BWW Interviews: DARE TO DREAM Associate Choreographer Ben Agosto
Read BroadwayWorld's interview with Ben Agosto, Associate Choreographer of Disney On Ice presents "Dare to Dream." The show comes to Fresno (Jan 30 - Feb 4), Stockton (Feb 7-10), Sacramento (Feb 13-18), San Jose (Feb 20-24), and Oakland (Feb 27 - March 3). More information and tickets can be found at http://disney.go.com/disneyonice/.
Q: What was it like working with Choreographer Cindy Stuart?
A: I was so lucky to have the opportunity to work with Cindy Stuart for my very first experience doing choreography. She is a creative genius. She has so much energy and passion for her work. Our planning sessions were so much fun. We listened to the music for the show, talked about what the overall creative idea would be, and then we played around with it. We skated together, we danced together, and it felt as if we had been working together for years. Our work really flowed very naturally; it was just an incredible experience.
Q: What is the most valuable thing you learned from Cindy Stuart?
A: Cindy has so much experience choreographing for large groups. I had only experienced choreography for a skating duo: myself and my skating partner. It is inspiring the way Cindy can envision an entire group, what each skater will be doing, how each person will be moving, and how such amazing shapes will be made. I was very lucky to be a part of that kind of planning.
Q: What from your competitive background and show career have you been able to apply to this show?
A: My competitive background and my show career have given me the opportunity to develop a good way of working with an audience. I truly enjoyed performing to the best of my ability while following the choreography of a show; so I really try to bring that energy to the process of assisting in the development of the choreography for Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream. I also try to inspire the cast to do the choreography the way Choreographer Cindy Stuart wants it to be done, and how I envision it being done. So when I demonstrate it, I go "over the top." Displaying that kind of enthusiasm is really important for the high-energy numbers. I hope the audience will experience the festive, party atmosphere the choreography inspires.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise in working on a show like this?
A: Working on Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream has been a real eye-opener for me. Actually, I had never seen a Disney On Ice show before coming to work here. The scope and scale of the production is really awesome. The sets are incredible, the costumes are amazing and the stories are very epic; so it's a huge production. I was amazed by the number of people who have worked tirelessly for so long to put this show together. It's very humbling to be even a small part of that. To see the whole thing come together is very exciting.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in working on Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream?
A: The most challenging thing for me in working on Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream was trying to choreograph for people who are wearing costumes that are not your normal skating costumes. The most challenging number to choreograph, at least for me, was "Dig a Little Deeper," with Mama Odie and the spoonbills in the Bayou. There is a whole group of them and they have wings instead of arms. The skaters have their hands in these wings. It was really fun to experiment with how to mimic the movement of a bird, making the movement fun and exciting and still incorporating skating into it as well.
Q: Do you have a favorite moment in Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream?
A: It is really hard for me to pick out a favorite moment in the show because all the numbers are so different. Also, all the couples that skate together have very different qualities. We have an adagio team, which is a form of pair skating where the skaters perform many spectacular lifts, an ice dance team, and a competitive pairs team. Everybody has their own strengths and their own personalities. The whole show is a very interesting blend; so everything balances out perfectly.
Q: Describe the choreography overall in Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream.
A: The overall idea with the choreography for Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream was to make it a lot of fun and really fresh. Cindy Stuart, right off the bat, said that she wanted the show to have a party atmosphere and to bring something new that people were not really used to seeing. We started with the opening number for The Princess and the Frog and really tried to make it a big, Broadway dance number. It was fun for me because we just got to dance together and make up a whole Charleston routine, which was a blast because I haven't gotten to do that since I was competing.
Q: What is the most exciting part of Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream?
A: For me, the most exciting part of this show is being able to watch the things that Cindy Stuart and I worked on come to fruition. We worked on everything off the ice, in a very small scale on the floor first, figuring out dance moves and then adding more people during pre-production. It is so exciting to see everything grow to include so many people filling the entire ice and running through the show. Once you start adding the lighting and the costumes, it's this blossoming effect and the whole thing grows and evolves into an incredible product.
Q: How would you describe the caliber of the Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream skaters you've worked with?
A: I've been extremely happy with the way the cast has come together. This cast is very high energy, and they fit with the demands of the show. The show is very demanding; it takes a lot of stamina, and the steps are not easy. We said early on, "If you can do it the first time, it's too easy." So it's taken a lot of rehearsal to get everything together, but the caliber of the skaters is really very high. We also have a lot of variety in our skaters, ice dancers, pairs and great single skaters, which makes for a very interesting show. The audience will never see the same thing twice, so I think that's going to be a lot of fun for people to see.
Q: How did you prepare to bring the characters from the screen to the ice?
A: To prepare for Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream, I spent a lot of time watching the films. I had already seen them, but it was definitely important to watch them a few more times to get a better idea of how the characters act. What made it pretty easy is that the music is so good. The scores from all of these movies are just incredible. The arrangements that have been done especially for the ice show are just amazing, as well. Cindy Stuart would discuss creative ideas with me, then we would let the music play. We would dance and play off the music. We would develop choreography that felt natural and flowed.
Q: This show is centered on dreams. What is your dream for the families who will see this show?
A: Since the show is all about dreaming and following your dreams, I would love for kids who come to watch the show to leave inspired to follow their own dreams. The message of the show is that nothing is off-limits. You can dream to do whatever you want, and if you really put your mind to it, you can make it happen.
Q: During your competitive skating career, would you create characters in your own choreography?
A: Throughout my competitive career, I tried to create characters for my partner and myself in our free dances and our original dances. It was always important for us to have characters, even if it was not a very detailed story, just so that there was a timeline. If there was some emotional journey that we understood, then the audience would get something out of it. They would understand that there's a story going on, and that was something we always focused on. That experience has really helped me in my work with Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream.Now I have a literal story that is written down in a script; so it was very natural for me to fall into that role and to choreograph to tell the story, and to help move that emotion along. It's been really fun working on the ice show. When doing the choreography, it's great not to be inhibited by rules: it's just whatever the music and the story calls for and what the audience is going to appreciate.