San Diego Gay Men's Chorus Launches Artistic Dance Troupe This Weekend
Across the manicured lawns of San Diego's former Naval Training Center, a new cadence echoes through the sandy-beige, military-built buildings. "One, two, three, four!" may still sound the same, but it is no longer used to maintain uniform marching; rather, the syllables summon the magical symmetry of dance.
It's Wednesday night at Pt. Loma's Liberty Station and the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus's new dance troupe is well into their leg-limbering warm-ups at the White Box dance studio. The troupe's premier is just weeks away at the Balboa Theatre for LUV Madonna-Music of the Material Girl this weekend, July 12 and 13 and the excitement is as thick as the unseasonably humid evening.
Charles Boyd of North Park, leads the troupe through its first drill of the night to "Express Yourself" with a sultry mix of Madonna-worthy hip and body, bump-and-grinds. Looking to give his dances an "edge," Boyd taps into his 18 years of dance, having been raised by a mother who performed with the Joffrey Ballet.
"I have always dreamed of being a renowned choreographer because I love giving people a way to express themselves," said Boyd. Throughout the show, he will choreograph three additional songs including "Beautiful Stranger" with co-choreographer Bernie Toledo of Paradise Hills, "Open Your Heart" and "Holiday."
"Visually, the audience is in for a treat," promised Joe Gregore, Hillcrest, who will choreograph the show's opening number, a newly commissioned mash up of "Gimme All Your Luvin'" and "Hung Up" by arranger David Maddox. "People are going to see things they've never seen before. They will be amazed by the talent of our dancers-it surpasses anything we've ever done in the past."
And ambitious it is. Five choreographers will create more than 20 dance numbers bringing to rhythmic life nearly every major Madonna hit this side of "Like a Virgin." They will do so by mixing and matching the unique skills and talents of the two dozen dancers while keeping in creative sync with the 160 tenors, basses and baritones of the chorus.
"I've dreamt about performing Madonna for years," said North Park resident Juan Danner who also sings in the bass section. "When I dance, I can be as silly as I want to be and I feel free."
Danner, who started dancing at New York University eight years ago and served in the U.S. Navy, is married to fellow dance troupe member Jason Danner, a baritone. The two met during a 2012 chorus show and moved quickly to make it official following the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy.
SDGMC's dance troupe was the brainchild of Artistic Director RC Haus, Hillcrest, who wanted to offer San Diego gay dancers a place to call home. And it worked. The demand was so great that Haus unintentionally created one of the largest gay male dance troupes in the world.
"We've always had singers who were so amazingly talented and could sing and dance," said Haus who is also Music Director for the Rancho Santa Fe School District. "But, I knew there were guys out there who were really into dance, but didn't have a place to perform. I wanted to bring them into our artistic family-it's a perfect match of music and movement and talent."
A good case in point is noted choreographer John Diaz of Talmadge who will create the dance number for "Borderline." "I am always thinking about dance. I have a dancing mind and it has led me to work all over the world."
Bringing together the creative minds of five choreographers has energized the entire show, said choreographer and first tenor Aaron Gurlly, North Park. While there may be some friendly competition to see who can choreograph the best number, more likely you'll find them working together such as Gurrly and Gregore's collaboration on "Vogue."
"Each song will be interpreted according to the choreographer's vision," added Gurlly who is also choreographing "Crazy for You" and "Hanky Panky." "We will be challenging expectations of how we are expected to act and the blurring of gender lines. We are living in revolutionary times and we want to show that on stage."
Tickets are now on sale to LUV Madonna-Music of the Material Girl at www.sdgmc.org or by calling (877) 296-7664. Shows are Saturday, July 12 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 13 at 3 p.m. at San Diego's Balboa Theatre.