A musical is like a love letter. It intertwines two people’s lives that expresses their feelings for one another through song and dance. How can anyone not fall in love when a man who dances and sings like Gene Kelly? We all know that Leslie Caron had no chance in the 1951 version of An American in Paris, and Gene Kelly was not giving up until they were together. Now the movie is being brought to the stage in new fashion by one of the most requested contemporary ballet choreographers to date, Christopher Wheeldon. Wheeldon has choreographed for some of the great dance companies such as Bolshoi Ballet, New York City Ballet, and The Royal Ballet. Now, he not only brings his choreography back to Broadway, but makes his directoral debut with an American classic, An American in Paris.
It has been 63 years since Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron graced the screen in An American in Paris. The six time academy award winning picture has been adapted into a Broadway show which opened in Paris, France at the Theatre du Chatalet in November 2014; Wheeldon has big shoes to fill. He chose not to transfer the film directly to the stage, but instead taking an artistic stance and creating all new choreography and extending dance sequences within the score of the musical. I thought it was interesting for casting he chose to go with a cast of extremely strong dancers including the two leads Robert Fairchild, Principal from New York City Ballet and Leanne Cope, First Artist from the Royal Ballet. Wheeldon is taking a choreographic direction similar to Movin’ Out where Twyla Tharp had a show that was centered around Billy Joel’s music, but was strongly supported by the dancers that brought the songs to life.
George Balanchine once said, “Dancing is music made visible.” The beauty and magic that happens when you see a work that you connect with for the first time is an out of body experience and I think society is finally catching up. Over the last year, I have seen a large change in the dance world where choreographers are starting to be more in the public eye, and not just the people who are obsessive dance fans. There has not only been growth in Broadway with the bright future of An American in Paris, but also the up-coming Finding Neverland Spring 2015 debut in which Mia Michaels choreographed. There have also been some fantastic music videos that have embraced the power that dance can bring to a piece of music in various music genres like Carrie Underwood’s Something in the Water that incorporates the Los Angeles dance troupe Shaping Sound, as well as Ed Sheeran’s Don’t, choreographed by hip-hop duo Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo and performed by Phillip “Pacman” Chbeeb. Wheeldon’s new show has come at the perfect time where dance is starting become more prominent everywhere through television, music, and stage, and is now being presented to a whole new generation of dance lovers. The great thing about An American in Paris is it connects an old audience with a new one. So make your New Year’s resolution to go see more live dance. Connect with something on an emotional level, see something that is not through your iPhone or computer screen, and fall in love all with an art form that can bring you to the past, present, and future in a matter of minutes.