In the Disney animated film Dumbo, peers tease the young elephant because of his unusually large ears, but he learns to overcome his body issues, bests the bullies who have tormented him and in the end becomes a hero to all.
That’s why Mary Verdi-Fletcher, founder of Dancing Wheels Company & School in Cleveland, Ohio, conceived of retelling Dumbo, first as a live dance performance, then as a documentary film, and ultimately as an ongoing educational program for schools, prisons, and other institutions with bullying problems.
The made-for-television documentary, Daring to Be Dumbo, airs on Cleveland’s Channel 3 (WKYC) April 5 at 7pm, said the Akron Beacon Journal Online.
Narrated by TV host and weatherman Al Roker, who says he was bullied for his weight issues as a young man, the film features the personal stories of several people involved with the project who have emerged strengthened from past encounters with bullying.
Featured is Elec Simon, a former member of the touring dance show Stomp. He quit the show to head up an anti-bullying program that uses rhythm and music to educate and build greater empathy for victims.
The original stage performance of Daring to Be Dumbo premiered last May at the Breen Center in Cleveland under the direction of choreographer David Rousseve. The retelling of the Dumbo story was set in a modern junior high school, incorporating onstage video and life-sized puppets.
To read the full story, visit http://www.ohio.com/news/dance-program-s-dumbo-theme-tackles-issue-of-bullying-1.477374.
When Dick Van Dyke got the role of Bert in the 1964 movie musical Mary Poppins, Walt Disney asked him if he had a recommendation for a choreographer. Van Dyke recalled working with the team of Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood, who had created a number for the Jack Benny television show.
“I’m not really a dancer,” Van Dyke said. “I could move a little and I was what you call an eccentric dancer—loose-limbed and light on my feet. But they took what I could do and made the most of it. I was just thrilled.”
Disney took his recommendation and the married duo created one of the best-known live-action dances in the history of the studio—the chimney sweep number to the song “Step In Time.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Breaux, 89, a Broadway dancer who had trained with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, died November 19 in Mesa, Arizona, in an assisted-living facility where he had been in frail condition, said his son, Michael.
Mary Poppins also led them to work on the 1965 film version of The Sound of Music. Working with performers who were not primarily dancers became a Breaux and Wood hallmark. In the 1970s—during the time variety shows were popular on television — they created dances for more than 200 TV episodes.
To read the full obituary, visit http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-marc-breaux-20131122,0,196559.story#ixzz2lOiPIUf4.
The Wooden Floor, an arts-for-youth organization that partners ground-breaking choreographers with low-income youth in Southern California, will present three contemporary dance works January 17 and 18, 2014, 8:30pm, at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) at Walt Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
The Wooden Floor seeks to produce work that is original, inventive, and idiosyncratic. Performances seek to break down ethnic, gender, and age stereotypes about who can inspire, create, perform, and appreciate art. [See DSL January 2012 article: http://www.dancestudiolife.com/2012/01/poor-kids-rich-prospects/ ]
Through performance opportunities and dance education, the program participants change the way they think about themselves, which helps them aspire beyond the grip of the poverty cycle. This will be the third time The Wooden Floor has showcased its pioneering work at REDCAT, Southern California’s leading theater for new and innovative arts.
It is highly anticipated that in the fall of 2014, The Wooden Floor will celebrate the 10th consecutive year in which 100 percent of graduates from the organization will have graduated from high school on time and enrolled in college, exceeding the national average for their peers threefold.
Tickets are $20 general admission or $10 for students, and are available at www.REDCAT.org.
Ever think about touring the world by performing aboard a cruise ship? Dancer Marcus Jackson, a five-year veteran cruise ship performer with Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line, shares the inside scoop an interview with Kate Fox in Nohoartsdistrict.com.
KF: What does your job entail? Are you done once the show is over?
MJ: Responsibilities vary from cruise line to cruise line . . . dancing in the theater shows, teaching guest dance classes, follow-spotting the ice skating shows, serving as the port- and shopping-guide assistant, art-auctioneer’s assistant, excursion guide, and club promoter are some of the tasks that I had as a dancer on Royal Caribbean. For Disney, I am the ship-wide dance captain, which means I maintain quality and give notes to the team of performers that perform in venues outside of the theater. I also dance in the main stage shows, teach crew dance classes, represent the main stage and character casts for crew entertainment ideas, and assist with any partnering issues that need help.
KF: What is some good advice for dancers thinking about jumping onboard?
