Choreography: (n) the sequence of steps and movements in dance

Producing a Broadway-style musical does require some choreography–just as putting together a Ruben sandwich means you’re gonna bust out some sauerkraut.

Many years back, when I wrote such a musical, produced it, cut the tracks, penned the script and found a cast, it came time to go into
rehearsal camp and I realized I needed a choreographer.

Just to make my story clear, the goal of a choreographer is to show up and know choreography to such a degree that this information can be passed along to others. Simply having the credentials, the desire or the reputation for dance and movement does not make one a choreographer.

To teach choreography, you must be willing to come up with a format which can be commonly performed by people who are normally actors and singers–and not ballet dancers.

So when my choreographer showed up and began to conduct classes with my actors in an atmosphere that landed somewhere between a séance and a giggle-fest, I saw that my people were not learning anything. Matter of fact, when my choreographer brought me in to show me that day’s progress, the cast was so confused that they were running into one other. A friend standing nearby suggested that it more resembled “collisionography.”

Complicating the matter were the expressions on the faces of my hired actors, who pleaded with me through their eyes to either kill them or the choreographer.

So I made an executive decision to nicely fire her–which is a simple way of saying I paid her off–and hired two other guys, who were even worse.

By opening night, the lines were well-learned, the music was beautiful, the singing was enchanting, the blocking was positive, the costumes, lovely, and the choreography–disastrous.

It was one of those moments in my life which was so poorly accomplished that the onus fell on me–the fool who had no idea what he was doing.

So the next morning, as we were getting ready for that night’s performance, I asked a question. “Can you explain to me what you know how to do and what you would be able to do tonight without hurting one another?”

They came up with four moves. We quickly incorporated them into the show–over and over again–and the second night went beautifully.

I do not know why my choreographer could not teach choreography to my actors.

She insisted they were mentally retarded. Having their applications in front of me, I knew this was not true.

I also realized that it doesn’t do any good to know how to do something if you don’t know how to communicate it to those who don’t know how to do it at all.

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