I live near Portland, OR. I have been hired to direct a production of 'Chicago' in northern California at Ferndale Repertory Theatre where I've worked several times. For a few past productions with this company I've worked remotely via video recordings and Skype sessions to view auditions and callbacks and production meetings. Then after music rehearsals I've gone down and joined the production to begin staging and choreography through to opening.
This time is different.
This is a dance show, where I want to pay homage to Bob Fosse's brilliant choreography style that has contributed so much to to the worlds of dance, theatre and film during his lifetime and beyond. The theatre was having difficulty finding a choreographer and with my past experience I offered to do that work myself as well.
In the past I spent about 8 weeks in California with the theatre working on the show, but then I was living solo in my RV which made it easy to just drive down and live and work from there. But now I have a house, a husband, and 2 months of time away was too much. So we decided that the first month would be spent on music and early choreography teaching via my dance captain who has Fosse dance experience and is also playing Velma. The challenge, however, was how to relay my choreography to her in a way that she can understand and communicate to the cast in these early rehearsals.
I considered trying to write it out as notation in the script, but that wasn't precise enough to the music. I tried writing it out within the piano score, but that didn't have enough room on the page and my not so great hand writing would be a problem in trying to scan every page and make the pencil notation readable. As a third method I decided to type out the notation into documents with each line referring to measure numbers. It's tedious, a bit cumbersome and clinical, but seems to be working so far.
What we've done is have me send down the document for a specific dance, and then when she's nearly ready to start teaching it we get on a Skype session and review through it line by line with the score in front of us so she can ask questions, see me demonstrate a specific move if needed, and take her own notes as well. Again, tedious and time consuming, but seems to work.
It remains to be seen how this all plays out in practice. I've not yet seen any video of the cast actually doing any of the dances, so it could be that from my head to her mind to theirs it may be significantly lost in the telephone-game of communication. But once I'm there, I can tidy things up and clarify pieces as needed. We've also planned to start off fairly generally and basically in the choreography, getting the framework and blocking of the piece, and then depending on the success of the cast in adapting to the style, we can hopefully add more detail to bring out even more of the Fosse aspects of each move.
Crossed fingers and toes, and a tip of the bowler, we'll have it all fall into place beautifully!
Spike, as his friends call him, has 30 years in the performing arts world as an actor, director, administrator, marketer, fundraiser. He has consulted with numerous theatres and other performing arts organizations and loves to help such groups and individual artists to achieve their success!