Finding Neverland – When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground

IMG_0359I may have a small obsession, and by small I mean the size of the world.  When I first heard about the show Finding Neverland last year in April I was beyond excited and knew I had to see the show as soon as it was in previews at the American Repertoire Theatre (ART) in Boston.  So, being the obsessive person I am, I called a friend that worked there and asked where the best seat was in the house, bought a ticket for a show in August 2014, and fell in love.

I am only assuming that now that it is on Broadway it has only improved in story, song composition, and acting, but the storyline of two unlikely people helping each other is a classic.  Plus Eliot Kennedy and Gary Barlow are geniuses.  I had been waiting for the casting soundtrack to come out because I was addicted to the song ‘When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground.’  Well my prayers have been answered because as of July 17, 2015 they are releasing the Broadway soundtrack (of the cast) and the first song that was released was (drumroll please) ‘When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground.’

So why is this particular song an audience favorite?  It has an adult coming to the realization that make believe is needed in your life at every age.  While a child is trying to deal with the pain of losing his father, his mother being sick, and the possibility of becoming an orphan.  The thoughts of a young Peter understanding that make believe doesn’t fix everything he is feeling.  The hate and anger he has towards his mother for wanting to keep her illness hidden from him and his brothers and make life normal when life isn’t normal.  This song takes you above the clouds and out of the dark that life can hold when bad things happen and when fear takes control.

The song opens with:

“When did life become so complicated?
Years of too much thought and time I wasted,
And in each line upon my face,
Is proof I fought and lived another day.

Most people have regrets in their lives.  They didn’t take the risk to ask that girl out on the train, didn’t take their dream job out of fear of failure, or didn’t make that big move for fear of being alone.  We allow fear to control our thoughts and our actions in life instead of just doing.  In the second verse it says, ‘I make believe I’m in control.’  I think this line sums it up that we allow fear to control.  Everyone thinks I am nuts for moving across the country with no job lined up, moving in with my family, and leaving everything I have built career wise on the east coast, but I am telling you that I don’t allow fear to control what I do.  Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and that is what this song is about.  Allowing yourself to open up and connect without the thought of fear.  J.M. Barrie’s story with the Llewelyn Davies was two families learning to make believe again, not allowing fear to control them, and a story that everyone wants to believe in.

Watch the video below of Matthew Morrison (J.M. Barrie) and Aiden Gemma (Peter) recording ‘When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground’. Click here to buy the album!

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Tiler Peck – Destined to be a NYCB Ballerina

Tiler Peck’s story is like a movie. She is from Bakersfield, California and got her start dancing when she was young at her mother’s dance studio. Jazz technique was her favorite, but her mother encourage her to have a strong ballet base. At seven she began to take private classes with Bolshoi ballerina Alla Khaniashvili. Soon after, she began ballet classes in Santa Monica at Westside School of Ballet from former New York City Ballet (NYCB) principal Yvonne Mounsey and with other NYCB alum Colleen and Patricia Neary. She continued to do other performing arts activities such as acting and singing as a child, and with the help of her agent, Victoria Morris, Peck was also able to advance her career. Some of these career pushing activities included movies (I.e. Donny Darko, A Time for Dancing, and Geppetto), ballet performances such as Clara (en Pointe) in the the Radio City Spectacular at Universal Studios at ten, and Broadway in NYC at 11 in the revival of The Music Man. At thirteen her mentors, and NYCB alumni encouraged her to apply to the School of American Ballet. She was accepted and began her studies in NYC for two summers before moving to New York to study Ballet full-time. At New York City Ballet, one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, she moved up the ranks quickly. In 2004 she joined as an apprentice. In 2005 as apart of the corp. In 2006 she was promoted to soloist. Finally, in 2009 she was moved up to a principal where continues to be today.  (All date and background information found through Dance Magazine’s “The Magnetic Tiler Peck” by Astrida Woods)

Her artistry in her dancing is breathe taking. Peck loses herself on stage in a work and has developed a musicality that is revered. She makes every port de bra, every pirouette, and each arabesque look natural and unhurried. Her presence within pieces such as Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousal or the Romantic duet in Jerome Robbin’s Fancy Free is storytelling that can make any ballet hater want to go see another. Peck’s story isn’t all sunshine and roses. Just like any artist she has had successes as well as set backs. In 2007, at eighteen, she broke her back and was out for six months. That kind of injury, and that length of time being out can be career ending. The loss of technique, flexibility, and the competition of up and coming ballerinas can put many injured dancers at a crossroad where they need to retire. Peck persevered, healed, and became more flexible, a stronger dancer, and developed a thought process of potential plans after dancing.

In the performing arts world there has been exploration among artists who continue to push boundaries as not only an artist, but continue to develop new ways to increase revenue streams and become more of a public face. In music you see artists crossing genres like Taylor Swift going from Country to Pop or even switching performing art styles like Kiesza going from being a professional dancer to a singer. In dance, it’s becoming more prevalent for professional ballet dancers to do other activities outside of their company contract. In Peck’s case she recently had the lead role in a new musical performed at the Kennedy Center called Little Dancer as well as did a six week run on Broadway with On The Town. Peck isn’t the only one in the ballet world doing cross over work. Other artists such as Robert Fairchild (led of Wheeldon’s Broadway Musical An American in Paris) and Megan Fairchild (On The Town). It doesn’t stop there either. Just like musical acts, they are starting to cash in on branding, like Peck with Body Wrappers Apparel, Misty Copland with under armor, and Lauren Froderman with Gatorade.  These crossovers are exciting because Ballet and dance in general is becoming more popular in society and not just looked as an elite art form.

If you look at Peck story it seemed that she was destined to be at NYCB. Her story also gives you insight on how a successful Ballerina gets to the top and understanding that sacrifice as a child is where it starts. Peck didn’t have a normal life. She pushed boundaries by being involved in all walks of the performing arts, left home at a young age, and had developed an understanding that she is not going to be a ballerina forever. For now, I look forward to continuing to see her breath taking performances around the world, as well as being a role model for mini ballerinas to look to for strength, guidance, and an understanding of the dance world.

Below you will find Tiler Peck’s insight and dancing on Balanchine’s TSCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX

Dance for the Next Generation

ParisDancerA 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.