Inside Broadway's "Great Comet" with Choreographer Sam Pinkleton

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 has become the buzziest show on Broadway after receiving a staggering number of Tony nominations (twelve to be exact 😱), including a Best Choreography nom for choreographer Sam Pinkleton. The show, starring Josh Groban as Pierre and Denée Benton as Natasha, was adapted from Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and is anything but a boring literature lesson. It's beautifully organized, captivating chaos, right down to the dancing. Case in point: Ensemble members are constantly running up and down stairs, partying 'till they drop or dancing in the house with the audience. Dance Spirit sat down with Pinkleton to get an inside look at the dance madness.


"Great Comet" choreographer Sam Pinkleton at the the show's opening night party.Photo by Walter McBride for Broadwayworld.com

What's the choreography like in Great Comet?

It's a huge dance show with tons of different styles. The score has music that sounds like classical Russian music, electronic/techno music and foot-stomping folk music, so the choreography is every bit as schizophrenic as the music. There's a big club scene and people are twerking and throwing down, and then there's a beautiful ball with dancers in gowns partnering. There's also a huge party in Act 2 that's low-to-the-ground and straight-from-the-gut community folk dancing. But the thing that unites everything choreographically in this show is that it comes from a very deep place. Every individual is doing slightly different choreography in their own way. It isn't about unison and lines, necessarily, it's about people expressing themselves at the absolute height of emotion. And it was very important to me that all 30 members of our ensemble were showcased in a very individual way.

What role does the dancing play in the story?

Great Comet is a melodrama, so it's about people operating at the absolute height of human emotion. Even if an audience member is watching a little bit of story that's 55 feet away, there's also something near you. There's a constantly moving world around you at all times. The ensemble makes this world that creates all of the tension and complications, and in the second act utter joy, that these characters are feeling. And they explode it all outward.

What kinds of dancers were you looking for during casting?

For me, it was all about people who dance like themselves and nobody else, and who are totally unafraid to go so hard that they feel like they're going to vomit. It wasn't about pointing your feet, they needed to throw down—like 3-in-the-morning style.

What was the hardest part of the process?

Honestly, I love this show so much. It's the greatest creative gift that's ever been given to me, so even the hard parts were awesome. The most intense challenge, though, was planning. This show required a kind of choreographic pre-production that I think is usually reserved for the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games. Because of the staging and the amount of stairs, there are basically three shows being done simultaneously at any point. If you're sitting in the orchestra, there's a whole dance number happening above you in the balcony that you don't even know about. We rehearsed in dance studios and it was like mapping football plays. My team and I just sat with pennies on maps for weeks figuring out how to even make it possible.

What's your favorite part of the show?

My favorite part is hands down the second act. There's a 13-minute dance sequence called "Balaga" that in my mind is like the greatest wedding party you've ever been to. It escalates to a point past dancing into actual chaos. And that's what I always want dance to do.


Need more info on the latest and greatest Broadway shows? Keep an eye out for our July/August issue where we award the danciest new productions! And check out this clip of the Great Comet cast performing on the Today show last week to tide you over until Tony night.

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search