Got The Music & The Idea? Project Springboard is a Choreographer's Dream

by Michael Mahany | 9/25/2019 4:58 PM

Camille A. Brown rehearses her ‘Untitled’ 2017 Project Springboard production at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Photo credit: Hunter Canning.

If you’re a choreographer looking to develop new dance-based work in the world of musical theatre and you haven’t heard about Project Springboard yet, listen up.

Project Springboard: Developing Dance Musicals, a program funded in large part by the Jerome Robbins Foundation, “provides fully-supported, multi-week development residencies for creative teams in the early development stages of a new musical.”

Through an application process, choreographers with an idea for a dance-based musical can submit proposals to the project’s adjudicators for the opportunity to develop their work in a financially subsidized, artistically supportive, and creatively driven environment.

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The program  — spearheaded after an "extensive inquiry, led by Director Mara Isaacs and the Jerome Robbins Foundation, into the role that choreographers play in the conception and development of new musicals,”  — encourages and provides for the solutions to three major sticking points that often dilute the creative process for budding dance makers. 

Firstly, the program is seeking to encourage “collaborations that incorporate choreographic and directorial ideas at conception," ultimately allowing choreographers the opportunity to be the inciters of ideas for musicals from the ground up.

Secondly, it strives to “develop the work with dance fully integrated into the story-telling,” while thirdly, addressing "the existing financial and practical obstacles to developing those ideas in early stages of development.”

Lorin Latarro, an experienced and successful broadway choreographer behind musicals like ‘Waitress’, the Chita Rivera nominated Off-Broadway production of ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and the upcoming ‘Almost Famous’ is an advocate for the program.

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“So often, choreographers are hired after a show’s initial script has been written,” Latarro told Dance Network. “We end up either choreographing within the parameters of the written material or coming up with ways to shift some of the storytelling from the page to our physical world.”

A selection of the Charlie Sutton directed and choreographed 2019 piece ‘The Quiet World' featuring ‘SYTYCD’ winner Melanie Moore. Video courtesy: Project Springboard.

Latarro, a choreography committee co-chair for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society advocated in an SDC letter sharing the details of the program along with her colleague and co-chair, broadway choreographer Christopher Gattelli. 

“It is rare to have the genesis of a story come from a physical storytellers’ perspective,” Latarro continued. “Springboard offers us an opportunity to take an embryonic idea that’s has been marinating in our head, and give that idea a nurturing place to come alive.”

For choreographers, who often have to deal with the burdens behind rehearsal and performance space costs, paying for dancers' time, and the scheduling requirements of putting up new work, Project Springboard is seemingly a dream come true.

To apply, applicants must submit the "Letter of Inquiry" no later than October 8th, 2019. Selected applicants will then be invited to submit a full proposal in November.

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The application asks for a variety of information from creatives, specifically centered around the “kernel of the idea” of their dance-based musical. All that is mandated by the program, however, is that dance must be an essential element of the story-telling and that choreographers and composers be requisite on the creative team.

Mary Cavett and Anthony Johnson rehearsing 2017’s ‘Here In The Bright Colorado Sun’ during its Project Springboard residency. Photo credit - Isaak Berliner/Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.

“If more emphasis is placed on a choreographer’s way of creating a story, I believe we can see some unique and exciting pieces of theater,” Latarro said. “Dance is expensive, you need space and bodies. Physical stories can’t be written alone on a computer.”

The program was founded in 2017 and past selected choreographers include Rujuta Vaidya, Troy Schumacher, Camille A. Brown, and Susan Misner.

To learn more or apply for Project Springboard, check out their program’s site, 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.