If you ever wanted to know who comes up with the incredible routines for Potters Theatre Company and how long it takes to teach a dance number, then read on! At Potters, we are lucky to have an incredible team of both resident dance captains and choreographers, as well as some very talented external choreographers we bring in to choreograph sections of the show.
To tell you all about it, we caught up with our resident choreographer and dance captain, Helen Ramsay, who has travelled the world as a dancer, plus external choreographer Gaz Davis, who has worked on The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Mamma Mia (Film), the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, Starlight Express, and much, much more…
How long have you been working with Potters?
Gaz: Four years. The first production I worked on was Made in Britain and I have had the pleasure to work on so many other productions, such as A Night at the Movies, Cool Britannia, the Christmas Spectaculars and many, many more. I can’t choose a favourite show as they are all so different!
Helen: Five years. I started as a dancer at Potters and became dance captain after six months. I told show producer, Nicky, I had an interest in choreography and slowly started to be given more and more to do. The first show I worked on was Legends, and more recently A Night at the Movies 2 and a Motown section in American Songbook. I also did the whole choreography for Divaz, Never Forget, Jukebox Rogues and Frankie’s Guys, something I am very proud of. I occasionally go on stage to cover if needed and I help with routines for the comedy team too.
How is Hits of the Decades going?
Gaz: We’ve had such a great response from guests. I’ve had more vocal staging numbers in this show, which I really enjoy as it is about finding the story in each performance to really enhance the show.
Helen: We’ve had a fantastic reaction to the show and the Company are getting standing ovations every night. I worked on the 60s section, plus Spice Up Your Life and Bohemian Rhapsody. My favourite part is We Built This City, even though I didn’t do the choreography for it. I absolutely love the Divaz show, which is all about the girls, and features so many amazing songs!
How long does it take to choreograph one routine?
Gaz: The song and brief comes through from Nicky, and she then gives me the freedom to create each number. It varies, but roughly between one and two hours, depending on how much content there is. It also depends on how good the dancers are…obviously at Potters they are a very high standard, so it doesn’t take too long. As I am an external choreographer, the Potters dance captains will then polish the routine with the cast, as well as teach the routine when a new cast comes in.
Helen: It really depends as at Christmas we have children in it most years, and it is probably our biggest production, so there is more to do. I lock myself away for a few days to come up with the routines and then teach it, which takes a few hours for each number. I probably spend four days teaching the routines for each section, and each show is made up of around three or four sections. We occasionally have to adapt a routine when we see the costumes, such as the big silver boots for Bohemian Rhapsody!
What is the highlight of your career to date?
Gaz: I started dancing aged 12 and I love dance as every day is a different challenge, and no two days are the same. A highlight for me was being cast for Mamma Mia the movie, as one of the lead dancers. What an experience!
Helen: I performed at the Isle of Wight festival, and we shared the same VIP tent and bar as Boy George. When I was six I started dancing as my mum wanted to make me more girly as I was such a tomboy. I feel very lucky to do a job I love and I am living every little girl’s dream. I also really enjoy seeing the progression of the dancers.
What is your favourite dance move and what can you not quite perfect yet?
Gaz: I love doing the box splits. I’m not a prima ballerina, but am pretty close in my dreams!
Helen: I do the splits whenever I can and love jazz technical. I’d love to be able to do Ballroom and Latin as beautifully as they do it on our Stars of Dance breaks. I watch in wonder when I see them!
Any top tips for budding dancers?
Gaz: Stay focussed and don’t let the knock backs keep you down. Passion is the reason we do this.
Helen: Work hard, keep going and stay strong. I have been involved in the auditions for a long time for when we get new talent, and there’s always so much talent.
Helen: Before the end of the year, we have Dukes, Around the World in 80 Days, a new cast changeover, Halloween, Christmas and lots, lots more. So, lots to do!
Thanks Helen and Gaz. We can’t wait to see the next shows you work on!