Dramaturgy student Tierra Bonser interviews Barney O’Hanlon, choreographer.
Barney O’Hanlon, aside from playing the role of Harold in Café Variations, is working as choreographer on this (as many of the designers have described) immense piece of musical theatre comparable in size and vastness even to an opera. With as many as thirty people on stage and dancing at one time, O’Hanlon said his ultimate hope in regards to the choreography is for “the audience to want to get up and dance, to tap their toes,” and to feel the joy of seeing swing-style dance in full action. He and I talked about the intrinsic joy in that kind of movement and O’Hanlon mentioned how, because humans are full of empathy ions, when a body sees another body moving in space, it cannot help but respond with another kind of movement. So, ladies and gentlemen, plan on bouncing out of your seats.
Drawing on inspirations ranging from Pina Bausch to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, O’Hanlon said his process began with learning the music by heart. He already had his eye on two pieces of Gershwin instrumentals to be what he called “chair dances” (the name is self explanatory) and started with them alone in the studio. From there he incorporated dances from the 1940’s and 1950’s for the big group scenes and continues to develop as the process continues.