Broadway Icon Ann Reinking Passes Away At 71

Ann Reinking in ‘All That Jazz’ (screen capture)

Tony Award-winning actress/dancer/choreographer Ann Reinking (Chicago, Fosse, Pippin, Sweet Charity, Over Here!) passed away Saturday night at the age of 71.

From Variety:

She is perhaps best known for playing Roxie Hart in 1977’s “Chicago,” replacing Gwen Verdon. She reprised the part when she returned for the 1996 revival of the famed production.

“The hope is that in rediscovering ‘Chicago,’ audiences will rediscover what theater was,” Reinking told The New York Times at the time of the show’s revival. “It was sophisticated, complicated, adult.”

Her work on the later “Chicago” ultimately earned her a Tony Award for best choreography.

Reinking was also the co-creator, co-director and co-choreographer for “Fosse,” a musical meant to showcase Fosse’s choreography. She created the project alongside Richard Maltby Jr. and Chet Walker. The musical was Reinking’s final bow on Broadway, as she served as a replacement ensemble member in 2001.

The Broadway revival of Chicago the Musical was an unexpected and thrilling part of my career on Broadway.

I had moved to Los Angeles to be with my husband Michael in 1996, thinking perhaps my dancing career was behind me. And then, on a whim, I went to an open call for replacements for Chicago the Musical in early 1998.

Over 300 dancers attended that call, and at the end of the day, I was one of ten left standing. Three days later, Ann and director Walter Bobbie were coming through LA and the ten of us were called back to show what we had to offer.

Four months later, I got a call asking me to join the national touring company that was playing in Los Angeles, and ultimately I was hired about a dozen times over the next 15 years to go into the Broadway and touring companies. Sometimes, it would be for a year, sometimes for a month as a temporary replacement.

And I know that was because of Ann. She trusted me over and over again to be a part of her thrilling choreography.

Imagine not only meeting one of your heroes but working with them. And learning from them. And dancing right alongside them.

Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart in the Broadway revival of Chicago (photo: Max Vadukul)

One of my most memorable times with Ann was during brushup rehearsals for the Broadway company’s second anniversary.

I vividly remember, and I’ve quoted her often, her saying that dance represents tradition – and that it’s our responsibility as dancers to pass steps and style on to the next generation.

The last time I saw Ann was during her run in FOSSE in the early 2000s. We chatted backstage in her dressing room after the performance. She was, of course, brilliant.

As we parted ways leaving the Broadhurst Theater, she asked in passing, “So, you’re in NYC for a while?” I said, “Yes.”

Of course, the next day, the casting folks called – per Ann’s request – and asked if I was available to go back into Chicago.

With Ann Reinking in 1998 celebrating the 2nd anniversary of CHICAGO on Broadway

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Annie.  For the inspiration, for the laughs, for the insight, and for your genius.

RIP Ann Reinking.

By the way, just to underscore how lucky I’ve been in my theater career, I’ve danced with all three of these great stars. Color me grateful.

Midday Brain Break: Adorable Wedding Flashmob Dance

(screen captures via Instagram)

Awww… It’s been a while since we saw a flash mob dance at a wedding – but today we get this little uplifting nugget.

Fitness guy Brock Dalgleish shared this clip from his beautiful wedding, which took place this past Sunday in Salt Lake City.

Dalgleish surprised his partner, Riley Jay, Brock with not one but two dance routines at the end of the ceremony.

Socially-distanced guests watched as the dancers knocked it out to Lady Gaga’s “Stupid Love” from her latest album, Chromatica.

“This was my dream come true,” Brock told his followers on TikTok. “Wedding flash mob with all of my people.”

On The 45th Anniversary Of ‘A Chorus Line’

Me as ‘Mark’ in the national touring company of A Chorus Line
“Who have you been with my son?”
 
Funny you should ask…
 
Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, listening to original Broadway cast recordings, I somehow discovered A Chorus Line. It was dynamic and cool, and mysterious (“Give me somebody to dance for…”) and…..some stuff I didn’t understand (yet).
 
And then I saw the show on Broadway at the Shubert Theater and it flew by! Like the album on steroids.
So fast! And all the stories! Brilliant and raw and funny and, and, and, and somewhere up there, I saw…me.
 
Who would guess in a few years I’d be cast in the national tour company with the original Tony Award winner, Donna McKechnie? Directed by original cast member Baayork Lee?
 
The show became an enormously important part of my life. Not one performance went by that I didn’t look up to ‘the second balcony’ and thank the universe for the ‘chance to dance.’
 
Today is, incredibly, the 45th anniversary of the opening night of A Chorus Line on Broadway. What an incredible gift this show has been to me.
 