MJ: If you love to travel with no expenses and making money that you have no obligation to spend, this is the gig for you. Be ready to give up your social life at home, easy communication with the outside world, and your sense of time. This is not a gig for . . . people that get homesick or are overly emotional. I’ve seen people get so lost on the ship because they don’t have a strong sense of self. Every contract, I set a goal for myself, a task that keeps me focused on something positive when everyone else seems to be falling apart. No one really knows what it’s like being a crewmember until they come visit you on the ship and live a week in your shoes.
To ready the full interview, visit http://www.nohoartsdistrict.com/index.php/gotta-dance/item/1946-gotta-dance-cruise-lines-is-the-stage-at-sea-for-you#.UhInK-XD-Uk.
Broadway—it’s a world filled with big gambles, terrible odds, and elusive jackpots. CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo pulls back the curtain on Broadway, revealing the all-or-nothing business arena where investors can make a killing or lose it all, in Betting Big on Broadway.
Broadway World reports that this documentary takes viewers backstage with the mega-producers behind the biggest bet ever made in Broadway history, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Will the $75 million musical turn a profit? Bartiromo speaks candidly about the money and drama surrounding Spider-Man with original director Julie Taymor and the show’s lead producers Jeremiah Harris and Michael Cohl.
Bartiromo also takes us inside Disney Theatricals to meet the one man who consistently beats the odds on Broadway, Thomas Schumacher. From The Lion King’s more than $5.2 billion gross to Disney productions that lost millions, Schumacher covers it all, including his big bet to turn Disney film flop Newsies into a Broadway smash.
The half-hour documentary includes a revealing look at 38-year-old Jordan Roth, who runs Jujamcyn Theatres, home to two of Broadway’s biggest hits: The Book of Mormon, and Jersey Boys. His willingness to take risks and embrace innovation is changing the game on Broadway, and pushing ticket prices to record-breaking heights.
Betting Big on Broadway premieres on CNBC February 4 at 9pm.
To see the original story, visit http://broadwayworld.com/article/CNBSC-to-Air-BETTING-BIG-ON-BROADWAY-Special-24-20130117.
Camille N. Brown is a supple dancer who hails from California. Lindiwe Dlamini is a singer from South Africa. They would seem to have little in common. Except they do: both have spent the last 15 years in the ensemble of The Lion King on Broadway.
During those more than 5,000 shows since 1997 Dlamini has welcomed a baby girl and Brown has been married and divorced. And like the show itself, which is celebrating its milestone anniversary this week, they plan to keep on going. (Ensemble member Ron Kunene has also been with the show since opening night.)
Brown and Dlamini told the San Francisco Chronicle they still remember their auditions for the show, back in the year when Hong Kong was handed to China and designer Gianni Versace was murdered. Brown, who had been on Broadway in The King and I, had read about artistic visionary Julie Taymor and landed an audition. Several callbacks led to a role in the ensemble for the former Martha Graham Dance Company soloist: “I really was elated. I had no idea that 15 years later I’d still be happy in the same show.”
Dlamini, who missed the earliest reading because she was pregnant, auditioned when the show made the leap to Broadway. She knew it was going to be special during an out-of-town tryout in Minneapolis when she the audience crying. “That feeling, even today, I still get,” she says. “Somehow I felt like, ‘OK, this is going to be a long-running show.’ ”
Does it ever get old? Is hearing “Hakuna Matata” for the 5,000th time enough? “Whenever we have vocal rehearsal and we’re singing the music, 15 years later I’m still like, ‘Wow. What a beautiful score,’ ” Brown says. As for the rest of the show: “There are all these beautiful layers. It’s not just pretty. It doesn’t just sound good. There’s a deep motor to it.”
To read the full story, visit http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/2-veterans-from-The-Lion-King-opening-still-roar-4043566.php.
When Miley Cyrus struts, spins, and swivels around her concert stage, it was Boston-born choreographer Nancy O’Meara who helped her hone those moves.
O’Meara will be just one top industry faculty member at next summer’s DanceLife Teacher Conference. Her fast paced and powerful choreography can be seen on television (Hannah Montana), in music videos (“She’s No You,” Jesse McCartney), on live stage tours (Vanessa Hudgens), and in concert (High School Musical).
She’s danced on TV award shows—the Grammys, Oscars, MTV, and others; appeared in films such as The Wedding Planner and Forrest Gump; and worked with Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Usher, Reba McEntire, and Paula Abdul.
