Gotham's workshops producing promising acts
As “Movin’ Out” jetes into its third year on Broadway, the tuner continues to keep its lock on the dance-show market.
However, Twyla Tharp may soon have some real competition. This autumn, Gotham’s workshops have been active incubators for at least three promising terp projects: Christopher d’Amboise’s “The Studio,” Scott Wise’s “The Game” and Peter Pucci’s “Sport.” Commercially speaking, the timing looks right for possible fall 2005 preems.
Foreign tourists have long preferred the dance language to the English language on stage, and they helped turn such disparate shows as “Fosse,” “Riverdance” and “Contact” into hits.
That overseas audience dwindled after 9/11, but it’s on the uptick for the first time since 2000. Foreign visits to the city are expected to reach 5.3 million this year, up from 4.8 million in 2003. Weak dollar + strong Euro = lots of legs.
‘The Studio’ fast track
If its producer lineup is any indication, “The Studio” looks to have the fastest release out of the gate. The men money include Emanuel Azenberg, Ira Pittelman, Ben Sprecher and the mighty Shuberts, who look to have the right theater with their Little Shubert.
“As opposed to presenting a production, we need an intimate space to draw in the audience, as if they’re a fly on the wall,” says d’Amboise. In other words, he’s looking for a dance studio with seating.
“The Studio” attempts to examine nothing less than the creative process itself. “I’ve always been fascinated with the dance studio, looking behind the doors, and showing what the general public doesn’t see.”
He ought to know. As a member of the New York City Ballet by age 9, d’Amboise was something of a muse for Jerome Robbins, who choreographed a number of his ballets on the dancer.
“Unlike actors and directors, dancers are totally dependent on choreographers to lead them, and quite often there are abuses in that power,” d’Amboise says. “In a ballet class you are waiting to be told what’s wrong with you.”
The story of “The Studio” couldn’t be simpler: A choreographer sets out with two dancers to create a new ballet. D’Amboise hopes the audience discovers that “the most beautiful things are created through ugliness and difficulty.”
His trio dances and acts but does not sing. “That would be pushing it,” he says of trying to find three triple-threats. Original music will create the transitions that mend Bach to Tchaikovsky to Stravinsky.
‘Sport’ times 14
“Sport” had its world premiere June 22, 1999, with the Peter Pucci Plus Dancers at the Joyce Theater. Since then the choreographer has radically worked and expanded the piece, and last week he workshopped it in Gotham for a crowd of possible Broadway producers. “It is not a concert dance,” says Pucci, who has choreographed for Pilobolus and Ballet Hispanico. “I’ve reorganized it more along the lines of ‘Blue Man Group’ or ‘Stomp,’ ” both Off Broadway stalwarts.
His troupe of 12 dancers, however, would make the show too expensive for an Off Broadway run, unless it’s even more radically rejiggered.
As the title would suggest, “Sport” takes the essence of various sports and reinterprets each in choreographic fashion. For example, the few seconds of a home run is heightened to last 10 minutes on stage.
And if he can ever raise enough money for the actual production, “I want to do synchronized swimming, but suspend the dancers in air with harnesses,” says Pucci. All in all, the workshop incarnation of “Sport,” performed to standards, encompassed 14 sports.
‘The Game’ player
Broadway vet Scott Wise started working on “The Game” even before he joined the company of “Movin’ Out,” where he is also assistant director-choreographer.
As with the d’Amboise and Pucci projects, Wise’s isn’t big on story. Apparently all three choreographers learned from the master George Balanchine, who once declared, famously, “There are no mother-in-laws in ballet.”
Wise describes “The Game” as an allegory. “It’s a man’s life, from conception to death, and how fear is such a factor in moving us forward and evolving,” he says.
Last month, Wise performed a few scenes for an audience of potential backers. And it worked. Vicki Halmos and Sonny Everett, associate producer of “Avenue Q,” have raised the money for a February workshop.
It’s not easy putting up a dance show, says Wise. “People can understand music and script. But dance and style, it goes right out the window.
Unlike the d’Amboise and Pucci shows, Wise asks his dancers to sing, in this case an original score by Tommy Byrnes, Chuck Burghi, Amy and Elaine Goff and the choreographer himself.
The music has been the hard part. When Wise showed his songs to Byrnes, Billy Joel’s guitar player laid it on the line: “These aren’t very good, but I know what you’re looking for.”