Heat up your winter with these 5 BDC classes

The beanies and heavier coats have started to make an appearance on the NYC streets, which means…winter is coming.

Sure, sometimes staying at home snuggling up to a movie or a good book sounds appealing in the cold, but this winter, keep sweating with these 5 class and workshop ideas available at Broadway Dance Center!

It’s Showtime Folks: Fosse Week @ BDC

Mimi Quillin teaching “Big Spender”

Last week Broadway Dance Center was honored to host our first Fosse Week, a full five days of theatre master classes taught by veteran Fosse dancers who have been sanctioned by the Verdon Fosse Estate. The prestigious faculty included Mimi Quillin, Dana Moore, Lloyd Culbreath, BDC’s own Diana Laurenson, as well as a special appearance by Nicole Fosse. The lucky participants who signed-in early (the classes maxed out every day) learned some of Bob Fosse’s legendary technique, style, and repertoire in pieces such as “Big Spender” (Sweet Charity), “Dancin’ Man” (Dancin’), “I Love a Piano” (The Ed Sullivan Show), “Cool Hand Luke” (The Ed Sullivan Show), and “Tijuana Breakfast” (The Ed Sullivan Show).

Bob Fosse’s signature style is everywhere – from Broadway shows to MTV.  Fosse’s is probably the most imitated choreography…ever.  Have you seen Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” music video?  Many say that Fosse’s “Tijuana Breakfast” inspired her stylized choreo.  Not to mention Bey’s “Get Me Bodied” music video which was obviously taking from Fosse’s “Rich Man’s Frug.”  And how about the King of Pop?  Watch a clip of Fosse’s “Snake in the Grass” followed by Michael Jackson’s performance of “Billy Jean.”  If Beyonce’s the “Queen” and Michael Jackson’s the “King,” what does that make their inspiration, Bob Fosse?

Given Fosse’s legendary influence on the world of dance, it was truly incredible to learn some of his original choreography from his own dancers.  Mimi, Diana, Dana, and Lloyd each told tips and anecdotes from their experience working with Bob.  Even though Bob Fosse is no longer with us, his aura lives on.

Bonnie Erickson, Director of Educational Programming at BDC, said,“We’re so honored to present this work and so happy that it was such a rousing success. At BDC we’re so dedicated to preserving this epic work and making sure to pass it along to younger dancers. Can’t wait for the next set of workshops!”

Yes, you read that right. Stay tuned for another magical Fosse Week at Broadway Dance Center in the new year!

66th Annual Tony Awards

Last Friday night was the the 66th annual Tony Awards, the brightest night of the year for the Broadway theater community.  You probably already know that “Once” took the top awards of “Best Musical” and “Best Leading Actor.”  5-time Tony winner, Audra McDonald snagged “Best Leading Actress in a Musical.”  And the high-energy, tumbling tricks of “Newsies” was a shoe-in for “Best Choreography.”  But what determines “best” choreography?  Theater critic, Alastair Macaulay, writes “There is no single method for choreography to succeed in a musical: It may be a source of isolated highlights or a unifying thread.”  The competition is also an important factor in determining the year’s winner.  For example, Michael Bennett’s “A Chorus Line” beat out Bob’s Fosse’s “Chicago” back in 1976.  Some of the most renowned “dance musicals” didn’t even win “Best Choreography” (“White Christmas,” “Hairspray,” and “Come Fly Away”).   Here’s a brief list of the past Tony winners for “Best Choreography.”

1947 – Agnes de Mille (Brigadoon) & Michael Kidd (Finian’s Rainbow)

1948 – Jerome Robbins (High Button Shoes)

1949 – Grover Champion (Lend an Ear)

1950 – Helen Tamiris (Touch and Go)

1951 – Michael Kidd (Guys and Dolls)

1952 – Robert Alton (Pal Joey)

1953 – Donald Saddler (Wonderful Town)

1954 – Michael Kidd (Can-Can)

1955 – Bob Fosse (The Pajama Game)

1956 – Bob Fosse (Damn Yankees)

1957 – Michael Kidd (Li’l Abner)

1958 – Jerome Robbins (West Side Story)

1959 – Bob Fosse (Redhead)

1960 – Michael Kidd (Destry Rides Again)

1961 – Gower Champion (Bye Bye Birdie)

1962 – Joe Layton (No Strings)

1963 – Bob Fosse (Little Me)

1964 – Gower Champion (Hello Dolly!)

1965 – Jerome Robbins (Fiddler on the Roof)

1966 – Bob Fosse (Sweet Charity)

1967 – Ron Field (Cabaret)

1968 – Gower Champion (The Happy Time)

1969 – Joe Layton (George M!)

