Director Blake Robison and Choreographer Alex Sanchez give us closer looks at bringing to life A Chorus Line, presented by The Singular Sensations.
DIRECTOR BLAKE ROBISON
I was a wide-eyed theatre kid. I loved everything about it: the dancing, the singing, the scale of the spectacle. As an adult, I’ve come to love the personal stories. It’s a musical about people who make their lives in the theatre, the ups and downs, the dreams and realities. I can relate.
It’s well known that the director/choreographer Michael Bennett created the musical from an evening of recorded conversations with Broadway dancers. Much of the text and lyrics come directly from that session, so it honors their stories in its authenticity. Our company of artists, today in Great musicals allow for that.
If you had to choose, what is your favorite song from the show?
“At the Ballet.” It’s a perfect trio.
CHOREOGRAPHER ALEX SANCHEZ
The first time I saw A Chorus Line was at the Shubert Theater in Chicago. I was 15 years old and went with two high school friends. All three of us were in the high school choir and involved in our school theatre. There were two special moments. One was that one of my friend’s cousins was in the show. The second was the first experience I ever had seeing Puerto Rican characters being represented in the story.
As a Puerto Rican kid growing up in Chicago, I never saw my story having any representation in theatre. I hadn’t seen West Side Story on stage yet. When I heard the names [of characters] Diana Morales and Paul San Marco, I was completely shocked and excited. Hearing both their stories had a profound effect on me and made me connect with the show in a very personal way. It is the first time I have ever experienced that in a show. Part of Paul’s story was mine as well. To this day, I can remember it like it was yesterday.
Dance plays a crucial role in this show, which has a legacy for its iconic steps. Tell us how you’re approaching the choreography
and what audiences can expect to experience.
The way that I approach choreography is to dive into the text of the piece. All the clues of what is needed to create movement is in the text and music. Dancing becomes a heightened form of emotional expression based on what the event is, as well as what the characters want from this event and what actions they take to achieve what they want. The physical gestures are born from those questions. I also do a lot of research on the story and find cultural attachments to the characters, which helps me create dance vernacular that is connected to them. My hope is to create choreography that will take the audience on an emotional ride and connect them to the characters. They will experience the energy and commitment that it takes to be a dancer.
“One,” which is the finale and bows of the show, is my favorite number in the show because it defines the spirit that lives inside all dancers. The music is inspiring, hopeful and upbeat. Those are all the attributes that dancers have. The number also celebrates life, filling the room with hope and utter joy. When you hear the song, it’s hard not to be affected by its jovial spirit and exuberant brassiness.
It’s also a large number that uses the whole cast — which, for me, is a metaphor for the community we are as theatre artists and how our various backgrounds come together to achieve a collective goal. When you listen to the lyrics, you would think that we are singing about the star of a show, but if you flip it to be personal, it’s really describing the traits that we all possess. We all are “a singular sensation, every little step she takes,” which can really be about us.
Photo at the top of the article features Alex Sanchez (Choreographer) and the cast of A Chorus Line in rehearsal.