On Sunday October 22, esteemed Broadway actor , producer, and director will debut his dance extravaganza at The Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut, entitled "The American Dance Spectacular". The show will exhibit the entire history and evolution of dance from the waltz until now. It will feature an all-star cast, including Jennifer DiNoia and Vishal Vaidya". The production will also include the work of world famous, "So You Think You Can Dance" choreographer, Al Blackstone. "American Dance Spectacular" will be infused with music and song as well as graceful antic dotes, celebrating the time period of each monumental popular dance style. Currently the Artistic Director of The Ridgefield Playhouse Broadway and Cabaret Series, Levine has performed on Broadway in productions including: "The Rocky Horror Show", "Jesus Christ Superstar", and "Chicago" to mention a few. He has also appeared Off-Broadway in "Babes in Arms", "Naked Boys Singing" and "The Gordy Details". Having completed other projects for Ridgefield Playhouse, as well as working on some new productions, I was able to chat with Daniel about dance, music and theater.
What is the American Dance Spectacular exactly?
American Dance Spectacular is my brand new show premiering at the Ridgefield Playhouse, which we are super excited about. It's a show that I have been developing for the past six months with Al Blackstone who is one of the celebrity choreographers from the TV show, "So You Think You Can Dance". Essentially what it is, is it takes the audience through the journey of dance evolution in America from the early 1900’s all the way to today. So the audience will understand where dance started in America with things like the Waltz and the Charleston, and the Lindy, and things like that, and how that evolved into what we are seeing as dance today. We have all different kinds of styles of dance, like I mentioned, the Waltz, and Ragtime dancers, Swing, and Tap and Dirty Dancing, Disco, Modern, and Contemporary. What is really cool about this show is that we see this evolution as it pertains to whatever the current popular song of the day was. What was the most popular song in 1902, and what were people dancing to, what was the most popular song in 1915, and what were people dancing to. So it's a really, really cool 90 minute journey of the evolution of dance.
Do you actually dance in the show?
I do, but I'm not in it. I created the show, and then I'm directing the show. It would be an impossible task if I was also performing in it.
It sounds like a fabulous idea and production. Dance is very popular today. It's a little out there.
It is but when you talk about shows like "So You Think You Can Dance", and "Dancing With the Stars", things like that have brought back a lot of the older styles. That's something that's really interesting. Tap dancing is sort of like a dying art form, but because of shows like that it's got a boosted new injection of life in it. In 1902 people were arrested for doing the Waltz, if a man's hand rested a little too low on the woman's waist, now we have women with hardly any clothes on Twerking. It's shocking. That's the other cool thing about the show, there is stories and antic dotes with how each dance got here. So it's a really cool study of the evolution of dance. There's nine incredible Broadway dancers. I think between the nine of them they have been in over 25 Broadway shows. We have great Broadway singers that narrate the show, and sing every pop song from every decade. One of the singers is Jenny DiNoia who is in "Wicked" on Broadway, and Alexa Green, so we have an all-star cast. So for the past two weeks we've been putting the show together and rehearsing it so that it is ready to go for Ridgefield.
You've done other productions at Ridgefield?
I did a show at the Playhouse a couple of years ago called "Dancing Broadway". What that show did was explore the evolution of dancing on Broadway from early choreographers like Agnes De Mille to Gower Champion and Bob Fosse, all the way to today's choreography like Twila Thorpe and Jerry Mitchell. It was such an interesting sort of study on the evolution of dance in theater, that I thought let's take it one step further and do a brand new show, and let's just talk about popular dances, social dances pertaining to what the current hit song was. If people saw "Dancing Broadway" and loved that, they are going to go nuts over this. There are so many more dance styles covered in this.
Sounds like a lot of work getting this together.
It is. It's a huge amount of work, yes.
You have a history on Broadway, correct?
I do. I started as an actor on Broadway, my first Broadway show was Le Mis. Since then I've been in, " Mamma Mia", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "Tommy", "Rocky Horror", I've been in like seven Broadway shows. Then about five years ago I started transitioning into directing and producing. I created three original musicals. The one that I mentioned before, of course now this, and I also have another show that is currently touring called "Broadway Backstage", that was also at the Playhouse a couple of years ago. That gives the audience sort of a backstage pass as to what goes on backstage. It's kind of a cool concept.
Do you plan on doing this in New York?
Yes we are. It's at the Schimmel Center, a theater in New York City. That actually happens next week. We have Ridgefield right after that. Then the following week we do it in Brooklyn. Right now we have three venues planned, and then hopefully after that we will commit to a tour across the country.
Do you have a favorite style of dance?
Working on the show I now understand the different dance style so much more. I understand so much more completely and how the evolved. In this show I think that Swing dancing and Lindy Hop is thrilling the way that the dancers are doing it in the show. It's so incredibly physical, and athletic, it's so amazing. I think though that I like more traditional things, the older ones like the Waltz. I also love the MGM inspired dancers, like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers number. It has sort of a throwback to the MGM musical days, like the "American In Paris" kind of thing. That one of my favorites as well.
What is your take on Hip Hop dancing?
I think that any and all dancing is wonderful and really great. I mean it's not my forte or expertise, so when I watch it, I try to understand it. Again I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from any type of dance. As long as people are dancing and moving I think it's fantastic.
Aside from this do you have any future projects planned at this moment?
I just partnered with Stephen Schwartz on a new project for Princess Cruise Lines, on another dance show called, "Born to Dance". That just premiered for Princess vessels over the past year and a half. I just finish that and now I have been working on, "American Dance Spectacular", and I directed "Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat" for the Ridgefield Playhouse. Then after that I am opening a brand new theater in Ridgefield. So we are in the middle of working on that as well.
You're a busy guy.
I thought if I could get through this year I could get through anything.
Is there anything else that you wish to promote yourself?
My goal as artistic advisor at the Ridgefield Playhouse the Broadway and Cabaret Series is to bring incredible Broadway, Broadway caliber talent to the Playhouse and "American Dance Spectacular" is just that.
Links to where “American Dance Spectacular” is playing:
Daniel Levine website: