Perfect dance from a dancer’s imperfections

by Nickie Wang

You have already seen the movements such as turned-in knees, sideways shuffling, and rolled shoulders in Beyoncé Knowle’s “Single Ladies” music video, which achieved great success and spawned numerous parodies from people all over the globe, including the wacky versions of Justin Timberlake and Joe Jonas. 

Little did many people know, the dance routine featured in that video was inspired by legendary Bob Fosse’s choreography back in ‘60s. Fosse was a prolific dancer and director who created a unique style that motivated numerous artists and choreographer in Broadway.

Born Robert Louis Fosse, the award-winning musical theater choreographer was asthmatic as a child. He was short and had a bad posture because of his scoliosis. But these physical imperfections did not impede Fosse’s dream in making it big. His artistic ambition started when he developed a distinct style that brought an innovative dimension of sophistication and sensual energy to the Broadway stage. His unique style is often described as a sensual jazzy type routine that focuses more on the shoulder and hand movements, and facial expressions. In other words, the imperfections of a dancer’s body can be compensated by the way he or she acts out the movements.

Some of Fosse’s ground-breaking and award-winning musicals, in which he did both the choreography and direction, are Redhead (1959), Chicago (1975), Cabaret (musical film in 1972) and Sweet Charity (1966).

Nikki does a Bob Fosse

After receiving mostly critical reviews as Elle Woods in the local production of the musical Legally Blonde produced in 2010, singer and host Nikki Gil is sporting a very short brunette do in the musical Sweet Charity.

In the musical, which originally starred Gwen Verdon as Charity and premiered on Broadway in 1966, audience will see a different Nikki as she unleashes another facet of her artistry with “a performance that will be full of vitality, pathos and verve.”

The 23-year-old occasional actress headlines the show that follows the journey and misadventures of dance-hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine, a woman who believes in that swoony, goopy, look into your eyes forever kind of love.

“Charity is sweet and genuinely nice. It’s just that, she’s also gullible and always falls for the wrong guy. She has been used and dumped by a succession of distinctly uncharitable men,” Nikki told the media during the musical’s press conference.

“But she comes out to be a stronger woman as oppose to what she was in the beginning of the story,” she added.

Nikki’s commitment to doing theater started in 2007 when she was cast in the local production of another Broadway title called Seussical the Musical in which she also played the lead. With Sweet Charity, she wants to encourage more people to see stage plays and theater in general. She sees that mainstream talents like her can bring in more audience.

“Some people are still cynical in considering musical as a preferred kind of entertainment. So our main contribution is to extend or help make non-theatergoer to see our show,” eloquent Nikki said on how she can make the masses appreciate musicals and stage productions.

Part of the lead cast is Kris Lawrence who plays Oscar Lindquist, a claustrophobic, wimpy nervous man who Charity befriends in a stalled elevator. A neurotic tax accountant by profession, hopefully, he shall give Sweet Charity the love she has longed for.

Joining Nikki and Kris are Ciara Sotto, Sherre Bautista, Miguel Faustmann, Angela Padilla, and OJ Mariano. The ensemble is a mix and match of seasoned talents as well as up and coming actors in the industry like Caisa Borromeo, Chinie Nepomuceno, and prima dancers Vinia Pamplona and Carmelle Ros.

Teaching the singers dance 

When it comes to choosing the cast members of the musical, director Guevarra wanted to have a good lineup. But he also knew that apart from assembling a team he needs to work on giving a new experience to the audience.

Guevarra said that the cast and artistic team are dead serious on restaging this Bob Fosse show. They allotted eight weeks for the workshop alone, and that didn’t include all the dance routines.

“We knew we had a lot of things to work on, we are teaching the dancers how to act and we are also teaching the actors how to dance,” he said.

The show was adapted for the screen in 1969 with Shirley MacLaine as Charity and John McMartin recreating his Broadway role. The 1966 Broadway version was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and also ran in the West End (1998) and had several revivals and international productions. It was restage on Broadway in 1986 and 2005 with Christine Applegate in the lead.

“We are doing the 2005 version of the show, but we are making it more resilient and more attractive. This is one production that is a musical in every sense of the word. It’s a dancing show, too, with great opportunity for use of dramatic movement. And with Cy Coleman’s rhythms and sounds, and Dorothy Fields’ vernacular fun of 1960’s New York, there will be all-time great show-stopping numbers that will really sizzle. Above all, it’s going to be fun,” Guevarra furthered.

Cy Coleman’s music has jazzy and blues influence as well as inspiring ballads, featuring such hits as “ Hey, Big Spender,”  “If My Friends Could See Me Now ” and “ The Rhythm of Life. ”

Sweet Charity runs from Aug. 5 to 27 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati City.

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