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'Swing! The Musical' kicks off 2013 Indiana Festival Theatre season

June 13, 2013

Jazz Age artist Fats Waller once called swing dancing “two-thirds rhythm and one-third soul.”

It's the rhythm that takes some practice, according to IU junior Nat Zegree, who called the unique American style “the most dangerous form of dancing."

Performers in

Emily Schultheis and Colin Schreier perform in "Swing! The Musical," at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre through June 30. | Photo by Sharon Zhu

He's one of the performers in Indiana Festival Theatre’s new musical "Swing! The Musical", which premiered to a sold-out house on June 12 at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre and continues through June 30.

The show brings a variety of IU dance students together on stage, including those in musical theater, ballet and contemporary disciplines.

“There is a song called ‘Throw That Girl Around,’” said Zegree, a B.F.A student in musical theater. “In rehearsal, we get to a point where the swing dancing is in the muscle, but you have to be focused 100 percent of the time in everything.”

"Swing" will also show at 7:30 p.m. June 13-15, 18-22 and 25-29 and at 2 p.m. on June 16, 23 and 30.

IU faculty and staff can enter to win two season passes for the 2013 Indiana Festival Theatre before the close of business Monday, June 17.

For "Swing!" all 16 cast members were required to learn some amount of swing dancing -- even those who, like Zegree, are singers. While Zegree had prior experience with swing dancing, learning the moves still proved to be a challenge.

“There is no going back,” he said. “If you get kicked in the face, that means something went wrong, but then we know we have to fix it, which is good because everyone understands that and everyone really goes with it. It’s made this a productive and fast-moving experience.”

B.F.A. junior Abby Bartish, a dancer in the show, grew up studying ballet, jazz and tap and also took musical theater dance classes throughout high school.

“For me a huge challenge was working with a partner,” she said. “In the entire show, you’re with your partner and finding the energy and dynamic with always having to read each other’s minds and be in sync with each other.”

George Pinney, a professor of theater and drama and head of the B.F.A. program in musical theater, directed and choreographed the show. The show’s musical direction was led by Terry LaBolt, an assistant professor of theater in the B.F.A. musical theater program.

Both Bartish and Zegree have worked with Pinney before, making rehearsals -- which can last for up to 10 hours a day -- a comfortable learning experience.

“He really respects us as performers,” Zegree said. “Which makes it easier to just connect in a way and learn and perform and do well.”

The 2013 Indiana Festival Theatre lasts through Aug. 25 with four additional productions put on by the IU Department of Theatre and Drama.

Those productions and times are:

  • "Arnie the Doughnut," a children's musical directed by Chad Rabinovitz. Takes place 11 a.m. June 22, 25-29, July 1-3, 5-6 and 9-13 at Studio Theatre. Appropriate for ages 3 and up.
  • "Much Ado About Nothing," William Shakespeare's classic play directed by Jonathen Michaelsen. Shows are 7:30 p.m. July 5-6, 14, 16, 18, 20, 24 and 26 and 2 p.m. July 7, 21 and 27 at the Wells-Metz Theatre.
  • "The Matchmaker," directed by Dale McFadden. Performances are 7:30 p.m. July 12-13, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25 and 27 and 2 p.m. July 14, 20 and 28 at the Wells-Metz Theatre.
  • "Island Song," produced in partnership with the Bloomington Playwrights Project, the new play is directed by Rabinovitz. Premieres 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22-24 and 2 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Wells-Metz Theatre.

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