Summer musical brings variety of IU dancers together on stage

Guest post courtesy of newsroom intern Jaclyn Lansbery:

Jazz Age artist Fats Waller once called swing dancing “two-thirds rhythm and one-third soul.”

While the soul part might be easy, it’s the rhythm that takes some practice, according to IU junior Nat Zegree, who called the unique American style “the most dangerous form of dancing.”

He’s one of the actors in Indiana Festival Theatre’s new musical “Swing! The Musical,” which premiered June 12 at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre and continues through June 30. The show brings a variety of IU dance students together on stage, including those in musical theater, ballet and contemporary disciplines.

Swing! The Musical

“Swing! The Musical” runs through June 30.

“There is a song called ‘Throw That Girl Around,’” the BFA student in musical theater said. “In rehearsal, we get to a point where the swing dancing is in the muscle, but you have to be focused 100 percent of the time in everything.”

All 16 cast members were required to learn some amount of swing dancing — even those who, like Zegree, are singers. While Zegree had prior experience with swing dancing, learning the moves still proved to be a challenge.

“There is no going back,” he said. “If you get kicked in the face, that means something went wrong. But then we know we have to fix it, which is good because everyone understands that and everyone really goes with it. It’s made this a productive and fast-moving experience.”

BFA junior Abby Bartish, a dancer in the show, grew up practicing ballet, jazz and tap and also took musical theater dance classes throughout high school.

“For me a huge challenge was working with a partner,” she said. “In the entire show, you’re with your partner and finding the energy and dynamic with always having to read each other’s minds and be in sync with each other.”

George Pinney, a professor of theater and drama and head of the BFA program in musical theater, directed and choreographed the show. Musical direction was led by Terry LaBolt, an assistant professor of theater in the BFA musical theatrer program.

Both Bartish and Zegree have worked with Pinney before, making rehearsals — which can last for up to 10 hours a day — a comfortable learning experience.

“He really respects us as performers,” Zegree said, “which makes it easier to just connect in a way and learn and perform and do well.”

Details about tickets for “Swing!” and a schedule of the Indiana Festival Theatre summer lineup are available online.

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