BWW Interviews: Sean Kelly Talks About A SWINGIN' HOLIDAY

Diablo Ballet presents "A Swingin' Holiday," one part of a three-part program playing November 16 and 17 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. BroadwayWorld talked with choreographer Sean Kelly. Read the full interview below.

Describe the piece itself.

It is a roughly 35 minute piece set in a 'Swing' club. There are 4 couples. The piece will explore the different characters at this club, for example: there is a wealthy elegant couple; a cute, slightly nerdy couple; and a lady who has had a little too much alcohol to drink.The costumes are form fitting period appropriate dresses for the ladies and zoot suits for the men. The inspiration for the piece came from the music, which are some wonderful re-workings of Holiday tunes, such as The Nutcracker, The Dreidel Song, and The Christmas song, among others; by such artists as Duke Ellington; Tom Kubis; and Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass. The arrangements will be done by the Music Director for Diablo Ballet, Greg Sudmeier and will be played live by a 16 member band.

What is your vision for the piece?

I want the piece to be visually rich in color, athletically exciting, humorous; and yet heartwarming since it's inspired by the Holidays. I am incorporating both Swing style movement and tricks into the piece as well as classical ballet. Having an extensive classical background in addition to the pleasure of touring with Broadway shows such as "Swing", "Movin' Out", and "Billy Elliot" I wanted to do a mix of both of these styles. I wanted to do a ballet yet with a more theatrical sensibility.

Now compared to something like the Nutcracker, this doesn't have much of a story to it. Or does it? What is the arc of the piece?

I would say it has characters but not a story line per se.

The piece is being paired up with some non-holiday themed pieces. That can deter some audiences if they're in the mood for a full program of Christmas. How would you convince someone to go?

I believe it will be a fun piece that will perhaps inspire you to attend a party or go to a dance club. I think the big band music alone has great appeal but I think the mix of the athleticism of the piece combined with the capabilities of this company will make for an exciting and entertaining piece. I think the Holiday tunes will put you in the mood for this time of year. I am using a re-working of 'Old McDonald' (It's a Jazz mix), and although it is not a holiday song, just makes you smile and laugh a little. Plus I think it will be fun for the kids.

As an experienced choreographer, what are you bringing to this piece? How has your experience helped you shape this piece (especially since you have a lot of experience in dance outside of ballet)? What are you pulling from for this piece? And what can audiences expect that will make this piece unique?

I believe the mix of my background will influence me in a different way than perhaps some more classically based choreographers. I think Swing dancing is so fun and risky and requires a different technique than most classical dancers are used to. So I'm spending a fair amount of time just on the technique of partnering, lifts and flips. I think the dancers are excited to be stretched and I think you feel that in the rehearsal process so far. I believe working directly with such brilliant people as Twyla Tharp and Peter Darlingin addition to many great classical choreographers will allow me to mix ballet and Broadway in an appealing way.

When Greg and I selected and listened to the music originally I had strong visual images and ideas about the characters that came to mind, so I based the piece on those ideas and have let it develop from there.

What are some more familiar elements audiences can expect?

They will still be seeing attractive, talented, and remarkable dancers, maybe just seeing them move in a new way.

How long is the piece? Is it long enough for everyone to get their holiday fix?

I hope it will be long enough that you feel you have been visually satisfied as well as perhaps having you leave the theater humming tunes or snapping your fingers on the way out.

What's your favorite part of the experience so far?

I enjoy working on Swing movement. The music puts me in a good mood. And the company has been excited which I find infectious and gets me more excited.

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler

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