Creating A Legacy

“I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons.  And maybe we’ll never know most of them.  But even if we don’t have the power to chose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there” (Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being A Wallflower).  My family has been putting together photo and document albums of our family dating back to the late 1800s/ early 1900s.  For hours, my father and I went through old photos, newspaper clippings, and letters, getting a glimpse into these people’s lives that I’ve never met.  Everyone eventually dies, and looking through these photos it is amazing how every thing can go poof, and then all of a sudden a hundred years from now someone is looking through your old belongs and they can’t even name who you are in a photograph.   Creating a legacy is like putting your stamp on the world and I am not talking about children.  Many people say that their children are their legacy, but I don’t truly believe that.  I think you need to want something more out of life.  Something that helps people, affects change, and connects with others; whether it is one person or a million people.

Dance is a beautiful form of art that has the capacity to connect with people at any age.  Recently, I came across the music video for Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and don’t get me wrong this song is a perfect ballad written with a simple flowing melody, but what really caught my attention was the choreography.  Napoleon and Tabitha D’Umo combined lyrical hip-hop, contemporary, and ballroom styles of dance, and put movement to every breath, guitar strum, and drum beat within the song.  This video has over 100 million views on it and has connected with people all around the world.  Going through old documents with my father, I read various letters that my Aunt Margret wrote to soldiers (including my Uncle) during World War II.  Those letters got me thinking about this song and how love and compassion were so important during that time.  The uncertainty of if you were going to live or die.  If your sweetheart was going to make it back alive.  How words, love, and compassion affect people on a daily basis.  I think Ed Sheeran, and Napoleon and Tabitha D’Umo get it.  They understand that their art means something and that their legacy will continue live as it connects with millions of people all over the world through movement, music, and words.  They have created something bigger than themselves that can speak to people on a different level of emotions.  They have pushed themselves past the boundaries of comfort, believed in what they have created is important to share, and in the art world it always seems like everything is stacked against you, but you keep pushing because it is something you need to do.

In the words of Joey Potter, “We all start off in kindergarten thinking that we can be anything that we want to be, and by the time we get here, we’ve somehow lost that feeling. We’ve all started to believe whatever our parents or friends have told us about what we can achieve and who we can be in life, and we’ve forgotten about that possibility we had when we were younger. . .We could all use a daily reminder that, if you believe in yourself, even when the odds seem stacked against you, anything’s possible.”


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.