And August 1 to 4, 2013, in Scottsdale, Arizona, O’Meara will work with the 700-plus teachers at the DLTC. For registration info, visit http://www.dancestudiolife.com/dltc/dltc-fees-info/.
The Gold School director Rennie Gold remembers his reaction when the Broadway production of Newsies made his dance students David and Jacob Guzman an offer—one role for only one twin. “I said, ‘Boys, you do realize you’re going to have to be separated at some point in your life,” he told Dance Studio Life.
So the Guzmans, dancing together since age 2 and heading into their senior year of high school in Brockton, Massachusetts, did the unthinkable: they told Broadway no. But Disney (parent company for Newsies) insists on happy endings, and since September 10 both have been donning newsboy caps and dancing eight shows a week.
Being a twin is an “awesome sell,” said Gold (a twin himself with Dance Studio Life publisher Rhee Gold), which so far has landed them in OK Magazine, Playbill, and the Huffington Post. An Associate Press article on the Guzmans said twins on Broadway is “so rare an event that no one in the theater community believes it has happened before in the modern era.” And while they’re sharing the spotlight now, Rennie Gold said separation is inevitable—David has his sights set on joining a contemporary dance company, while Jacob aspires to be a doctor.
To read the Associated Press story, visit http://news.yahoo.com/twins-broadway-hit-newsies-double-talent-142636790.html.
Seen the high-energy dancing of Disney’s NEWSIES and thought—that could be me? Well, now is your chance to show Disney casting agents you are ready to step forward and “Seize the Day.”
The show’s casting agent is seeking new dancer/actors to audition for the Broadway cast of NEWSIES The Musical. Strong, technically trained dancers ages 16 to 22 of all ethnicities who also tap and sing well—especially those with acrobatic and tumbling skills—are urged to audition.
Casting reps are also searching for a “Jack Kelly” standby: male, 17 to 22, Caucasian. Kelly is the handsome, charismatic, street-smart, and passionate leader of the Newsies. Must have a great pop tenor voice.
Candidates can audition by uploading a three-minute video clip that includes samples of dancing, singing, and speaking dialogue. All submission details can be found at http://www.newsiesthemusical.com/auditions.
Disney Channel’s popular dance competition Make Your Mark: Shake It Up Dance Off has returned and is looking for kids ages 8 to 16 who want to show off their best moves for the chance to appear in an episode of the top-rated series Shake It Up.
Viewers can now visit www.DisneyChannel.com/Danceoff where Shake It Up choreographer Rosero McCoy hosts instructional dance videos that teach steps seen in the hit Disney Channel series. New dance tutorials will be uploaded throughout the summer.
Beginning June 29, kids ages 8 to 16 can create and submit their own short dance videos to be considered for a chance to compete in the on-air dance competition. Dance videos can be choreographed or freestyle and up to 45 seconds long, with a maximum of five dancers.
In September, finalists will square off in front of celebrity judges during the Make Your Mark: Shake It Up Dance Off, which will air on Disney Channel in October.
Last year’s competition garnered more than 7.5 million total site visits and nearly 30,000 online dance video submissions, resulting in more than 68 million video starts in four months. Six finalist teams were chosen to compete in the two-night finale event, which attracted 12 million viewers and included celebrity judges Selena Gomez and recording artist Sean Kingston.
To see the original story, visit http://www.dis411.com/blog-/9431-details-on-qmake-your-mark-shake-it-up-dance-offq.html.
The search is on for Disney Performing Arts (formerly Magic Music Days) alumni who have achieved success in the performing arts or related careers.
The new alumni search celebrates former participants of Disney Performing Arts workshops, clinics, performances, and competitions. Disney wants to hear from some of the millions of students who since 1955 have marched, danced, performed, or sung in Disney parks as part of music and dance ensembles. Inductees can profile their success and shine a spotlight on their school bands, dance teams, and choral and theater groups.
One Disney Performing Arts alumnus is Tim Hill, director of Special Programs for Disney Destinations who oversees the Disney Performing Arts Program at Disney theme parks around the world.
“My original Disney Performing Arts experience played an important role in my career,” said Hill. “In 1979, I performed with my high school band at the Walt Disney World Resort. That trip solidified my passion for music and education, though I never dreamed that I would one day lead the team responsible for the Disney Performing Arts program. I’m looking forward to hearing more stories from other alumni.”
For more information about the Disney Performing Arts Alumni and other Disney Youth Programs, visit www.disneyyouth.com.
