If the whaling ship Pequod is America, its occupants must be reflective of America, posits Chanel DaSilva, choreographer of the upcoming world premiere of Moby-Dick. In the video above, the artist discusses her eclectic approach to the new musical, which begins December 3 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Those inhabiting the ship—from narrator Ishmael to crewmate Starbuck, harpooner Queequeg to cabin boy Pip—are comprised of “beautiful, diverse people from all over the world,” says DaSilva, “on this quest with this man [captain Ahab] who doesn’t take note of their humanity. For me, that speaks a lot to America and the roots of our country, being built on the backs of slaves, on indigenous people who were not taken account for.”
Rather than live solely in the 1800s, the musical, penned by Tony nominee Dave Malloy, spiritually navigates a century and a half of cultures and styles, allowing DaSilva to “quote from a long line of dance styles” as the cast moves about the whaling ship and beyond.
“I can quote dances from the 1850s; it could be a grand waltz or a square dance. It can also be the Swag Surf,” she explains. The choreographer also teases combinations inspired by doo-wop, mosh pits, and fleet formations.
The musical marks a reunion between composer Malloy and Tony-winning Hadestown director Rachel Chavkin following Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, which also played the A.R.T. before a Broadway bow.
The cast of the Boston-area engagement will include Manik Choksi as Ishmael and Tom Nelis as Ahab, along with Starr Busby, Kalyn West, Anna Ishida, Andrew Cristi, Matt Kizer, J.D. Mollison, Eric Berryman, Morgan Siobhan Green, Ashkon Davaran, Kim Blanck, and Dawn L. Troupe.