a performing and teaching company

Joffrey Does Encore

Announcing the 15th Anniversary Virtual Season 2nd Event: JOFFREY DOES ENCORE!

Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company produced this behind-the-scenes film capturing the aspiring dancers of The Joffrey Ballet School’s Jazz and Contemporary Program as they learn our acclaimed show Encore and prepare for performance.

The morning of Friday, February 21, a very foggy day in New York City, the Company conducted a real-time live chat on the Company’s Facebook Page.  Joining Daniel were a host of the Joffrey Trainees and members of the public.  Enjoy the transcript, below.

Daniel Gwirtzman: (DG): Hi Everyone. I know this is a busy day for the Encore dancers. A typically full day of classes plus technical and dress rehearsals. The rain in New York isn’t making a long day any easier!

DGDC: (DGDC): Daniel, maybe you can start the chat off with some background as to the process of preparing the Joffrey students for this weekend’s performances?

EZ: I am on a train! Even foggier here than in the city.

DG: Hi Elizabeth! Welcome to the chat! Sure, well, the process started with auditions back in October. Madeline Hoak, original Encore member, and I started teaching shortly after that. We worked 4-5 days each week through the end of the year. By the time we left for the holidays, the piece was largely set. Elizabeth, you’ve seen Encore since its first incarnation, before it premiered seven years ago. Do you remember when it was called The Rehearsal at David Parker’s West End Theater series?

Kimberly Giannelli: Based on the film it seems that these dancers come from various dance backgrounds. Was this challenging in trying to get the group to move like an “ensemble?”

DG: Hi Kim. Great question. The stylization of the work–which we hear the dancers speak about in the film–definitely was challenging. However the versatility that the Jazz and Contemporary program promotes made this the easiest process the Company has had to-date in setting the work on an outside group. They have the technique and the drive to explore how to make an unfamiliar language become more natural.

Keenan James Baker Wood (KW): I think the only reason it was a little challenging at first for me and some others was not worrying how high the legs were because sometimes you physically couldn’t do that because of the fast foot work and being so grounded.

KG: Such a great experience for young dancers to be sort of catapulted into this professional setting and to start learning rep that really calls upon their technique and stamina! a taste of the “real world” which lots of students never get!

DG: Hello Keenan and welcome to the chat!

KW: Hello Daniel!! And others haha

DG: Keenan, did you ever study tap? Or was there some other technique that the fast footwork reminded you of?

Dennise Ramos: Hi, I’m part of the Encore cast. At the beginning it was hard because the movement is very specific but then it became more natural for us and we were able to have fun with it.

DG: Hi Dennise.  Dennise, yes, that’s true for the work in Encore. How are you feeling about getting into the theater tonight?  Kim, the Joffrey’s program is committed to providing dancers with this real-world experience. Nothing has been diluted in the process, neither the steps, nor the way in which we have conducted rehearsals. They leave the program ready-made!

KW: I have done a few tap classes, yes a lot of the steps did we’re so quick at first just like tap but you get used to it and it seems very relaxed and natural

DG: Keenan, how are you feeling knowing you’ll be in the theater for the first time tonight and in front of a sold-out crowd tomorrow?

DR: Excited! The great day is almost here haha

DG: Yes, we rehearse for months and then it’s here, for just a moment. Dancers, do you have any rituals or practices you do on a performance day?

KW: It is a little nerve racking. I’m worried most about time for me personally without a mirror because things are so sharp and hard hitting. But I’m so excited to perform this piece for an audience. It truly is a performance and will leave people smiling the whole time

DG: Yes, it’s true about the mirror. We become used to seeing what the dance looks like. Now that you know the steps you will have the freedom to perform what it feels like!

Isabella Garcia Vedova (IGV): Hi guys!!

DGDC: Note: Make sure to refresh the page so you can follow the most recent responses!

Kira Hamilton (KH): All the dancers definitely came from a different background and that’s what makes the piece special. Some people came from more classical and old school teaching while others came from the new wave of dance styles coming from the commercial dance scene. I came from a little of both but struggled with the fancy footwork in some pieces because I don’t have much tap experience.

