped with sprung Marley floors, so you're going to have to troubleshoot for less-than-ideal dance surfaces. "Concrete is nice and smooth for turns, but you don't want to do huge tricks or jumps on it, because it's super hard," Tyus says. "Soft grass, on the other hand, absorbs shock, so it's great for big jumps and acrobatics. And sand can be really fun because you can fall without hurting yourself, and the resistance of the sand will strengthen your muscles." </p><p>If your outdoor space is problematic, Ying recommends not pushing yourself too hard. "You don't necessarily have to do turns or jumps," she says. "You can avoid the things that might injure you by focusing on more lyrical, stretchy movement. Alter your dancing depending on the surface."</p>
Plan for the Weather<p>Weather conditions like glare, wind, and rain can throw a wrench in your outdoor dance plans. Establish your own weather-related boundaries. "I don't like to dance in the rain, so I simply don't go out on bad weather days," Ying says. "Some people enjoy it, but I would rather watch the forecast, and go out on a day that's nicer." </p><p>Tyus, on the other hand, often embraces unexpected weather. "The glare of the sun can look great in a lot of photos, and the wind looks really cool moving through loose clothing. Even rain can produce some really fun stuff," he says. "You just need to adjust your perspective." That said, you should never dance outdoors if you hear thunder or see lightning, or if winds are strong or unpredictable.</p>
Ying dancing outside (James Jin, courtesy Ying)
Enjoy It!<p>"I've always danced outdoors," Ying says. "I'm glad other dancers are using this time to explore the joy that can come from it. Beyond the inherent inspiration, it's a great way to get over any fears of dancing in public."</p><p>Tyus agrees. "Dance isn't something that was made to be inside," he says. "It was made as a reflection of, and connection to, nature itself. Right now we get to go back to where we started. Dancing outdoors has changed the way I see dance, and I hope it changes the way other people see it, too."</p>
When you're bored in the house (and you're in the house bored), Nationals can feel like a dream that might never come true. But Kendall Moshay, Hollywood Vibe's Intermediate Dancer of the Year 2019, knows that now is the time to make like a Girl Scout and be prepared: "Sooner or later, everything will go back to normal—and you don't want to be left behind." Here are some top tips to keep your competition solo totally stage-ready, even when you couldn't be farther from a stage.
Get Your Head—and Hair!—in the Game<p>You've probably heard this from your own teachers a million times, but it bears repeating: "You wouldn't come to the studio with your pajamas on and your hair a mess, so don't practice your solo like that," says Kelly Burke, owner and artistic director of Westchester Dance Academy in Mount Kisco, NY. Burke's found that those who get ready for quarantine solo rehearsals like they're "normal" solo rehearsals tend to focus and perform better.</p>
Kelly Burke working with student Sienna Morris over Zoom (courtesy Burke)
Modify to Maximize<p>Chances are that you can't safely execute every single step of your solo at home. Mallauri Esquibel, a teacher at NRG danceProject who also guest choreographs across the country, urges caution with floor work, repetitive high-stress jumps, and any acro. At the same time, it's important to keep going through as much of your solo as you can in order to maintain stamina. Don't slip into marking your arms, and make sure you're thinking about activating the muscles you'll need to execute later what you can't exactly do full-out now. "You don't need as much energy to dance in a small space as you do in the studio," Burke says. "Still, try to push yourself through those three minutes as if you were onstage." Moshay also recommends adding some cardio cross-training (like jumping rope or boot-camp moves) to your weekly routine in order to keep stamina high.</p>
Dream It Up<p>If you're recording your solo practice to watch later (which you should!), it's all too easy to fall into the trap of beating yourself up over the smallest mistakes. <a href="https://www.dancespirit.com/visualization-for-dancers-2645584017.html" target="_self">Positive visualization</a>—which Esquibel does with all of her solo clients—can help. Before you begin each practice session, lie on the floor while your music plays. Think your way through the choreography, picturing yourself nailing every trick and authentically channeling the emotions you want to convey.</p>
Kendall Moshay rehearsing at home (courtesy Kendall)
Find Friends<p>Both Esquibel and Burke note that it's trickier for teachers to give valuable individual corrections onscreen. Take a page from Moshay's book and buddy up to get more feedback and accountability. "My friends and I are constantly FaceTiming to give each other tips," Moshay says. You could also try learning each other's competition solos—teaching someone else might show you new ways to improve your own performance.</p>
The Write Stuff<p>There's never been a better time to start keeping a dance journal. "You need to write down how you're feeling during this difficult time," Esquibel says. "Your highs and lows, short-term and long-term goals, and corrections that you want to remember." And, no, the Notes app on your phone doesn't count, says Esquibel: "When we do things on our phone, it kind of just feels like texting. It goes in one ear and out the other."</p>
You Are Your Own Best Teacher<p>Now's your chance to get used to performing your solo <a href="https://www.dancespirit.com/kick-your-mirror-gazing-habit-2645706487.html" target="_blank">without a mirror</a>, really paying attention to whether a step <em>feels</em> right. Esquibel, for one, believes the pandemic could actually help some more than it harms: "It's unfortunate circumstances, but this generation is for sure going to be the strongest and most creative, because they're having to take responsibility for their own training and artistic development."</p><p>Above all, don't quit refining your solo because of the uncertainty surrounding this summer's Nationals. "Don't let yourself think that all your work was for nothing," Burke says. "You're still working on your solos to become a stronger, better, more technical dancer, no matter when you get to perform them."</p>
We're thrilled to be honoring members of the great Dance Class of 2020 on special digital covers. One new cover star will be revealed every day during the month of May. Take a look at our winners so far below—we'll be updating the list daily. And if you're a 2020 high school or college dance senior, enter here from now through May 31st for your chance to be on the cover!