BWW Interview: Acclaimed Director and Choreographer, Spencer Liff on Love, Acceptance, and the Joy of Dance in the New Go-Go's Musical HEAD OVER HEELS
Acclaimed director and choreographer, Spencer Liff, has made a name for himself in the worlds of theater, television, and film and is flexing his creative muscles once again for the new Broadway musical featuring the iconic sounds of the Go-Go's - Head Over Heels! Receiving two Emmy nominations for his work on "So You Think You Can Dance," Spencer has choreographed routines that have been viewed by millions across the globe and brings his artistry and talent to this high-energy and fun show that emphasizes messages of love and acceptance for our world, no matter the time period!
BroadwayWorld had the unique opportunity to catch up with Spencer before the show's opening on July 26th to speak about his impressive resume and career path; creative work style; and why dance should be joyful for everyone!
You got your start in the industry at a very young age and have worked extensively in theater, television, and film. What would you say are the greatest gems of knowledge you have picked up along the way that have guided your path?
I've been so incredibly lucky. From working with Tommy Tune on The Will Rogers Follies and Susan Stroman for my Broadway debut in Big The Musical, I've had the opportunity to work with true masters from such a young age. I loved watching them create and would find it so thrilling to be a part of the art they brought to life on stage.
As I continued my journey, I was grateful to work all across the board - TV, film, theater - and didn't favor one sector over the other. I wanted to have all of the experiences - and still want that now. The trick is believing in yourself and having the courage to make bold choices. My path to choreography began around 23 and I was able to work on projects like, "So You Think You Can Dance" -- that was my first chance to really choreograph on my own in front of millions of people. It opened up so many doors for me and enabled me to keep creating! I want to continue raising the bar and keep asking myself, "What else can I do?"
When it comes to the art of dance, do you have a personal philosophy for having performers tune into their bodies and get into the proper flow?
Head Over Heels has been so much fun, because our dancers are so unique and have such different styles. I love sitting down with my dancers to talk more about just technique, and really uncover the WHY behind the moves and dive into what we are aiming to express. It's so important to have everyone included in those conversations - in addition to our creative team, our dancers are essential to the process!!
The 16th-centrury storyline and the pop rock sounds of the Go-Go's make for quite the mash up! Can you talk about why you think it works and how the messages of love and acceptance ring true, no matter the time period?
I was so excited for our director, Michael [Mayer] to bring this script to me. I instantly said, "Yes!" I have so much trust in Michael's vision - he understands how to do this mash-up and makes it unforgettable! The show is based on Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney, and makes you think about the different time periods and how little things have changed.
A huge theme in the show is female empowerment and how women rule the world! We look at all different types of love stories - straight, transgender, and lesbian - that are all accepted across the board. When Peppermint walks on stage, everyone is applauding!! It makes my heart warm. Through art, we are truly opening people's minds by telling stories and honoring each other.
Is there a style of dance that you haven't yet had a chance to work with that you would love to be a part of?
I love over the top characters that remind me of the '90's club world in New York City - I was excited to channel this for my ensemble with the 16th-century text!
I also really enjoy old-fashioned type productions and will be choreographing and directing Singin' in the Rain at La Mirada Theatre For the Performing Arts next year and am really looking forward to that! Tons of tap dancing!
There is so much joy in dance - what advice do you have for those of us who may feel a little self-conscious on the dance floor?
Always remember to enjoy the music! It's so primal to just gather and listen to music with others - humans have been doing that since the beginning of time! The whole purpose of music and dance is to leave our troubles behind and get lost in the energy. Never be afraid to get up and dance - just go with the flow and enjoy the rhythm.
Head Over Heels open at the Hudson Theatre on July 26th! For more info, visit: https://headoverheelsthemusical.com/
To keep up with Spencer, visit his website at: http://www.spencer-liff.com/
Photo courtesy of LSG Public Relations