1970 – Ron Field (Applause)

1971 – Donald Saddler (No, No, Nanette)

1972 – Michael Bennett (Follies)

1973 – Bob Fosse (Pippin)

1974 – Michael Bennett (Seesaw)

1975 – George Faison (The Wiz)

1976 – Michael Bennett & Bob Avian (A Chorus Line)

1977 – Peter Gennaro (Annie)

1978 – Bob Fosse (Dancin’)

1979 – Michael Bennett & Bob Avian (Ballroom)

1980 – Tommy Tune & Thommie Walsh (A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine)

1981 – Gower Champion (42nd Street)

1982 – Michael Bennett & Michael Peters (Dreamgirls)

1983 – Tommy Tune & Thommie Walsh (My One and Only)

1984 – Danny Daniels (The Tap Dance Kid)

1986 – Bob Fosse (Big Deal)

1987 – Gillian Gregory (Me and My Girl)

1988 – Michael Smuin (Anything Goes)

1989 – Cholly Atkins, Henry LeTang, Frankie Manning, & Rayard Nicholas (Black and Blue)

1990 – Tommy Tune (Grand Hotel)

1991 – Tommy Tune (The Will Rogers Follies)

1992 – Susan Stroman (Crazy for You)

1993 – Wayne Cilento (The Who’s Tommy)

1994 – Kenneth MacMillan (Carousel)

1995 – Susan Stroman (Show Boat)

1996 – Savion Glover (Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk)

1997 – ann Reinking (Chicago0

1998 – Garth Fagan (The Lion King)

1999 – Matthew Bourne (Swan Lake)

2000 – Susan Stroman (Contact)

2001 – Susan Stroman (The Producers)

2002 – Rob Ashford (Thoroughly Modern Millie)

2003 – Twyla Tharp (Movin’ Out)

2004 – Kathleen Marshall (Wonderful Town)

2005 – Jerry Mitchell (La Cage aux Folles)

2006 – Kathleen Marshall (The Pajama Game)

2007 – Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening)

2008 – Andy Blankenbuehler (In The Heights)

2009 – Peter Darling (Billy Elliot the Musical)

2010 – Bill T. Jones (Fela!)

2011 – Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes)

2012 – Christopher Gattelli (Newsies)

Check out this New York Times article: Judging Tony Nominees by Their Dance Numbers

The Jack Cole Project

The director’s note opens:

Julie Newmar was once asked “Why is it that most people don’t know of Jack Cole?”  Ms. Newmar paused, considered it for a moment, and replied, “Well, all the important people do.”

While this quote probably excited most other audience members about the upcoming performance of “Heat Wave: The Jack Cole Project,” I felt disillusioned.  I had never heard of Jack Cole, the supposed founder of jazz dance who influenced Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett, Alvin Ailey, and Jerome Robbins and taught the likes of Ann Miller, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe.  I’ve taken my share of jazz classes, musical theater classes, modern classes, and dance history courses in college.  I love the history of dance just as much as I love to dance.  I was almost angry with myself – why wasn’t I familiar with Jack Cole?!

Now, I don’t mean to make excuses, but it’s not my fault!  I flipped through my collection of dance history books – the history dance in Western culture, a Bob Fosse biography, a Marilyn Monroe biography, and a Jerome Robbins biography…no mention of Jack Cole.  Confused and frustrated, I turned to my dear friend, Google.

Search: jack cole biography book.

Results: 1 – “Unsung Genius: the passion of dancer and choreographer Jack Cole” by Glenn Loney

…Price? $82.00.  Not happening.

I will keep you posted on my “search for Jack Cole,” but for now, let’s talk about “Heat Wave.”

The project was conceived and created by Chet Walker, who also developed the Tony-winning musical, “Fosse” back in 1999.  In addition to this new dance musical, Walker began teaching “Jack Cole jazz” classes and hosting film nights/discussions at Steps on Broadway to raise awareness of the unknown choreographer.  I attended the first film night back in the fall of 2011 and, sitting in the tiny studio with dance royalty like Chet Walker, Ray Hesselink, and Dana Moore, I realized this ‘Jack Cole’ guy was kind of a big deal.

So I eagerly bought my ticket to “Heatwave” and made the trek out to Flushing for the performance at Queens Theatre last night.  I perused my Playbill, reading all the bios of the Broadway veterans in the show.  Only the center section of the theater was filled, with maybe 120 people in the audience total.  But as the “Prologue” began, the magnetic energy of the cast illuminated the dark theater.  My eyes watered as I tried not to blink and miss a second of the magic that was happening on the stage.

The two hour and twenty minute production of non-stop song and dance weaves restagings of Cole’s choreography into almost a biographical montage tied together with quotes and anecdotes told by Cole’s peers such as Gwen Verdon and Gene Kelly.

In words, Cole’s choreography sounds a bit confusing: a blend of swing, tap (restaged by BDC’s own Ray Hesselink), can-can, and Eastern influences – but it all works.

Choreographically, Cole’s influence on the future of jazz dance is unmistakable: the strong masculine leaps and battements of Jerome Robbins’ “West Side Story,” the sensual prowess of Bob Fosse’s “Snake in the Grass,” the geometric yet fluid shapes of Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations,” etc.

“Cole’s style — what’s recognized as jazz today — is actually a compendium of several influences: the strong poses of bharata natyam (Indian classical dance), the feline sensuality of Afro-Cuban dance, the lilt of the lindy and the elegance of classical ballet. His numbers are eye-catching because of how much they ask of the performers — who scale staircases; quickly transition between dancing very low to the floor and twirling above it; execute lifts; and cover a great deal of space, often within a single song.” – Rebecca Milzoff (NY Times)

“There are people who have that look about them,” Chet Walker told Milzoff. “You know they’re important. And there is this thing about Jack Cole dancers: They have ‘it.’”  “Heat Wave” has ‘it,’ and surely has the potential to head to the “Great White Way” after its May run at the Queens Theatre.  Though the definite future of the “Jack Cole Project” is unknown, one thing remains certain: that that legacy of Jack Cole will live – or rather, dance – on.