Members of the cast of ‘Sweet Charity’ at West Hartford’s Kingswood Oxford School prepared for their upcoming performance at a workshop with a legendary Broadway star.
Submitted by Jackie Pisani, Kingswood Oxford School
Once again, KO’s award-winning Theater Department continues to raise the barre with its unique [email protected] signature program, where students can learn from some of the most acclaimed working actors and dancers on Boadway.
After exchanging 79 emails and 35 text messages, our Director of Theater Kyle Reynolds secured the legendary hyper-hyphenated actress, singer, dancer, writer, director, producer, and choreographer, Stephanie Pope to workshop with KO students on Jan. 6 and ready themselves for their performance of Sweet Charity. Her 35-year career includes over 10 Broadway shows. She was personally selected to work with icon Bob Fosse on her first two Broadway shows, the revival of Sweet Charity and Bob Fosse’s Big Deal. According to her bio, “she holds the distinct and treasured title of ‘Fosse Dancer” and is one of a handful of Fosse reconstructeurs teaching Fosse repertoire and Master Classes on behalf of The Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC.”
Fosse had an acute understanding of the body’s mechanics, which led him to formulate some of the most iconic dance moves ever to sashay across the floor boards. There’s an unmistakable Fosse signature – accentuated hand movements, sensual hip rolls, controlled yet curving back arches and shoulders. When you see a Fosse dance move, you know it’s a Fosse move.
Much of Fosse’s work is attributed to the partnership between himself and his partner, Gwen Verdon, thus the Verdon/Fosse legacy. Pope worked with the KO dancers to achieve these stylized movements for the key dance scenes in Sweet Charity.
One featured dance, “The Heavyweight,” combines elements of 1960s discotheque dancing with moves from the boxing ring with paired dancers in rock ‘em sock ‘em robot stances and fist jabs to the air. Demanding yet kindhearted, Pope led the dancers to achieve remarkable progress in their time with her.
One fortunate student, Frank Pu ’23, the lead male dancer in “The Frug,” who worked with Pope said, “I learned the power of stillness and the importance of finding your own story (in the case of sweet Charity, a secret!) behind every movement. When such principles are applied to dance, the magnitude of the movements is contained. What I need are 100% attitude and smoothness and 80% energy.” Pu appreciated Pope’s willingness to share and apply these principles in their choreography with students to lend more sophistication and professionalism to the KO theater productions.
Faith Potter, who portrays Nickie in Sweet Charity, the lead dancer at the Fandango Ballroom, felt Pope was a powerful role model. “Working with Ms. Pope was really a pivotal point in my experience in Sweet Charity, specifically as a dancer and an actor. Too often, I find myself separating dancing and acting when in reality, they are so similar and rely on each other!
Kingswood Oxford’s Sweet Charity will run in the school’s Roberts Theater on the West Hartford campus on Feb. 24 and 25.
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