October 31, 2007

Dancin’… But With Wade Robson

Word came earlier this month that a revival of Dancin', the Bob Fosse revue that opened in 1978, is coming to Broadway in the spring of 2009, following a run in Toronto. I'm crazy about Fosse's work but I'm also conflicted about this new production. The original ran for four years. Then in 1999, a posthumous tribute revue—Fosse—opened and ran for 18 months. And, of course, the now-and-forever revival of Fosse's Chicago is in its 11th year. So do we really need another Fosse fest? I imagine the producers want to trade in on the new surge of interest in dance generated by TV shows like "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing with the Stars" and "High School Musical." But if that's the case, why not go to some of the young choreographers who are helping to make those shows so popular? Why not draft Wade Robson to do a Broadway show?

Robson is a 25 year-old Australian who has been dancing professionally since he was five. He's earned his pop cultural street cred by having danced with Michael Jackson as a kid (in fact, he was one of the boys questioned about sharing a bed with Jackson during the Gloved One's pedophilia trial), dated Britney Spears (it's rumored that he broke up the pop singer's relationship with Justin Timberlake) and hosted "The Wade Robson Project," a hip-hop dance competition show on MTV. He's directed a bunch of music videos and even markets his own line of hip dance shoes. None of this would matter if it weren't for the fact that he's such a terrifically exciting dancemaker.

You might not think so if you only see his early work which borrows heavily from Jackson's "Thriller"-era moves and the booty-shaking gyrations of most music videos. But in the last couple of years, Robson has found his own movement vocabulary, one almost as distinctive as Fosse's: you can tell a Robson dance after the first few moves. One of the numbers he created for "So You Think You Can Dance" won an Emmy last month (click here to see it). And a couple of weeks ago he performed a splashy cameo on "Dancing With the Stars" that mixed contemporary hip hop sensibility with old school showmanship. I would have been happy to see it on a Broadway stage.

From Agnes de Mille and Jerome Robbins to Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett, choreographers have helped to make the Broadway musical the great art form that is. Dancing fell out of favor during the reign of the British megamusicals in the 1980s but Savion Glover's Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out and Susan Stroman's Contact were the most viscerally enjoyable shows of the last 10 years. One of the things that helped make Spring Awakening so special for me was Bill T. Jones' dynamic choreography for which he deservedly won a Tony. Broadway needs more of that kind of kinetic energy and innovation. Wade Robson just might bring it, and he might even bring along some new fans too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a terrific post! Exposed me to a talent I knew nothing about. But: After clicking on the YouTube link and then seeking out other YouTube posts (including the one labeled "Wade Robson Medley"), I wonder if Robson is someone whose work I want to see, uninterrupted, for 2 or so hours. As much I liked "Noise/Funk" (and I really did), that was partially because there was much more variety in it. Maybe it's me and the music Robson is attracted to; maybe it's me and my date of birth; maybe it's both of those things. But I'm not sure I'd want a full evening of his work. Other opinions?