Maurice Hines returns to DC this fall in Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life. In preparation for the Arena Stage production, Hines reunited with DC’s own Manzari brothers, John and Leo, for an advanced masterclass in jazz and hip-hop dance at Howard University this past Friday. Hines discovered John and Leo (then 17 and 15) at a similar masterclass at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in 2009. The Manzaris made their professional debuts alongside Hines in the 2010 Arena Stage production Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies.
In his class, Hines repeatedly stressed the importance of dancers making the steps their own: pulling a pair of particularly advanced performers out from the group and having everyone watch how the same steps being done by two unique, expressive performers could look and feel so different.
He also complimented the group on how they kept their faces involved in the dance. He likes to use vocalizations as part of his choreography and said that this group, and DC dancers in general, were particularly adept at and game for that; dancers from other parts of the country or the world are reticent to bring their voices into dance.
Finally, the long sequence that he taught at the end of the class culminated in an extended body percussion section during which he cut the music and the entire soundtrack to the dance became the stomps, slaps, breaths, and yells of the dancers themselves. He’d have the group repeat that section multiple times, at what felt like an almost impossible-to-maintain tempo, and said that he works that kind of section into his own shows, with the implication that he uses his own judgement as to when the band should come back in.
It was truly impressive, just with the few times he had the class repeat it. I can only imagine the sense of joy and anticipation in an Arena Stage or a Broadway house when the audience starts to realize that this 70 year old man and his super-talented cast of dancers might just never stop.
– Broadway legend Maurice Hines will be back in DC to star in Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life, a look back at his 40 years in show business, with John and Leo Manzari, and some of the young talent he has discovered during this visit to Washington. Performances: November 15 – December 29, 2013, Details and tickets. –