Next to Normal: Dance Captain

On our very first day of rehearsal, I asked to be considered for the position of Dance Captain for Next to Normal. So when our director/choreographer Nicole Capri told me she wanted me to have the position, I literally started to jump up and down. I’ve never been dance captain on a show before and was very excited to be taking on the position for the first time.

According to Actor’s Equity Association, a dance captain is “a member of the company who maintains the artistic standards of all choreography and/or musical staging in a production.”  Essentially, this means that I responsible for making sure that all of the actors are performing the choreography as it was intended to be performed.

Diana (Deb Lyons) does a dance with her psychopharmacologist Dr. Madden (Peter James Zielinski).

Even before the company arrived in Little Rock, I was interested in being dance captain for this production. I’ve always been quietly fascinated with the job. When learning choreography, my mind gravitates towards spacing, stage pictures and specificity – all responsibilities of the dance captain. I’ve worked with many wonderful dance captains, who have been part-cheerleader, part-taskmaster and part-confidante, and hoped I could follow in their amazing footsteps.

In a production with more movement, the dance captain would be responsible for making sure dancers’ times steps were crisp, or arabesques were at equal heights. But in a show with such economy of movement like Next to Normal, the dance captain’s work can be even more vital. The specific, precise choreography we perform in our show makes mistakes and inconsistencies even more apparent.

As we staged Next to Normal, I notated all the choreography as director/choreographer Nicole Capri taught my fellow actors and me.  At times, my job was to specify the choreography: asking the questions that others may not know to ask. I also worked to clean and clarify the movements, making sure that the choreography looked the same on each actor.

Diana (Deb Lyons) with her psychopharmacologist Dr. Fine (Peter James Zielinski) with Will Holly, Jonathan Rayson, Mo Brady and Kristin Parker.

Now that we’ve opened, I am responsible for maintaining the show’s staging. During performances, I watch the songs with choreography from the wings to make sure all the movements look clean and sharp. For the sections of choreography that I also perform, I usually keep an eye on the general picture, just to make sure we are all moving together.

I am responsible for teaching the choreography to our understudies, in the event they will have to go on during a performance. To prepare for this, understudy rehearsals are held multiple times a week. Helmed by stage manager Steve Emerson, music director Helen Gregory and myself, we spend the rehearsals slowly working through the show, teaching choreography or clarifying moments they may have missed during the rehearsal process.

For me, working as dance captain has been an exciting addition to the regular duties of an actor. As a person who enjoys keeping multiple plates spinning, I appreciate the challenge of keeping our show looking good throughout its run. If I’ve done my job right, the staging will be so crisp and clean that audiences will hardly notice the choreography, but be thoroughly invested in the story that that choreography tells.

Mo Brady is originally from Seattle and made his Broadway debut in The Addams Family. He performed in the world premiere of Catch Me If You Can at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, as well as in six additional original productions at the theater. His performances inSeven Brides For Seven Brothers and Hello, Dolly! there won him a “Best of Seattle” Award from Seattle Weekly magazine. He has worked on many developmental productions and world premieres, including Villains Tonight! with Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen for Walt Disney Entertainment, Robin Hood with Martin Charnin and Snapshots with Stephen Schwartz, both at Village Theatre in Seattle. This fall, Mo performed in workshops of two Broadway-bound musicals: The Rhythm Club, directed by Casey Nicolaw, and The Honeymooners, directed by Jerry Mitchell. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Whitman College. Read more at Follow @mo_brady on Twitter.

One thought on “Next to Normal: Dance Captain

  1. Waiting to leave for the airport for my flight to Little Rock…shutting down my computer and was pleasantly surprised to find another blog entry!!

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