DG: Isabella Garcia Vedova, welcome. How are you feeling knowing you are a few hours away from dress rehearsal?

Andrea Castellanos: Hello Daniel and everyone, hope you all are having a great day and are all very exited for tomorrow’s show! I am also part of the Encore cast, i just want to say it has been a very different experience but it is very nice to learn new styles and also be a part this amazing piece. Its hard but fun and entertaining!

Kira Hamilton (KH): On performance day I just try to treat it like any other day in order to keep the nerves down.

Carmella Cuomo (CC): Hi I’m also apart of the Encore cast! Its has been challenging but an awesome experience/opportunity!

DG: Hi Kira Hamilton and Andrea Castellanos.  Kira, yes that sums up the breadth of the differences. I don’t think tap is actually as connected to the technique of Encore as folk dance: being rooted into the ground, letting the weight drop.

Malia Marie McMullen (MM): Everytime I’m about to go on stage I always do the same routine. I arrive with everything done (hair and makeup) because I find doing that stuff at the theatre is too stressful and something always goes wrong. Then I warm up to a couple of high energy songs, and then right before I go on stage I mentally run through the dance twice.

DR: And i also call my mom haha every time before any performances.

IGV: Excited!!! Looking forward to really enjoy it!! And have fun on stage!!

KG: Dancers, did Daniel show you a video of this piece being performed before or as you were learning it? or did he leave it up to you to capture the style and essence of the choreography?

IGV: I always warm up A LOT before the show!! And to meditate so I can really connect to myself before going on stage

DG: Hello Malia Marie McMullen and Carmella Cuomo! So great to have so many dancers from the cast here to speak about the process of preparing Encore for Opening Night!

EZ: I don’t think I saw that version at the West End theater. I saw it at Joyce soho…

DR: He did both, he show us videos so we knew the style of the dance but he let us do it in our own way, to make it more individual and personal.

DG: Elizabeth, you also might have seen an early version, before its premiere at Joyce SoHo, at Long Island University’s Kumble Theater.

CC: We would learn choreography to get our own feel for it and then Daniel would post a previous performances in order to see the quality of the movement therefore the next time we would enter a rehearsal we would be more prepared and comfortable

DG: As precise as the steps are, I don’t have one way that I am looking to see them executed. Charisma and individual interpretation are very important in Encore.

CC: Daniel does love when we bring a bit of our personality to his work:)

DG: Dancers, curious to learn your reaction watching the film today?

Sarah Lass (SL): Hi everyone! Dancers, how did you find your own individuality in the steps? When did you notice your unique personalities beginning to shine through the difficulty of the steps?

IGV: Every dancer represent a different character so we can really be ourselves on it

Carmella Cuomo (CC): The meaning behind Encore allowed me to bring my personality to it.

Alexzandra Knapp (AK): Hey everyone!

DGDC: Sarah, hi and thanks for joining us in our last 15 minutes of the chat!

DG: Hi Alexzandra Knapp! What was it like for you watching the film today?

SL: Carmella, what was the meaning behind it for you?

AK: I watched the video before classes this morning and it put me in such a good mood! It looks FAB

DG: Were there any insights into the piece? Either choreographic or performance?

CC: For me I get to show the audience how a rehearsal process goes and how we all are within that process(personality wise)

AK: This piece is just fun to do i laugh so hard.

DG: We live in an age of reality shows. Do you think Encore has a relationship to this?

DGDC: Final comments, thoughts, questions as we start to wrap up this lively chat!

DR: It does! Because is the inside and details of the rehearsals. That for us as dancers is our growing path.

DG: Yes, we are interested to share the real work of being a dancer, the endless repetitions, the physical fatigue…and also the tremendous joy of being able to dedicate a career to something we love so much!

DGDC: Thank you everyone for participating with us today, especially the dancers who have a busy night ahead. We tech Encore at 8pm and then go into a full dress rehearsal starting at 10pm. MERDE to all this weekend!

DR: Exactly! It is a hard and happy process!