To the dance world's delight, the long-anticipated High Strung Free Dance hit select theaters earlier this month. The film tells the personal and professional story of a young ballerina (played by Juliet Doherty) who books a new Broadway show called Free Dance. It's produced by Michael and Janeen Damian—the creators of 2016's High Strung, starring Keenan Kampa—and is choreographed by Tyce Diorio and SFB soloist Myles Thatcher.
Here, Diorio shares a bit of his experience choreographing the show and gives some sage advice for educating the next generation of artists.
Dance Teacher: How did you get involved in the project?
Tyce Diorio: I was contacted by Michael and Janeen Damian. The were looking for a choreographer to head up the whole filming collaboration, and they sent me a script. I read it, we discussed it, they let me know they were interviewing different people for it and in the end I got the job. We collaborated on ideas moment by moment. Myles Thatcher was a beautiful talent to work with, along with Phillip Chbeeb, and all of the lovely, glorious dancers who were part of it it. It was so fulfilling as a whole project.
DT: What about choreographing for this film really appealed to you?
TD: I think what appealed to me was that I would be able to exercise my versatility and diversity in styles. I've worked in so many different genres: the ballet world, the modern/contemporary world, the jazz and hip-hop worlds. I'm a lover of dance, and this film allowed me to have an opinion and exercise my expertise in all these areas.
DT: Tell me a bit about the process for creating choreography for this film.
TD: I was given a piece of music that I would break down into sections. Then, I would make a loose diagram of what could happen given the information I had. It came together piece by piece—it was sort of like a puzzle. It was so much choreography that we had to be ready to adjust as details changed or new ones were approved.
DT: What was special about this group of dancers you got to work with?
TD: These dancers that I was fortunate enough to work with are the best in the business. We all bonded quickly because we were shooting in Europe. It was a collaborative experience, and everyone was both professional and pliable. We were working long hours, but it was totally enjoyable because we were making something that was on such a high level dance-wise with such exceptional artists.
DT: What's your advice for dance teachers who're preparing dancers for jobs like this?
TD: For any dancer or dance teacher, follow the path of staying true and honest in your work. Stay grounded, be someone who is enjoyable to be around for eight hours per day. Be pliable and wiling to change at any moment, be professional and be hard-working always. Focus on training. Students can't skip over A, B and C to get to D. You have to follow each step. I believe slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.