by Marialena Rago
Since 1982, the Broadway and Off-Broadway community has celebrated the achievement of dancers and choreographers with the Chita Rivera Awards, named after the Tony-Award winning actress and dancer. This year’s winners included Tony Yazbeck (Prince of Broadway) and Ariana DeBose (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical) for Outstanding Male and Female Dancer in a Broadway Musical and a tie between Mean Girls and Carousel for Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Musical.
Dancers are some of the most hardworking ensemble members. They work their bodies hard to get the movements down, yet they make it look effortless. Ryan Steele is one of those hardworking dancers. Ryan describes what it is like winning the award for Outstanding Ensemble, “It feels fantastic. Dance is such an important art form, and dance in theater can sometimes be underappreciated, so I’m over the moon that the Chita Rivera Awards are around to highlight it.”
Ryan is currently in Carousel along with Colin Anderson and Nick Belton. These three ensemble members know that their work is essential to the story they tell every night. “The ensemble is vital because it creates the backdrop for our world in this tiny 19th century Maine town,” says Nick Belton. “From the language to the movement, and the earthy colors and period clothes, and set against Santo Loquastos backdrops; the ensemble sets the mood and changes it within a blink of an eye.”
Colin Anderson is a swing in the production and he knows that the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein story would not be the same without the glorious ensemble helping. “The story would be nothing without the village of people,” he says. “Billy wouldn’t have anyone to work for, Julie wouldn’t find Billy without the crowds at the carousel, and there would be no clambake.”
And just like the village in the small town that Carousel is set in, the ensemble is one big happy family. “This ensemble is very special because there aren’t any bad eggs,” says Colin. “Sometimes in shows certain individuals clash and it can be difficult to work with. I’m so passionate to tell people that everyone in the cast is a kind and talented person. I’m so, so grateful that there aren’t any divas among us. It’s a giant family and we all love each other.”
They love and learn from each other as well. “As a singer, more unfamiliar with the dance and ballet world, I remember thinking, when we started rehearsals, how every day felt like a master class,” says Nick. “I should be paying to watch these dancers every single day. The language between them, like chefs in a tight knit kitchen in a five-star restaurant, is oftentimes unspoken and it's a joy to witness.”
The ensemble in every Broadway show is indispensable to the story being told. They help push the story forward and make up the world that the story is set in. Sometimes, like in Carousel, they even make up the central part of the story. “We’re a big part of building the world and the carousel,” Ryan says with a smile.