Students learn dance numbers, discuss career options
Point Park alumni Shua Potter, front left, Eric Hatch, center, and Case Dillard, right -- all members of the cast of Mary Poppins -- lead a master class to teach current student dance routines from the national tour.
“Imagine you’re on the edge, about to fall off. A gust of wind takes you but then you steady yourself. It’s about controlled upper body motions here,” said Case Dillard, who knows something about being a chimneysweep up on a rooftop.
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Dillard, 27, Potter, 28, and fellow alum Eric Hatch, 29, all part of the national tour of Mary Poppins, recently returned to campus to teach students “Step in Time” and a second number from the Broadway show. Fellow ensemble member Carol Angeli Dillard (Case Dillard’s wife) joined the three. During the master class and question and answer session that followed, all shared nuggets of wisdom about musical theatre, life on tour and more.
Brittany Bohn, 21, a Point Park senior pursuing a dance major and musical theatre minor, was one of the students gathered in the George Rowland White Performance Studio to learn from the alums.
“It was great being able to see and learn this particular style of choreography up close,” said Bohn afterward. “My ultimate goal is to work on Broadway, so for me the class was a remarkable opportunity.”
During the class, Dillard, a 2005 theatre arts grad who taught at three universities and danced with Ballet Arkansas before booking Mary Poppins, peppered the students with questions about tap steps, called for line changes and gave more tips about achieving the “free but controlled” moves required in “Step in Time.”
Less than an hour later, the 75+ students were performing the number in small groups at tempo to music provided by Mary Poppins musician D. Scott Ferguson. After only a brief break all moved on to the equally challenging “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Professor Jodi Welch, who teaches tap and jazz at the University, watched the students soak in the instruction and noted that their ability to pick up the numbers so quickly reflected the strength of Park Park’s dance and musical theatre programs.
Dillard, Potter and Hatch all welcomed the chance to teach the master class and answer students’ questions, said Welch.
Ashley Kasunich, 22, a senior pursuing a dance major and musical theatre minor, said she appreciated having yet another opportunity to learn from people already working where she wants to go.
Point Park regularly welcomes guest artists including renowned directors, producers, writers and choreographers. In fact, while the musical theatre master class was underway in the performance studio, Broadway choreographer and dancer Darrell Moultrie was conducting a jazz master class on campus, and Cheryl Mann, Tobin del Cuero and Paul Boos were in residence. Mann, del Cuero and Boos are staging works by Toru Shimazaki and George Balanchine for Conservatory Dance Company at The Byham.
Catherine Cabeen and Nicole Smith, repetiteurs staging Bill T. Jones’ master work D-Man in the Water, also continued in residence at the Conservatory. In addition, Ben Stevenson, artistic director of the Texas Ballet Theater, conducted a ballet master class on campus. Stevenson is most noted for his choreography for the La Esmeralda Pas de Deux (1982), which is today a repertory staple with ballet companies all over the world.