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interview with the wild party choreographer, madison lee

THE WILD PARTY choreographer Madison Lee

THE WILD PARTY is the next venture for up and coming theatre company Little Triangle.  We had the chance to speak with choreographer Madison Lee about the show.

SAG:                      Little Triangle is going from strength to strength but this is the first time that they’ve had an official choreographer. What drew you to the project?

MADISON:          Well as a choreographer I work all over Australia, I’m actually in Melbourne girl, coming up to Sydney for rehearsals.  This year I’ve worked in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and I had heard of Little Triangle and I was really impressed with the shows that they were putting on and the name and the reputation they were getting.

Also because THE WILD PARTY is one of my dream shows to do I guess and so when I heard they were doing it I had the opportunity to try to make this happen. And I was really stoked to be invited into the project, it’s such a great group of people, performers and creatives, working on the show.

SAG:                      And why do you say it’s your favourite?

MADISON:          So it’s just been a dream show of mine to do for a while. Actually I was in uni and the graduating class had done it as the end of Uni showcase. And I remember going along and watching it and thinking how cool the show was. How gritty, how grungy. It’s a dark musical but there’s moments of great comedy.  The show is set in the 1920s so the era is just so beautiful and it has that real mystery to it as well as the passion and lust.  I dunno, it just has everything I think a good stage show should have. And I remember watching it as a teenager and thinking, one day, wow, I would love to work on a show like this. If it ever came along I would put my hand up straight away.

SAG:                      It’s fantastic when stars align like that.  So you must be knee-deep in rehearsals.  Are they all dancers or are you starting from scratch from some people?

MADISON:          Some of them are dancers, all of them can dance and all of them do. I’m very fortunate on this project where I get to work with five ladies who are incredible dancers and I’m very hands-on with them.  These five ladies are absolutely incredible and I can give them any choreography challenge and they are able to do it with a smile on their face. So that makes my job a lot easier.

SAG:                      Costume-wise considering the period it must be very loose and free does that help the choreography at all?

MADISON:          I guess so. It’s set in the 1920s so it has that flapper element to it but it’s also a party.  The girls that I’m working with are not wearing a lot of clothes throughout the show, so does it make it easier for them to move around without tight dresses and stuff. Some of the other characters are wearing fitted dresses or suits or something like that which can construct their movements. You just work around that and all elements of the show, really.  It’s a collaborative process so all departments have a say in it.

SAG:                      So what sort of dancing is it? Is it like the Black Bottom style that my grandmother used to try to teach me?

MADISON:          It is exactly like that.  We actually have a dance called the Black Bottom. It’s a three minute dance which is literally that for the whole cast. There is also the Charleston and a lot of partner work. But it’s a real mix of that 1920s feel for the Charleston and the Black Bottom mixed with some quirky vaudeville elements as well. It’s got a bit of an eclectic style as it goes from vaudeville, circus back to that 20s feel again.

SAG:                      Given I’m probably completely out of my skill set now, what else can you tell me about the dancing in the show?

MADISON:          (Laughing) The show itself has some incredible ensemble numbers but also has those moments with a small intimate numbers between one or two people or small groups of people. It’s a really great ensemble show though, we do have a leading male and leading female (Georgina Walker and Matthew Hyde), however the rest of the cast are all Ensemble.  They all get a number, they all get to showcase their work and everyone can really shine.

And I think that’s what makes the show really so great is that it’s just about a group of people coming together having a wild party and the events that happen throughout the night in regards to each character.  So as an audience member I guess you could follow the character that you want to follow because everyone has their own story throughout it.

SAG:                      Of course that motivational  type stuff is really part of the choreography you create isn’t it?

MADISON:          Absolutely. All of my choreography comes from a place of truth, the acting side first. So for me there is nothing worse than just doing a number for the sake of doing a number and it not coming from anywhere real.  You go back to the text first and you work out where the characters come from: their motivation, their storyline, their backstory.  So then you place your choreography on top of that so the dancing is coming from a place of truth. If that makes sense.

SAG:                      That makes perfect sense to me.  There’s nothing worse than a musical where you can see “here comes the showstopper”.

MADISON:          Exactly exactly and for the sake of showing off how great everybody is. It’s a show … we get it!  Everybody can sing, everyone can dance there is an audition process that ensures that. You wouldn’t get into the show without it. When you get into the show it’s about serving your text, serving the purpose of the story. Not showing everybody how good your splits are!

SAG:                      Of course from your point of view, in the planning and execution, you must have a really strong eye on the beauty of the piece as well?

MADISON:          Absolutely but that all depends on the number in the show and what’s going on. As a choreographer I’m very focused on cleanliness… that things need to be sharp and clean and detailed.

SAG:                      So when you say detailed, asking as a non-dancer, is that like the shape of the fingers at the end of the hand, the tilt of the head and so forth?

MADISON:          Oh yes. Within one move of choreography then might be 10 minor details that I need to pick up. That could be anything from hitting a particular accent or which fingers are moving first or which way your leg is stepping out.  The angle of your head … There are so many minor details in choreography that you have to pick up and with a big cast that can be tricky. Because you’re trying to watch 20 people on stage and you can only watch so many people at once so having a great dance captain really helps.  I have a wonderful dance captain called Sophie (Perkins) who is also a cast member and she is my second pair of eyes watching for the cleaness, watching for the detail.

Plus working with mirrors during the rehearsal process.  That way the dancers can see themselves, and they can see everyone else and they can make sure that they are doing the exact same thing as the person next to them or the person behind them.  That they have the exact same count.  And if I’m teaching the choreography and in the front of them, they can see what I’m doing through the mirror rather than just seeing the back of me.

SAG:                      Just a last question because it’s interesting to me. Do you think you can teach anyone to dance? I expect some of our older performers may not have gone through the academic system that provides the triple threat training.

MADISON:          Anyone to learn how to dance! Obviously when you are younger your body is more mobile, you’ve got more flexibility, stamina, endurance all that kinda stuff but yeah absolutely. 

Little Triangle‘s [Facebook]  THE WILD PARTY will play at the Seymour Centre 15 – 24 November.

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