Monday, October 5, 2015

Kiss Me, Kate: Our Choreographer

“This is a show that is really dance intensive,” said Sharon Butcher, choreographer and head of the HSU Theatre, Film & Dance department dance studies program. “We made decisions on dancing numbers and singing numbers to allow our students to shine but also to keep the integrity of the work.”

 “We have a small number of core dancers but we do incorporate everybody in the bigger numbers. Background dancers can provide a nice counterpoint visually and rhythmically to the main dancers. We try to get as many people involved as possible because they are just so willing, so enthusiastic. When they aren’t in a dance—because we can’t use everybody all the time, the cast is just so large—they are genuinely disappointed. Even those who are music and theatre-based are so eager to dance!”

 “Because the play spans eras, there are dances reminiscent of those times. When we’re in the 1940s, there are dances indicative of the Lindy Hop and swing, stylized jitterbug and Big Band social dancing. In the Shakespearian scenes, references to the pavane and old English folk dance styles. Because the play lends itself to quirkiness we blend a lot of that into it, even in The Taming of the Shrew parts. Even though they’re in Elizabethan dress, we take liberties of adding elements of modern surprise into those dances.”

 “The show is utterly hilarious and absurd, each character is really two characters and sometimes when they’re trying to be one of them, the other slips through—so that’s fun to work with in the choreography.”

 “All the while, movement also expresses character development, and what aspects of personality should be highlighted at a particular time. When I’m working collaboratively with the dancers who contribute their sense of who they are, I always have to check with Susan Abbey, the director: does the movement help to tell the story? I also have to be aware of the blocking—where dances have to start and where they have to stop.”

 “We’re also limited by directions in the script itself which can be very specific about particular cast members doing certain things during the dance numbers.”

 “But Susan is a very inspiring and nurturing director. She’s not just product-based but she constantly reminds us that the quality of process is so important to her, to keep everyone’s minds open to it and redirect behavior so that the process is a really enjoyable one.”

 “I did musical theatre for a living in my early 30s, and I have forgotten the rigors of these night-long rehearsals after a long day of school or work. I’m amazed at the students’ commitment to do that. I can feel how hard it is on me. But when I had a night off when I could do my laundry and my dishes and take a bath, I was at home missing being in the theatre. I missed being in the theatre with the gang.”

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