Choreographer Xena Gusthart Discusses Her Work on 'Bat Out Of Hell' in NYC & More

by Michael Mahany | 8/13/2019 6:08 PM

Xena Gusthart. Photo courtesy: LSG Public Relations.


Jim Steinman’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, officially opened at City Center on August 8th for a run through September 1st, and with its premiere, choreographer Xena Gusthart made her most recent splash into the New York City theatre scene.


Gusthart, a dancer, host, and choreographer who splits her time between the UK and the US, is known for her globe-trekking work dancing or choreographing with artists like Kylie Minogue and Rita Ora, ad campaigns for brands like Nike and Adidas, and ‘The Bodyguard: The Musical’.


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Though Gusthart has been working on the project since its days back in London's West End, the Big Apple debut of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ is a big deal for the choreographer. Dance Network recently spoke with Gusthart to get all caught up on where she started, what’s next, and how she spends her (rare) free time as an adrenaline junkie.


Check out the interview below.


Xena Gusthart. Photo courtesy: LSG Public Relations.


Dance Network: Xena, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! We’re so excited for the debut of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ here in New York City. Now, before we get into the show itself, can you give us a little background on how you initially found your way to dance?

 

Xena Gusthart: I started dancing quite late, at the age of about 15, at a local school learning Jazz, Ballet and Tap which I found through the yellow pages. I had been involved in local Christmas shows as a kid and loved being on stage even if I was just standing there and waving to my mum in the audience! I had also grown up with an older brother who has cerebral palsy and so I had learned first hand what it was like not to have an able body. So, when I did finally start dancing it felt great to be free to move and respond to music and be part of a community. He inspires me every day to use the able body that I have been given, to utilize it and live my life in a very physical way.


The London cast of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’. Photo courtesy: Specular.


DN: That's truly inspiring. So, looking at 'Bat Out Of Hell', this show has certainly had quite the life! For you, having worked on it now on the West End as the resident choreographer, and now in the US, you’ve been pretty heavily involved for a while. What’s it been like seeing the show grow and change in the different venues?


Xena Gusthart: The show changes every time we get back into rehearsals, scenes are changed, scripts edited and I get a chance to tidy up things that weren’t working choreographically. The set and cast size have changed which has meant everything has had to be restructured from the ground up — which I find extremely exciting because it makes the production new every time! Each show is like a living breathing ecosystem and every time we take the show to a new venue and start the rehearsal process  it starts to take shape in its own unique way. This show will never stop evolving. 


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DN: Your choreographic work stretches beyond the theatre — you’ve choreographed for music videos, advertisements, and in so many styles, too. Can you give us an insight into how you approach new work? What was your approach to working on Jim Steinman and Meatloaf’s music for ‘Bat Out Of Hell’? 


Xena Gusthart. Photo courtesy: LSG Public Relations.


Xena Gusthart: I like to tell stories through my dance, and to do that, I listen to the lyrics and the rhythm of the music. The music is what inspires me, and when you're working in musical theatre, you have the extra collaboration of working with a director — which is always great. I also take into account what kind of dancers I have, what their abilities are, how much can I stretch them and mold them to what I want, and how can I make them look the best they can as well as tell the right story.

 

Jim’s lyrics create beautiful pictures and each song tells its own story, really it’s a dream to create to his music. With so much imagery in each song I really enjoyed working with his material. 


Xena Gusthart. Photo courtesy: XenaJGusthart.com


DN: On top of being a choreographer, you’re also a host and an extreme sports athlete. How do you think dance informs the other interests in your life?


Xena Gusthart: I adore hosting because ultimately I love people  getting to know what makes people tick, why they do what they do and what drives them.


I am definitely a high adrenaline adventure junkie! In my spare time, I like to do wakeboarding, snowboarding, paddle-boarding, ride motorbikes and go rock climbing. When I was 19, I got heavily into breakdancing and I became obsessed with the athleticism of the dance, the community aspect, and I liked breaking the mold by being one of the very, very few females on the scene. I think this mentality and athleticism has stayed with me throughout my career and is definitely my way to relax and enjoy myself both inside and outside the rehearsal studio. 


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DN: ’Bat Out Of Hell’ runs in New York for a few more weeks — any news on where your fans can see your work on the show any time soon?


Xena Gusthart: I will be Involved in two new musicals in 2020 here in the States...so stay tuned!


Oh, we definitely will be dialed in! In the meantime, follow Xena on Instagram and Twitter or visit her website, here. For more on ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ check out the New York City Center website or visit the show’s website, here.




Michael Mahany serves as Dance Network’s New York City correspondent. He is also a professional actor, singer, dancer, writer, and host. Follow him on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook.

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