Backstage Buzz: Dance Machine Aims Uptown

Backstage Buzz: Dance Machine aims uptown; ‘Fun Home’ waits for the Bechdels.


The original star dancer of ‘A Chorus Line,’ Donna McKechnie, right, teaches the original choreography to dancers from the American Dance Machine. Photo: Peter Foley for The Wall Street Journal

Dance Machine Aims Uptown, Broadway

Producer David Garfinkle is eyeing a future Broadway run for the high kicks of American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, the nonprofit preserving musical-theater dance.

Last year, the group drew rave reviews for its show which revived dance numbers from “A Chorus Line,” “Pippin,” “West Side Story” and more at the Joyce Theater. Mr. Garfinkle said his team then acquired the rights to take the show to Broadway and on tour. The process is in motion, but he declined to give projected dates.

Also a Dance Machine board member, Mr. Garfinkle said its mission isn’t only to keep choreography alive, but to train a new generation of well-rounded Broadway dancers.

To that end, Dance Machine is developing its school, setting up within the Upper West Side studio Steps on Broadway in September.

There, luminaries including Donna McKechnie will teach beloved stage choreography. Former New York City Ballet principal Robert La Fosse will teach Ballet for Broadway, a class created in response to the number of competitive dancers coming to musical theater without strong classical training.

The Dance Machine dancers themselves won’t be teaching right now, said Nikki Feirt Atkins, founder and producing artistic director of the organization: “They are happily employed in ‘Cats’—and one in ‘Paramour.’ ”

New Musical Seeks Input from…Anyone

It is a rehearsal, a focus group and an audience-development strategy all in one. TJ Armand and Carl Paiva, the team behind the new musical “Sama: An American Requiem,” are making their process public as part of a five-day residency at Williamsburg’s contemporary-music venue National Sawdust.

Appropriately titled “The Beginning Stages,” the Sept. 26 to 30 program will allow participants to watch open rehearsals during afternoons, then attend discussions on casting, producing and more.

Guests can even weigh in on the book, music and lyrics. “We thought we would get a different kind of feedback than from just the industry,” said Mr. Armand, who wrote the show about a fictional pop star from a Christian Lebanese family in the U.S.

National Sawdust is better known for cutting-edge music, often in orchestral genres, but the use of choral and world music in “Sama” connected with creative director Paola Prestini : “I don’t really think about whether it’s a musical or opera. I think this is the kind of work we should be supporting.”

The residency is also designed to meet a specific performance goal: Getting “Sama” ready for its concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Oct. 13.


John Bechdel, Roberta Colindrez, Alison Bechdel, Michael Cerveris, Emily Skeggs, Willow Bechdel and Christian Bechdel backstage at 'Fun Home.' Photo: Michael Cerveris

‘Fun Home’ Brakes For Bechdel Family

“Fun Home” got a late start Saturday evening to accommodate a special guest: Willow Bechdel, the 19-year-old niece of cartoonist Alison Bechdel, whose family story was the show’s source material.

The elder Ms. Bechdel had arranged for her family to visit to the show before its Broadway run closes Sept. 10. Though her two brothers had seen it at the Public Theater, Willow hadn’t seen it yet.

And due to transportation mishaps, half the group was stuck in traffic so long that they had to jump out of a cab near Times Square and run to the theater, where the staff held off on dimming the lights.

“They very kindly held the show,” said Alison Bechdel, adding that she herself had planned the family’s itinerary, with details on hotels, parking and subways all worked out for good reason: “The Bechdels are notoriously disorganized.”

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