Every Little Step, A Documentary on Casting the Revival of A Chorus Line
The Confessional Approach
Every Little Step is a movie about the casting of the revival of A Chorus Line on Broadway in 2005. I learned that Michael Bennet, the creator of the original Broadway show, brought Broadway show dancers together in a room, along with a bottle of wine and asked them to tell him their life stories. He said, "I think maybe there's a show in this."
Seeing the Show on Broadway
I first saw A Chorus Line when I was 17 years old, in 1978. The show was on Broadway for 4 years by the time I saw it. The show was advertised a lot on local NYC television. I had songs like One and What I Did For Love in my head and I couldn't wait to see what the fuss was about.
Finally, that day came. For my birthday, my Dad took me to the show. It was hard to get excited about the show because earlier that morning, I took my SATs for the second time.
I watched the show. It was a longest audition I could ever imagine. I heard the stories of characters who suffered through abuse, came to grips with their sexual orientation, had to live with physical limitations such as height, and all sacrificed for their dream to dance. I learned that the song What I did for Love was not about a romance or sacrificing for the person who was their true love, but they did for the love of dance.
I left the show feeling disappointed, let down, and cynical. I was not expecting true confessions.
This was the 1970s. Disco was big, divorce was becoming trendy, blooper reels were the only form of confessional television. Stories about child abuse and sexual orientation on the Broadway stage was groundbreaking.
Broadway was not Hollywood. Theater was different. Shows were not just musicals (which had all but died at that time). What was censored in Hollywood was fair game on Broadway. The longest running musical at that time was Hair, which was famous for its nude scene. When my mother took me to my first Broadway show, The Sunshine Boys, I learned that actors cursed on staged (which I have to admit, shocked me at first). Therefore, A Chorus Line was indeed groundbreaking and unlike anything, Broadway had ever seen before, but I was too young, naive (and didn't know it), cynical, and numb from my own parent's divorce to appreciate it at that time.
Approximately 10 years later, I saw a road production of A Chorus Line in a city outside of Boston, but it still did not do anything for me.
More Moving Than The Original Show
I was looking for a movie to see. While looking through the listings, I saw the title, Every Little Step. I'm always a sucker for a dance movie and they don't even have to have good story lines. I see them, because even if the plot is lacking, I enjoy the dancing. Even though I was less than thrilled with the plot of A Chorus Line, after reading the description of Every Little Step, I knew I had to see this movie.
Every Little Step was more moving in my opinion than A Chorus Line. Although the original Broadway show is 35 years old, many of the stories about, why people dance and audition for the chorus in a Broadway production, remain the same and those stories were brought out in the documentary style of this film. It's 'what they do for love,' the love of dance.
While watching Every Little Step, I felt the pain of the characters. The dancers who were auditioning for characters in the show, often paralleled the lives of the characters they were auditioning for. The character of Cassie went to Charlotte D'Amboise, daughter of legendary New York City Ballet dancer Jacques D'Amboise. She was older, like the character, seasoned, like the character, and really needed the job, much like the character she was portraying.
There was a poignant scene where Charlotte was at home with her Dad, Jacques. As Charlotte adjusted his wool plaid bathrobe, Jacques spoke about how he no longer dances, has had two knee replacement surgeries, but you could see in his eyes that he would not have given up one minute of his life as a ballet dancer working with George Balanchine.
I Love to Dance
The performing artist puts their heart and soul out on the stage for every audience to see, often several times a week. A Broadway actor/singer/dancer does that eight times a week. I felt the vulnerability. My hat goes off to them. I feel vulnerable writing this piece! I cannot imagine putting out that level of emotion on a daily basis.
Truth be known. I love to dance. I performed in my high school dance repertory company. Auditioned for a little touring dance company in college that needed a small group dancers for a 60-second section in one of their pieces. I even a performed a little bit post college. I spent the better part of my unemployment checks in the early 90s on dance classes, mostly ballet. I never aspired to perform professionally, or even to teach. I took those classes because I loved to dance and even learned a bit about myself in the process. I worked through feelings about my divorced parents and went through the breakup of my live in boy friend at the time. The good teachers I took class with saw those emotions and helped me channel them. The Chopin waltzes that are often played in a ballet class send pleasant chills up my spine when I hear them today.
I no longer dance. Instead, I do yoga -- Power Vinyasa Yoga, which to me is like a dance. I get into the 'flow' of the practice where breath is coordinated with movement. There are no mirrors in the room, no barre, and no judgments. I work through my emotions on my mat. During a yoga class, I feel as if I'm doing my personal adagio as I fill out the asanas/yoga poses to the fullest and best of my ability.
Every Little Step Touched My Heart and Soul
Perhaps it's my maturity and my own self awareness. The movie felt more genuine to me. I realize that A Chorus Line has had an impact on theater story telling. A couple of years ago I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and when I walked out of the show, I said to myself, "this felt like the middle school version of A Chorus Line."
On this evening, when the 2009 Tony Awards are broadcast. I salute theater in all genres and the power it has to make us think, feel, and revel.