From ‘Mark’ to ‘Bobby’ to directing the show and passing on what I learned from Donna, Baayork, Kay Cole (original ‘Maggie’), and my dear wonderful Thommie Walsh, I say thank you.
#whatididforlove
p.s. If you know the show, you know the monologue I quote to begin this post 😉

Tonight: Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival

2020 Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival (photo: Scott Shaw Photography)

What to watch tonight? Check this out 🙂

The charitable event of the Fire Island summer goes digital when the Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival streams an evening of celebrated dance at 7 pm Eastern on July 17, 2020.

The first-ever stream in the event’s 26-year history will feature world premieres of three new pieces and three beloved festival favorites. The festival is produced by and benefits Dancers Responding to AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Last year’s event – held on July 19-21 – raised a record-shattering $657,842 over three days.

The player below will go live as the stream begins, or you can click here to watch directly on YouTube.

This year’s virtual festival will include world premieres by modern tap dancer Ayodele Casel, one of The New York Times’ “Biggest Breakout Stars of 2019”; KEIGWIN + COMPANY Artistic Director Larry Kiegwin; and Stephen Petronio, artistic director of Stephen Petronio Company.

The stream also will feature past festival performances by Emmy Award nominee Al Blackstone; MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Kyle Abraham and acclaimed dancer and choreographer Garrett Smith.

“Although we can’t gather together in The Pines, we’re thrilled to be able to invite our community to enjoy world-class dance performances online through the Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival,” said Denise Roberts Hurlin, founding director of Dancers Responding to AIDS.

While the stream is free, should you feel ‘moved’ to do so (see what I did there?), any donation large or small is definitely appreciated.

You can check out highlights from last year’s event below.

Daily Dance: Leap Of Dance Academy

From the Instagram account of the Leap of Dance Academy in Nigeria, a vocational ballet school that is dedicated to providing quality ballet education to indigenous students and young artists.

“With very little or no resources our kids are training to be the best they can,” reads the caption in part. “This is not to bring down anyone but to show their high level of dedication and commitment to our program.”

“Who wouldn’t be proud of them? What teacher wouldn’t pray for students who show/come to class with so much desire to learn? Kids who are ready to dance with or without conditions.”

 

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FACTS ABOUT OUR PROGRAM. Behind those fanciful in class beauty and costumes are lots and lots of backstage hard work. With very little or no resources our kids are training to be the best they can. This is not to bring down anyone but to show their high level of dedication and committments to our program. Who wouldn’t be proud of them? What teacher wouldn’t pray for students who shows/comes to class with so much desire to learn? Kids who are ready to dance with or without conditions. Imagine what more we could achieve if we have more?🙂 DMs for more information. #leapofdanceacademy #covid19 #donation #vocational #nigerianballetschool #travelingtutusincnigeria #danceacademy #danceeducation #weloveyou #growth #weloveourpartners #yeswecan #dancing #learning

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Stunning Virtual Collaboration: ‘Bolero Juilliard’

This is really quite special.

Proposed by Juilliard President Damian Woetzel and under the artistic leadership of choreographer (and New Dances veteran) Larry Keigwin, Bolero Juilliard is a virtual collaboration with Juilliard’s community of artists, bringing together dancers, instrumentalists, singers, actors, and alumni during the ongoing pandemic.

In addition to the incredibly talented students taking part in the creative endeavor, don’t miss famous alumni of the school popping up throughout the video including Christine Baranski (drama), Jon Batiste (jazz studies), Renée Fleming (voice), Laura Linney (drama), Patti LuPone (drama), Yo-Yo Ma (music), Bebe Neuwirth (dance), Itzhak Perlman (music), Bradley Whitford (drama) and more.

News Round-Up: April 30, 2020

Los Angeles, CA, 1998

Some news items you might have missed:

International Day of Dance: I’m a day late but I have to pay tribute to the gift, the discipline, and the artistry afforded me by my many (many) years of dance training. It all was a gift. The pic above was taken as I warmed up for a performance of CHICAGO the Musical in Los Angeles at the Shubert Theatre in 1998.

Agence France-Presse: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said the World Health Organization encourages homosexuality and masturbation among young children, his latest clash with an organization whose advice on social distancing and other anti-coronavirus measures he has repeatedly questioned.

Washington Blade: Rufus Gifford has been named deputy campaign manager for Joseph Biden, the campaign confirmed Wednesday. The former U.S. ambassador to Denmark from 2013 to 2017, Gifford was one of seven openly gay ambassadors who served under the Obama administration. Oh, and he’s a dog man and pretty easy on the eyes, which never hurts 🙂

Former US Ambassador Rufus Giffords (via Instagram)

Media Matters: National Rifle Association board member Anthony Colandro called the novel coronavirus pandemic “bullshit” and encouraged his followers to join him at an anti-social distancing protest in New Jersey insisting the state police “can’t arrest all of us.”

