Dance takes center stage in the spring musical “A Chorus Line”

Allie Zyck

With nine Tony Awards, 6,137 Broadway performance and a Pulitzer Prize, “A Chorus Line” is one of the most successful musicals of all time. On April 11, 12 and 13, the BG theatre department will be putting their own spin on the “One Singular Sensation” of the show. Unlike the many different performances put on at BG, this one has a unique focus on dance. To meet this aspect of the show, this is the first year that dance teacher Michelle Carrison has been a choreographer for the spring musical.

“A Chorus Line” centers on a group of dancers during an audition for the chorus line of an upcoming Broadway musical. As all of the main characters are talented dancers, the show features several songs based entirely around dancing, requiring that any production of the musical have a strong focus on the dance component. In addition, certain dance sequences in the show are “codified,” meaning that specific moves and combinations are found in nearly every production, requiring a choreographer who is able to teach these more advanced movements.

“For a lot of the other musicals, there’s not necessarily big dance scenes that require very in-depth dance vocabulary and movement,” Carrison said. “It’s more visually set or maybe there’s a small dance feature that one of the dance captains or students can direct.”

This aspect of the musical has been a consideration since the very beginning. According to Carrison, she was first asked last school year about choreographing and she began familiarizing herself with the music and typical choreography this past summer. In addition, auditions for the show included a dance section, which is not usual for musicals in previous years.

“A lot of the massive numbers are large choreography numbers as well, so everyone really needs to be able to dance,” senior Lily Shane said. “You kind of have to be a triple threat because you have to dance, sing and act.”

Per usual, putting together the show is a team effort. In addition to Carrison, English teachers Beth Wells and Lauren Stenzel are the co-directors, and choir director Debora Utley serves as the music director. Together, all four of them work to coordinate the many aspects of the musical into one cohesive and polished whole.

“It just requires all of us to be even more on the same page to make sure we’re telling a story from not just the musical perspective, not just an acting perspective, but also now the storytelling of movement,” Wells said.

Typically, choreography for a show is done by Stenzel and Wells or by a student within the cast. However, one particularly challenging aspect of this musical is how many different genres that are included. Different songs feature dance styles such as ballet, jazz and tap, meaning many students in the program are unfamiliar with different aspects of the show. Carrison, in addition to her student teacher Katelyn Dundovich, have focused on teaching the cast the technical parts of dance in addition to the choreography they will be performing.   

“She still makes it accessible for everyone,” Shane said. “She’s not making anything super hard that people can’t do it and she’s not making it incredibly easy so that the actual dancers who can learn quickly are bored. She’s doing an awesome job making it a good time for everyone.”

Putting together a student musical is always a time consuming task, and this show is no exception. In addition to perfecting complicated choreography, which requires time devoted to warm ups and learning the moves, the music and acting aspects also require a significant amount of focus and practice. In order to reach the high standards the theatre department has set for themselves, rehearsals have to balance these many moving pieces that make up a performance as complex as this one.

“At every rehearsal there’s potential for it to be a rehearsal for music, dance, and acting,” Wells said. “Students now have to split their time and energies, it certainly makes for a challenging learning curve for students.”

This spring, “A Chorus Line” joins the long line of musicals performed by students after much hard work and dedication. This show stands out as a fusion of dance and classic Broadway, showcasing the talents of BG student actors and the teachers helping behind the scenes. Once the curtain rises, audiences will have a chance to see what has made this musical about auditioning dancers such a hit.

“What is cool about it is it really shows the different type of background dancers have,” Carrison said. “Even back in the 70s, these are still prevalent today in the different type of people auditioning. I think it really gets into not necessarily knowing them just as a dancer, but knowing them as a person.”