Stacey Tookey's gorgeous contemporary pieces have been wowing "So You Think You Can Dance" audiences since Season 5. But for the past couple of years, the talented choreographer has also been directing her own company, Still Motion, which premiered Tookey's first evening-length work, Moments Defined, in L.A. in 2012. Now a revamped version of the show is coming to NYC for two nights only—June 4th and 5th at the Kaye Playhouse. (Get your tickets here!) I caught up with Tookey to see what New Yorkers can expect from Moments.
Margaret Fuhrer:How did you initially come up with the concept for Moments Defined?
Stacey Tookey: When you’re creating a whole evening of your own work, the best place to start is with something personal to you. I started thinking about all the moments in my life that have transformed me, inspired me, shaped me. So I wanted to create a series of vignettes of these moments, snapshots brought to life. That was the root of the show, and then as it developed, of course I realized it wasn’t just about me—it was bigger than that. We all have moments that define us.
MF:A lot of your "SYTYCD" pieces tell beautiful stories. Is there a narrative through-line to Moments?
ST: There's a little bit of a subplot. I like to assume my viewers are smart, and to leave some things to their imagination—it’s up to them to decide if they want to thread everything together or not. This show isn't as commercial or spelled-out as what we see on TV, but in addition to its more abstract moments there are also simple, clear, even funny ones.
Excerpts from the L.A. production of Moments Defined
MF:This is a multimedia show, right?
ST: Yes, there's a dance film in the middle of it. I feel like that’s where theater is headed—into the realm of multimedia. It’s cool to be transported into a film in the middle of a live experience. I can take the whole audience with me on a different kind of journey.
MF:Your NYC cast includes some new faces.
ST: I wanted some fresh energy, because I wanted the New York show to feel different. Some of them are people I've admired for a long time. But I also held an audition in New York, and I hired some dancers I’d never worked with before. The final group has such an amazing range—they go from the concert dance realm to Broadway to the commercial world of "SYTYCD." One of them, Anthony Morigerato, even holds the Guinness World Record for the most tap sounds in a minute. He's the only tap dancer who’s ever made me cry.
MF:What qualities do you look for when you're choosing dancers?
ST: I rely on them to bring something to the creative process, so I want people who are honest and have really giving spirits. And humility is important, too. There are a lot of extraordinary talents out there who are really difficult to work with, and I’ve always steered away from that. All of my dancers are really nice people!
MF: How has Moments evolved since 2012?
ST: It'll be evolving up until opening night! As an artist you're forever changing, so it would feel strange to do the exact same show again. I've reworked a lot of the dance—I've added to it, I've brightened parts, I've dimmed others. And I've left room for the spontaneous moments we have in the studio during rehearsals. As a choreographer, you have to trust yourself and not over-plan things. You have to go with your heart.
MF: Why did you want to bring this show to NYC?
ST: New York has played a huge role in my dance career. It was the city I connected with most as a dancer—it inspired me. L.A. was a great place to start this journey, but it's always been a dream of mine to do something in New York. It's bringing me back to my roots, in a way.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Isabella Boylston in "The Bright Stream" (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy American Ballet Theatre)
Beloved by ballet fans for her lucid technique and onstage effervescence, by her Instagram followers for the deftly curated photos and videos she shares of her glamorous life, and by fangirl Jennifer Garner for all of the above, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston is one of the rare ballet stars who's achieved mainstream fame. A native of Sun Valley, ID, Boylston trained at the Academy of Colorado Ballet and the Harid Conservatory before joining the ABT Studio Company in 2005. She entered the main company as an apprentice in 2006, and attained principal status in 2014. In addition to her successes with ABT, where she dances nearly every major ballerina role, Boylston has served as artistic director of the annual Ballet Sun Valley Festival, which brings high-level performances and classes to her hometown. And speaking of famous Jennifers: Boylston recently appeared as Jennifer Lawrence's dance double in the film Red Sparrow. Catch her onstage with ABT as Manon, Odette/Odile, and Princess Aurora during the company's Metropolitan Opera House season this summer in NYC. —Margaret Fuhrer