Pink News: A scientist has explained why Mike Pence refused to wear a mask while visiting patients recovering from coronavirus: toxic masculinity. Peter Glick Ph.D., a social sciences professor, says Pence refusing to abide by the hospital’s guidelines comes down to “one critical reason, which is that appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness.” p.s. Pence wore a mask at a GM plant after the backlash.

Fox News: After over one million confirmed cases and over 62,000 deaths of COVID-19 in the U.S., plus 30 million Americans have lost their jobs, Donald Trump’s campaign is set to launch a seven-figure ad blitz on his “spectacular success.” Priorities USA has its own take on Trump’s efforts.

InstaHottie Hosts Virtual ‘Dance Parties’ During Coronavirus Threat

Mark Kanemura (image via Instagram)

It seems practically every hour a new announcement is made that this event or that festival has been either postponed or canceled thanks to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus.

We’re being told it’s best to stay home as much as possible to practice the latest craze, “social distancing.”

But with so much home time on our hands, what are we to do other than binge-watch all those Netflix shows and movies we might be behind on?

Instagram sensation Mark Kanemura decided he would dance the blues away.

And he invited his 672,000+ followers to join him.

For the past few days, Kanemura, a former dancer for Lady Gaga and contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance,” has been hosting virtual dance parties on his Instagram Live.

On Friday, he invited “people from all over the world” to join him in a “collective energy of love and dance!”

And thousands showed up.

By Sunday, Kanemura attracted national attention from outlets like the TODAY Show and more.

“I am in the same boat,” he shared with the TODAY Show. “Everything that was lined up got canceled and postponed. I’m stuck at home and there’s not much I can do, but one thing I can do is these dance parties and connect with people.”

The ‘dance parties’ last about 10-15 minutes. Sunday’s party (yes, we ‘attended’) consisted of two songs with the dance pro spontaneously teaching a set of easy to follow steps and repeating them so folks at home could dance along.

During the event, the Los Angeles-based dancer asked that folks chime in with where they were in the world. The list of locales included Florida, New York, Poland, Denmark, Italy and more. For most of the ‘dance,’ there were over 3,000 people taking part.

For a finale, Kanemura ended his virtual-tea dance with a rain of confetti.

He was back at it today decked out in hot pink shorts and rainbow socks and even added his own glitter ball.

Let’s hear it for folks who are doing their part to lift spirits during an uncertain time.

You can follow Kanemura on Instagram here. To watch the live dance parties, click over to his Instagram account at the announced time, then click on his avatar in the upper left-hand corner which will read “Live” when he’s logged in.

Bravo, Mark Kanemura!

Same-Sex Dance Duo Wins Denmark’s DWTS

(photo: Henrik Ohsten/VildMedDans via Facebook)

History was made in Denmark as the first same-sex team to compete on the country’s version of Dancing with the Stars took home the trophy over the weekend.

Openly gay actor Jakob Fauerby and professional dancer Silas Holst consistently impressed the judges and the TV audience throughout the season.

 

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Stort tillykke, Jakob og Silas ⭐️ 📸Foto: Henrik Ohsten #vmd19 #vildmeddans

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The same-sex partnering was Fauerby’s idea and the show’s producers approved his request.

Earlier in the season, the actor told the press he had a sense the series was looking to feature a same-sex team but probably didn’t know how to approach possible contestants with the request.

“It’s difficult to ask someone ‘Hey do you want to be in the show, but do you want to be the LGBT representation of it?’” he said. “So, I think they just waited for someone to express the willingness to do it themselves.”

Holst ended a five-year sabbatical from the show and returned to compete with Fauerby as the first same-sex dance duo in the show’s 16-year history.

The dance competition, one of the most popular shows in Denmark, draws a huge audience each week.

“We are a small country of only 5.6 million people, and every Friday more than a million people tune in to watch the show and many more watch it on-demand afterward,” Fauerby told the press.

“There are very few shows that everyone sees, and this is one of them, so there are a lot of feelings connected to it.”

Celebrating the triumph, Fauerby shared the jubilation on his Instagram writing, “It’s totally crazy and absolutely amazing. Thank you so much to all of you for your wonderful messages and great support over the last 12 weeks.”

Noting the impact of representation on television, he added, “I am so proud that my daughter, her big brother, and all other little boys and girls can go out into the world and love the way they want and dance with whomever they want.”

He also thanked his professional partner for not only being “the bravest man” but “getting me out into the deepest water – it was worth it!”

