Q&A with Choreographer James Kinney
January 25, 2015
ME: Have you choreographed Fiddler before? Would you mind sharing your thoughts on the show and the importance of dance and movement to telling the story of Tevye, his family and their village Anatevka?
ME: Is there anything you're particularly excited about working on in this production?
ME: So Velcro or no-Velcro on the hats?
James Kinney has been performing professionally since the age of 15. He grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and began his classical training with The Florida Ballet, later melding his training into Jazz and Musical Theater. His Broadway credits include: Fosse, Dance of Death, Barry Manilow’s Harmony and the most recent revival of Sweet Charity, starring Christina Applegate, where he also served as the production’s Assistant Dance Captain. He continued preserving the “Fosse style” when he became the Dance Captain for choreographer Wayne Cilento’s First National Tour of Sweet Charity, starring Molly Ringwald.
Film and Television appearances include: The Producers, The Dave Chappell Show, PBS’ Dance in America, Fosse, Good Morning America and The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Tours and regional productions include: Oklahoma!, A Chorus Line, Chicago, Cabaret, West Side Story, 42nd Street, Phantom, and the legendary Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. He has also performed at Carnegie Hall, at The White House and recently danced with Liza Minnelli for Rosie Live on NBC.
Earlier this year, James choreographed an original new dance work for DANCE TRACKS NYC, set to Stephen Sondheim’s Another Hundred People (part of a three-part suite) inspired by a recording with an orchestration by Luther Henderson and conducted by Paul Gemignani, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The piece was performed with a hand selected group of seven dancers at Lincoln Center’s Clark Theater. The piece generated excitement and Dance Tracks Director Pamela Pardi asked James to continue fleshing out the piece and come back in April for another showcase at The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. He expanded the piece to 12 dancers. That piece had a working title of March and also included the music of George Gershwin, which was the remainder of the three-part suite. The completed piece, again, generated a buzz, which brought an offer to put the piece onto the prestigious New Jersey Ballet, as part of their 50th Anniversary Season, debuted on May 2nd.
In addition, James has been teaching at Broadway Dance Center and other NYC professional dance studios and is currently in preparatory stages, working with Tony Award Winner and Broadway legend Donna McKechnie, as her Associate Choreographer, to create dances and musical numbers for this summer’s production of Guys & Dolls at The Hollywood Bowl, directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, with Musical Director and Conductor Kevin Stites leading The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
James is featured in a new documentary film, entitled Thespians, directed by Warren Skeels. The film will be playing the Film Festival circuit in the upcoming season, while production company TigerLily Media looks for a distribution deal. You can also find him, routinely, teaching Master Classes and judging various National Competitions, when time allows, as well as performing in or helping to stage benefits for various causes, including BC/EFA, The Actor’s Fund and, recently, for ROSIE’S BROADWAY KIDS.
JK: This will be my first time choreographing Fiddler on the Roof, and I’m thrilled. I love this musical so much! It’s considered to be Jerome Robbins greatest hit along side West Side Story! What Mr. Robbins did so well with this show and all of his shows was his ability to move a character through the show strictly using dance. I feel that’s mainly because of his start and training in the world of Ballet. He understood exactly how to move the story forward, in Fiddler he uses pantomime. You will notice in the first number “Tradition” most of the movement reflects the things the people of Anatevka would do in their daily live's. The mama's spinning yarn, the papa’s praying, the son’s reading books, and the daughter’s mending clothes. All with a driving rhythm in their body’s to illustrate their pride, faith, and devotion to community.
JK: I think I’m most excited about the show as a whole. For me every number leads you to the next number so beautifully. But, I will say that of course the Bottle Dance is one of the most iconic moments in the show! And I’ve really enjoyed recreating it for this production.
JK: Yes it is. It takes intense concentration and a firm foundation of dance technique to perform the steps.
JK: I love this question! Some productions do and some don’t. We will not be using velcro. We’re doing it as originally staged and conceived. More importantly, our guys are fantastic and can pull it off!
Let's talk about the Bottle Dance. I’ve seen some fabulous videos from Goodspeed and the 2004 Broadway Revival– Is it as hard as it looks?
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