Between Little Dancer, the latest collaboration by Susan Stroman, Lynn Ahrens, and Stephen Flaherty, and An American in Paris, classical ballet has seen a subtle resurgence in musical theatre. “I think ballet, like opera, is becoming more assimilated into works,” says Terrence Mann who starred as Edward Degas in Little Dancer, the bio-musical about the artist’s life. “There’s a certain classicism about it that can apply to period pieces like Little Dancer, and I think that always works. Good dancing is good dancing is good dancing, and it starts with ballet.”
It also starts with programs like the National Dance Institute, founded in 1976 by former New York City Ballet principal dancer and famed choreographer Jacques d’Amboise. “Children are everything,” says d’Amboise. “They are the future, so we must give them the best of everything we have.” NDI uses dance and music to cultivate a love of the arts in children, regardless of background, ability, or socio-economic status. To date, the Institute has reached over 2 million kids. On January 30, New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck (and star of Little Dancer) performed with her husband, American in Paris’ Robert Fairchild, and NYCB dancer Tyler Angle as part of d’Amboise’s Art Nest series.
The evening marked a showcase of styles—and levels—as the kids of NDI performed original choreography from the upcoming Harlem Night Song, Asian-inspired Rooster Dance and Spirit of China, and the interpretive Imagine by John Lennon interspersed with classic Balanchine and Robbins pieces from professionals Peck, Fairchild, and Angle.
Peck, for one, is excited about the emergence of more crossover between ballet and musical theatre. “I started in California dancing when I was like 2 and I did all kinds of dance," she says. "I first came to New York when I was 11 and did The Music Man on Broadway and that’s what brought me to New York and that’s when I went to [School of American Ballet]. “To have ballet and to have the musical theatre side and to be about a painter, so it brings in the art, the show is incredible.”
Peck and Mann performed “In Between” from their show as part of the evening. Even as a performer known more for his voice than his movement, Mann makes it a priority to support dance. “My wife is a dancer and her father, Jacques d’Amboise, was a dancer and I work on Broadway, fortunately all the time, with dancers,” says Mann. “Watching them do what they do and to watch what they have to suffer through to make everything look beautiful and to be good at what they are and how long it takes…” is worth all of his support and time.
As for the fate of Little Dancer, “Terry and I were like, ‘We’re ready,’” says Peck. “I think that the next step is Broadway, is what we’ve been told and we are just waiting for the right house.
“Stro, Lynn, and Stephen, I know they have said so many times that this show means so much to them because they built it from scratch and they just feel like it’s a very special show out of everything that they’ve ever done,” she continues. Peck and the cast from the run in Washington, D.C., have not been together since a March workshop, but Peck says the creative trio has been chipping away at it and making changes.
Fairchild, Tony-nominated for his performance in American in Paris, is preparing to launch the U.K. production of his musical theatre debut this spring. He’s thrilled that the avenue of musical theatre has opened up to a dancer like him. “It’s crazy because it’s the only real musical I’ve done, or had a run of,” he says. “To have something to maybe venture into after my ballet body is done… my favorite thing is telling stories and being onstage and communicating with the audience so if I can keep prolonging that experience by finding different ways to tell it—not just my body—it’s really exciting.”
But what most excited Peck and Fairchild that night were the kids. “Isn’t it amazing?” Peck beamed. Mann replied, “It’s transportive.”
Both Mann and Charlotte d’Amboise will perform aboard Playbill Travel's Rhine River cruise in August 2017. The luxury cruise—complete with performances by top Broadway talent like the two of them—tours the stunning and culture-filled cities of Basel, Cologne, Amsterdam, and more. For those who can't wait until summer, Broadway on the High Seas 8 departs on a Caribbean adventure set for February 2017, and recently announced two-time Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell as a performer. For more information about Playbill Travel and to book your next Broadway getaway click here.