Posted November 30, 2006
By Michelle Kittrell
Hello, my name is Michelle Kittrell and I am a Dance Captain!
Sometimes, I voice that title with great pride and, sometimes, with great exhaustion - but always with great gratitude.
I was asked to write a journal for Equity's website to explain what the position of Dance Captain entails from the ground up on a new Broadway musical. In this case, LEGALLY BLONDE, I was very excited to be a part of Equity's quest to inform members of this position as well as to increase understanding of what truly goes into developing a new show, especially one with an out-of-town try-out (San Francisco in January). And the creation of LEGALLY BLONDE, while I'm sure will be difficult at times, will most definitely be exciting and rewarding.
Some of you may be wondering who the heck I am. Well, I am originally from Atlanta, GA and moved to NYC when I was 20 years old. I had the dream of dancing on Broadway. If that had only happened once, my dream would have been fulfilled. Thankfully, I have been cast in eight Broadway shows (GREASE, FOOTLOOSE, SEUSSICAL, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, HAIRSPRAY, URBAN COWBOY, ALL SHOOK UP, LEGALLY BLONDE) and have been awarded the Gypsy Robe twice. What a great honor! I am also, currently, an Eastern Region Chorus Councillor, a member of the Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs, Production Contract, Dance Captain and Swing Committees and Chair of the Dance Audition Safety Committee.
I was asked to write a journal for Equity's website to explain what the position of Dance Captain entails from the ground up on a new Broadway musical. In my case, LEGALLY BLONDE.
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I was asked by director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell to be a Dance Captain for his Broadway directorial debut. While I had done a few benefits and small jobs with him in the past, our real working relationship began when he put me in the Broadway production of HAIRSPRAY just a few weeks after it had opened. Originally, I was only contracted for five weeks while one of the girls was healing from an injury. Soon after, I was asked to return in the role of Brenda and as Dance Captain. I was with HAIRSPRAY, on and off, for three years maintaining the musical staging and choreography by giving notes and rehearsing actors, auditioning and "putting in" replacements as well as performing in many different roles in the production.
During my time there, I was asked by Jerry to assist him and serve as Dance Captain for his new show. I was ecstatic. Since that conversation, we have completed the workshop ("OMIGOD" it was great!), recorded a demo and completed the first weeks of pre-pre production. That means that (at this writing) I am in a rehearsal room along with Denis Jones (the Associate Choreographer), Rusty Mowery (Co- Dance Captain), and, of course, Jerry Mitchell. We also have with us our drummer, our musical director and the amazing duo of Larry O'Keefe (composer) and Nell Benjamin (lyricist). It's like a jam session for three or so hours a day. Music gets played and Jerry starts moving. Denis, Rusty, and I just try to keep up! This week we have worked on portions of "Bend and Snap," "Love and War" (a new song that has been added since the workshop), "Legally Blonde Remix," and "Whipped into Shape" (jump ropes is all I'm saying!) Much has been accomplished in addition to a lot of sweating!
So far my duties are just to be in the room. I pay attention to "the story" that Jerry is always emphasizing and keep track of his ideas and the show structure. We have been working on steps to assist in the story telling as well as specific combinations and formations. Pre-production is so much fun because it is so creative. While it's hard work, we laugh a lot. I am really just a muse while Jerry does all the work. It's amazing to see him move freely around the studio with no inhibitions and make magic.
Full company rehearsals begin on November 27, 2006 with my official Dance Captain duties kicking in so I will be entering my first "official" journal at the end of that week.
I hope you have enjoyed this preliminary entry. I'll be writing "in my diary" at the end of each week until we open on April 29, 2007 at the Palace Theatre. Please check Equity's website for weekly updates.