female with a microphone directing the dancers on stage

Behind the scenes with Brittany Nicholas, Dance Captain and Swing on Broadways & Juliet

Brittany Nicholas’ roles on and off stage are blended collectively within the casual Broadway opening & Juliet. With the home lights nonetheless on, the ensemble members prowl the stage with mugs and water bottles in hand, breaking the fourth wall by warming as much as the ready viewers. When it’s Nicholas’ flip to enter, he does so holding a patterned binder, his authoritative position clear as he provides notes to his friends. However because the present kicks off, Nicholas blends into the group, dancing to Jennifer Weber’s dynamic choreography as he sings the choruses of sensational songwriter Max Martin, whose timpani from the likes of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and lots of others.

Very like the idea of Martin and David West Learn’s loopy present, which pairs pop hits with an imaginary future for Shakespeare’s Juliet, the position of Nicholas is a mash-up: she’s a swing, the present’s dance captain and a substitute. As dance captain, she is liable for understanding the 12 ensemble tracks and all dances for the primary eight. She additionally acts as an extension of the choreography workforce, sustaining the choreography and integrity of the present, taking notes, conducting rehearsals and a day by day warm-up, and educating new forged members their elements.

Photograph by Rachele Papo.

Like lots of musical theatres’ unsung heroes, Nicholas, 33, has constructed a profession round his skill to maintain his head on the intricacies of a whole present. Nicholas credit this talent with being raised on a contest workforce on the Academy of Dance and Gymnastics in Newport Information, Virginia. By age 10, I might be in seven routines whole and study all of them in per week, he says. On the urging of a contest choose, Nicholas started auditioning for musical theater in New York Metropolis in his senior 12 months of highschool. I went to just a little present known as Invoice ElliottNicola jokes. I did not know what a swing was in any respect, however they clearly noticed one thing in me. Nicholas was additionally the dance captain of Invoice Elliotts Toronto manufacturing. That credit score has now opened the door for all these different swing and dance captain contracts, he says, highlights of which embrace the Broadway run of Unhealthy Women and the nationwide tour of Matilda.

Nicholas’ expertise was acknowledged throughout & JulietSt opening evening final November. As probably the most credited ensemble member on Broadway, she was awarded the Legacy Gown, a decades-old custom of Actors Fairness. I used to be in a position to tick off so many bucket checklist issues right here, Nicholas says of his time & Juliet.

Earlier this 12 months Dance journal she went backstage with Nicholas, following her from rehearsal to warm-up to backstage prep as she juggled the roles of swing, dance captain and understudy.

woman wearing a warm brown coat looking at a calling card
Photograph by Rachele Papo.

A childhood dream

Once I was 10, Britney Spears’ first album got here out and I wished to be a backup dancer for her. Max Martin wrote a lot of her music, so this musical comes full circle for me. In fact I am not a pop star, which has by no means occurred to me, however right here I can fake I’m and sing all my favourite songs. Assembly and dealing with Max is an incredible factor.

Particulars administration

Being a dance captain is exclusive since you are an extension of the artistic workforce and are additionally within the discipline with the corporate. I work intently with the choreographer, Jen, and her associate, Esosa. Every single day I’m liable for our voluntary warm-up and likewise distance on stage if a substitute goes on the final minute. I assist rehearse and I assist educate new tracks. I additionally work with the stage managers, staying updated on peak indicators and what’s taking place with the crew. On some actually loopy days the place we do not have sufficient individuals, we do split-tracking, the place one individual could be doing multiple observe at a time. I discover items of the puzzle of how the present will run easily with out the viewers understanding we do not have sufficient individuals.

woman in pink leading the others in the warm up
Photograph by Rachele Papo.

Attending to work

If now we have a 12:30 rehearsal or a 1:00 telephone name, I attempt to be up by 9:30. I placed on the espresso after which get within the bathe and begin warming up vocally. I’ve a fitness center in my constructing, but when I am unable to make it over there, I all the time attempt to do some Pilates or yoga, simply one thing to maintain my physique going. I reside in Harrison, New Jersey so I take the PATH practice and switch to the subway on the World Commerce Middle. I just like the commute, as a result of the present is full throttle. I’ll take heed to my favourite jams and prepare for the day.

Earlier than the present

We have now an hour and a half between rehearsal and the present, and I attempt to get dinner straight away so I can digest. Once I present up on the theatre, I wish to have some down time, then I often heat up after which pop in and provides some notes. Then, if I am on, half an hour later I will begin doing my hair and make-up. If I am not energetic, I will nonetheless sit in standby and determine if I must take notes or hang around behind the scenes.


Dance cleanup days are all the time thrilling. We have been busy inserting our understudies, so we have not had an opportunity to undergo every quantity and remind ourselves of the photographs within the choreography and our intention. It is good to have the time to essentially clear issues up.

a group of dancers rehearsing on stage
Photograph by Rachele Papo.

Have fun variations

& Juliet it is totally different as a result of now we have individuals who specialise in breaking apart and individuals who’ve been singing pop and R&B all their lives, and now they have been on this melting pot of a musical theater present. Everybody can specific themselves nonetheless they need on stage; they have been all dressed in line with our personalities. It is the primary present the place it appears like we’re all totally different for a motive, and it is celebrated.

Keep centered

I have been doing the present for thus lengthy now that I can get absolutely into the observe I am doing, however I additionally maintain an eye fixed out, simply because as a swing, now we have so many transferring elements. A sign flying by, or somebody strolling previous you with a chair, that you need to all the time pay attention to your environment. However relying on the position I am taking part in, when I’ve to work the scene, I will focus extra on my intentions and features and connecting with my scene associate.

woman with a microphone standing between the rows of seats
Photograph by Rachele Papo.

Life as a swing

Swinging is such a rewarding job since you actually matter. You could have a reasonably large job understanding the tracks and serving to the present run and maintaining your cool beneath strain. The draw back is that you just’re not on a observe each evening, so it is exhausting for individuals to return and see you. You wish to go forward and mix in, which is the purpose. However if you’re not acknowledged for it, it’ll typically make you neglect how particular you might be. Swings are actually getting extra recognition. I like it, however I additionally know I might like to be a observe on stage, or step up and develop into an affiliate, which suggests I might work much more intently with the choreographer.

woman wearing pink sportswear standing in audience pointing towards stage
Photograph by Rachele Papo.

Heading in the right direction

I take a lot of notes. The technical course of was so quick, you’d catch me behind the scenes frantically writing stuff, as a result of the extra info I’ve, the higher. As soon as I study the present, I am going observe by observe and have a pocket book with a sheet for every observe. Now that I do know the present with my eyes closed, I can use the method of elimination to grasp who’s round me. However that is a number of learning and questioning myself. And know once I’m full, and say, Okay, possibly do nothing extra tonight.

Go on stage

I truly go a great distance, simply because doing eight reveals per week is basically exhausting. When one of many protagonists calls, like Juliet or Anne [Hathaway, Shakespeares wife], one of many ensemble replacements is bumped, in order a swing I’ll go to that observe. There are six swings in whole and several other variables relying on whether or not persons are sick or injured. It is humorous, as a result of I really feel like there’s all the time one thing new. It is by no means the identical present.

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