Urban Cowboy's Honky Tonk Dances Not a Stretch for Former Ballerina Melinda Roy

By Kenneth Jones
21 May 2003

Watching the sexy, jeans-grabbing choreography in the musical, Urban Cowboy, and realizing the pedigree of 2003 Tony Award-nominated choreographer, Melinda Roy, you couldn't help but ask, "What's a nice former ballerina doing in a honky tonk like this?"



Roy, formerly with New York City ballet and familiar with classical stretches, admits the country-western line dancing wasn't as much of a stretch as you'd think.

"It's pretty much in my blood," Roy said of the boot scootin' choreography she created for her first Broadway job. "I come from Louisiana, so I grew up with country music. In 1995, I put together a small company and did special events and it was all country-western-themed. When I was touring with the ballet I'd always go into these podunk towns and find the first country bar. I'd rip the bun off, and put the jeans and the boots on and off I'd go. A lot of my research came from going into these different clubs and seeing what the styles were. So I bumped it up a notch and tried to make it sexier — slightly dirtier."

She got the Urban Cowboy job from the show's original director and co-writer, Phil Oesterman, who died during pre-production in 2002. They were neighbors in Florida and Oesterman knew her country work. Director Lonny Price inherited the show and, she said, wondered why a ballerina was chosen to do dances in a roadhouse setting.

But Roy said she and Price clicked, and she soon proved she could muscularly move the Broadway company away from the toe shoes and into the snakeskin boots.

A national tour of Urban Cowboy has been announced. The musical based on the film of the same name earned two 2003 Tony Award nominations — Best Choreography and Best Score.