Pack up your students and head to Orlando or Anaheim for a unique performance opportunity
By JoAnn East
Most dance school owners are always looking for new ways to showcase their dancers. Performing at Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida, or Disneyland® Resort in Anaheim, California, is a popular choice. Disney Magic Music Days, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2010, has hosted more than 2 million international guest dance, instrumental, and choral performers at their parks worldwide.
Disney welcomes a wide variety of dance styles and performers and emphasizes the overall group’s performance. Competition-level technique comes second to showmanship at the “happiest place on earth.”
If you’re considering a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, begin your planning a year in advance, especially if this is your first visit. Two websites, disneymagicmusicdays.com and disneyparks.com, are “must visits,” and unofficial guides to the theme parks help with planning. A list of your questions and interests will come in handy whether you plan the trip yourself or engage a tour company.
Decide when you’d like to go, where you’d like to stay, and where you might be performing. Check your dance school’s calendar, along with those of the academic schools in the communities you serve, for potential dates. Choose two scenarios that you believe would be attractive to your potential travelers. Remember, when school is out, Disney parks and resorts are packed! Is that OK with you and your customers? What about weather conditions?
Half days or school closures can be good times to travel since students would miss only minimal school time (which parents appreciate). Another consideration is whether you’ll want to close your dance school while you’re away.
Disney welcomes all age levels for performances, so you’ll need to decide whether you want to open the trip to all students or only to your school’s dance company or performance team. The performance program at Walt Disney World offers two workshops called “Disney Dancin’ ”: one for ages 6 to 10 and one for ages 11 and up.
Consider how much (if any) fund-raising you want to do and who might be involved, such as students, parents, or staff. Do you want to charge for the choreography and lessons/rehearsals? If so, how much? Parents will want as much information as possible about the cost of the trip.
Another consideration is chaperones, who the Disney application states must be age 21 or older. Discuss the options with your tour company, if appropriate, and ask if the number of travelers impacts the price per traveler. Staff and parents could supervise assigned groups of students, or you could require an adult or responsible party to accompany each student on the trip. The more chaperones, the lighter the burden of responsibility is on the school owner.
Do you want to limit how many travelers can accompany each dancer? If so, one way to do that is to require an adult to accompany each child; that limits participation because it’s often difficult for parents to take the time off work, and of course it costs more. However, lifting the one-adult-per-child requirement allows the participation of children whose parents can’t afford to go.
Solo or tour company?
Do you want to plan the trip yourself or go with a tour company that specializes in student performance tour groups? Tour companies are knowledgeable about all aspects of the trip and can tailor it to your group’s wants and needs. They will take you through the entire process, including setting an itinerary, handling registration forms and payments, and auditioning.
Another benefit of tour companies is the on-site guide they provide—an aide who handles all the questions and issues that arise. Tour guide staffing varies with the company, so make sure to ask about options. Some guides may meet you only at check-in and on the days of functions, while others stay on site for the duration of the trip; some companies do not provide an on-site staff member at all. Make sure you know how much responsibility you will have when problems arise.
Finding the right tour company is a major step, but help is available. The Student Youth Group Travel Association’s website (syta.com) has an extensive directory; click on the “For Educators/Group Leaders” tab. Or search online for “travel companies” + “Disney Magic Music Days.” And ask around—what did your colleagues who have taken their students to Disney like or dislike about their experience?
Tour companies can schedule flights for your group, or you can have each family plan their own travel. Although groups typically get cheaper flights than individuals, many families appreciate having the freedom to extend their trip. A good tour company will accommodate both preferences by offering land-only or flight-inclusive transportation options. Remember that delays can occur with any form of travel, so it’s a good idea to request that your performance be booked on the second or third day of your trip.
Before deciding to take on the project yourself or go with a tour company, think about what kind of travel experience your group would like—value, moderate, deluxe? The basic Disney Magic Music Days trip covers accommodations, tickets into the parks, a workshop, private motor coach transportation, and even meal plans. If you book with a tour company, staying off-site can be cheaper because hotels offer special discounts to groups. Group meals or tickets to special events can be included in the tour, and you can choose a schedule that’s packed with activities or leisurely paced.
In order to perform at Disney, your school must be accepted. Tour companies can help with the audition process. You must submit a video audition tape or DVD two months to a year in advance (which you can upload online). Costuming also has to be preapproved. Visit disneymagicmusicdays.com for guidelines. Remember, Disney expects potential performers to do just that: perform.
Tour companies are knowledgeable about all aspects of the trip and can tailor it to your group’s wants and needs. They will take you through the entire process, including setting an itinerary, handling registration forms and payments, and auditioning.