Holst returned the praise thanking Fauerby for his courage to take the journey writing, “It will forever sit in my heart.”

 

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Nu er det ved at lande i mig hvad der er foregået de sidste 24 timer. Jeg er stolt!! Stolt af vores hårde arbejde blev belønnet, men aller vigtigst stolt over at dele land med alle jer, der har turde åbne jeres sind og se på noget nyt med åbne øjne. At I så igennem både køn og seksualitet og kun så to mennesker der dansede. Det fylder mit hjerte med kærlighed og mine øjne med tårer!! Tusinde tak for al jeres kærlighed og stemmer! Det har været rørende og helt fantastisk at mærke jeres opbakning!! Tak for at vi måtte!!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Og dig kæreste, kæreste Fauerby! TAK for dig. Tak for dit mod og fordi du nok er verdens bedste selskab! Tænk at vi gjorde det! Især når man tænker tilbage på uge 4 i vores moderne dans og din minisk sprang. Hvad I kære seere ikke ved, er at vi sad på produktionskontoret onsdag eftermiddag inden udsendelse nr.5 og snakkede om vi blev nødt til at trække os, da Jakob ikke kunne gå. Lægen ringede og gav grønt lys torsdag aften og Fauerby fik tre timer torsdag aften til at lære samba til om fredagen. Det er det vildeste jeg har prøvet i VMD. Du lærte samba på TRE TIMER Fauerby!! Imponeret. Du er blevet far, du er blevet danser og jeg vil give Anne Laxholm ret igår – du er mest af alt en kunstner!! Jeg er lykkelig over at have taget denne tur med lige peæcis dig i hånden! Det vil for altid sidde i mit hjerte ❤️❤️ gudskelov vi ses lige om lidt! Tak til @mastifftv.dk og @tv2danmark for jeres mod!! Jeg er lykkelig ❤️

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There have been same-sex dance teams on various iterations of the reality competition around the world, but this is the first time they’ve taken home the gold.

Italy’s version of the show featured a male duo last year where the team came in third at the season finale. There have also been same-sex teams in the Austrian and Israeli editions, and drag performer Courtney Act participated in the Australian series with a male partner.

 

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To stolte og glade vindere af Vild med dans 2019 🕺🏼❤️ #vmd19 #vildmeddans 📸 Foto: Henrik Ohsten

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‘Strictly Come Dancing’ Features Same-Sex Partners To Stunning Effect

Johannes Radebe & Graziano di Prima (right couple - image via Instagram/BBC)
Johannes Radebe & Graziano di Prima (right couple – image via Instagram/BBC)

This past weekend the UK TV show Strictly Come Dancing put the spotlight on two male dancers partnering together in a routine.

The reality competition series, a precursor to ABC’s Dancing with the Stars in the U.S., gave professional dancers Johannes Radebe and Graziano di Prima a solo spot during a production number showcasing Emeli Sande singing “Shine.”

Radebe, who was eliminated last week with his celebrity partner Catherine Tyldesley, grew up in South Africa and is openly gay. In an interview with Hello! Magazine, he said, “I’ve never felt so liberated.”

“For the first time, I feel accepted for who I am,” Radebe told the publication. “That says so much about the people of this country.”

“To be able to dance with a friend I respect and adore is joyous,” he continued. “There’s bromance galore between us, but there were no male and female roles, just free movement. It was beautiful, classy and elegant.”

 

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Love knows no boundaries. 👬🌈@grazianodiprima ❤️

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In advance of the performance, the 32-year-old dancer shared with The Sun that a same-sex dance would have never happened when he was dancing on the South African edition of Strictly.

Growing up near Johannesburg, Radebe said he was bullied from an early age and was called names like “sissy boy” frequently. At the age of 17, he was attacked with a baseball bat by a boy at school who called him “f*gg*t.”

That journey to now made Sunday’s performance that much more meaningful for him.

“When I got to the UK it was beautiful – for the first time I felt liberated,” he explained. “It’s just people accepting you for who you are no matter what you do. So now I feel more confident and comfortable because of my surroundings.”

Radebe posted photos of himself and di Prima with the caption, “Love knows no boundaries” with rainbow and heart emojis and tagged di Prima.

Di Prima, who is heterosexual (he proposed to his girlfriend live on stage earlier this year), also celebrated the moment taking to Twitter writing, “REPRESENTATION always matters! Unforgettable moment, dancing with you @johannesradebe @bbcstrictly”

The response on social media to the same-sex pair was mixed ranging from euphoria (including praise from former champ Joe McFadden) to some naysayers:

Former Strictly professional dancer Robin Windsor scolded the negative comments asking people to “just enjoy the artistry.”

Watch the full performance below. Radebe and di Prima enter around the 1:00 mark.