You will be allowed to re-audition if the dance material or costume selection you submit isn’t up to snuff. Have second choices ready to go, and be careful not to order costumes before you receive approval.
Read the rules and regulations before sending in your audition tape. You do not need to record your intended performance for the audition. Your best resource is your latest performance or recital. Disney wants to see dances that are representative of what you intend to perform, not the whole recital. So if you’d like your 6-year-olds to perform with your 12-year-olds, submit a DVD that shows that. An honest representation and overview are what they require. Consider having the video professionally edited—it’s usually money well spent.
Planning the show
Do you want to showcase different ages in different dances? The performance needs to be 20 to 25 minutes long, including all transitions and pauses for applause. Having at least one dance that has everyone in it is a good formula. A whole-group opening or finale (or both) will boost camaraderie among your dancers.
As of press time, the Waterside Stage at Downtown Disney’s Marketplace, which opened in December 2008, is the site of all dance performances. Let your families know that; many people imagine that their dancers will perform in front of Cinderella Castle, but no youth dance performances occur there. The Waterside Stage offers two advantages: You are almost certain to have a crowd to support your show and you do not need a park pass to watch or perform in the show.
Dancers must be completely dressed at all times, so if you want to have costume changes, plan on every dancer wearing a base of leotard and tights and layering costume pieces over it.
Make sure that your music selection has been approved before you get too vested in choreography. Remember, copyright issues exist here, so although your students can dance to an Elvis song, they can’t look like Elvis while they’re doing it. Be especially careful with Disney songs as well; it’s smart to ask about using them in advance.
Dance productions have to be suitable for family entertainment, so reach for the squeaky-clean music selections. Your music will need to be dubbed on a CD, burned at slow speed to decrease the chance that it will skip or not read. Remember to bring backup copies. Someone from your school—you, a teacher, or even a knowledgeable student or parent—should be in the music tech booth during the performance.
Ask your tour company or contact at Disney Magic Music Days for stage layouts so you can plan how to stage your dances. Once there, you will get no onstage rehearsal time, but your dancers will have time to warm up and prepare before the performance. If you require your dancers to arrive with their hair, makeup, and base costume on, you will have extra time to deal with any challenges that arise, like the need for last-minute restaging.
If you would like to have the performance professionally recorded or a group photo taken, ask your travel coordinator if these services are available.
Part of the trip consists of a dance-convention–style workshop with “Disney Clinicians,” professional entertainers who talk to the students about being a professional dancer at Disney. You will have the opportunity to discuss your group’s needs with a clinician before you arrive. Their goal is to make your experience both educational and appropriate to your dancers’ abilities.
One workshop for ages 11 and up is conducted like a professional audition, with one exception—at the end everyone “gets the job”! Your dancers are sure to be motivated when they learn portions of dance routines that are featured in the park and get tips on show biz and resumes.
For the workshop, dancers get to go into the backstage areas, but warn them that they will not get to see the famous “Disney underground.”
Spreading the news
Once you know what kind of trip you’d like to take, it’s time to generate interest. You can call parents on the phone, speak to them in the waiting room, make an announcement at the recital, or send out postcards or group emails. Generating an initial buzz and then having a parent information night works well. Parents appreciate getting all the information before they have to decide whether to allow their children to participate. At the meeting have sample itinerary and price scenarios ready so that parents understand the nature and potential cost of the trip.
This is a great time to market your school. Invite the public to a dress rehearsal and call the newspaper to announce the event. Consider getting T-shirts, jackets, or warm-up outfits for your dancers to wear on the trip.
Determine a final signup date, at which time a deposit per traveler will be due. If you opted to include travel insurance, the related paperwork will most likely be due on that date as well. Typically you’ll collect the first payment and compile a list of travelers. If you are using a tour company, it will take over at this point, including assisting you with the audition process if necessary. If you are doing it on your own, be sure to make a clearly stated payment schedule and policy. It’s also a good idea to include in your school’s policies that all tuition and costume accounts must remain current in order to participate in the trip.
As the trip date approaches, you may be in touch with your tour rep or the Disney Magic Music Days staff frequently, by phone or email. Be prepared to delegate studio responsibilities if trip details need your personal attention.
When it’s time for your show, make sure to treasure every second as the announcer’s voice presents your dance school to the world. You’ll probably have a tough time deciding which you’ll cherish more—the joy you see in your students or the pride and delight on their parents’ faces.