Hello — It’s Lucy Rupert again. I’m back with a series of preview/interviews with creators of Toronto Fringe Festival dance shows. I’m a local dancer/choreographer and Artistic Director of Blue Ceiling dance, with a sideline in interviewing dance artists and creators for DanceWorks, Mooneyontheatre.com and my own blog blueceilingdancer. Enjoy! There are some amazing sneak-peeks at the inner workings of these upcoming dance shows. First up: Frank Manzo of Manzo Entertainment.
Frank Manzo’s With Somebody Who Loves Me: A Gay Dansical
Frank Manzo grew up in St. Catharines ON – a town of Junior B Hockey and summer soccer – donning tap shoes and legwarmers, and “ever-aware of the uniqueness of my interests”. He danced at competition studios in St. Catharines and New York but later moved to Toronto to go to Osgoode Hall Law School. All the while he kept on dancing: taking classes, teaching and performing in corporate/industrial shows. When he graduated from law school he decided not to article, instead moonlighting as a dancer with the Toronto Raptor’s Dance Pak and branching out in new directions through film school.
“My ‘day job’ grew to working for the OMDC (an Ontario agency that promotes media production), then for CORUS, a Canadian broadcaster, and now I work for a specialized film and TV financing group at a bank.”
Throughout these changes in the nine-to-five realm, Frank trained, taught, performed, choreographed and produced, taking on roles ranging from the MC in Cabaret to Will in Footloose, and creating major events such as Raven Simone’s Fashion Show and the Mirror Awards (Canadian Hairdresser Magazine’s annual awards for excellence in Hair Styling).
So what brings Frank Manzo to the Toronto Fringe Festival – a festival certainly known for original and quirky musical theatre, but not usually a haven for dancers from the commercial side of dance.
“I been a fan and theatre-going patron of Fringe for many years, so it just seemed like a natural choice in order to get my first kick at the can [of staging a whole show] off the ground.”
Frank’s experience on the business side of the arts easily illuminated the opportunity through the Fring to build up to a production he was already planning for this August.
With Somebody Who Loves Me, is essentially a run of intriguing previews, giving him a chance to be part of an established and popular festival, a chance to work up a buzz and additional momentum for the upcoming two week run at Tarragon Theatre, August 8-19th.
With Somebody Who Loves Me: A Gay Dansical is danced story with the intent to illustrate “that gay people suffer from the same issues and challenges in life as straight people, including job loss, depression and relationship struggles.”
At the same time, Frank wanted to highlight what he describes as a very serious phenomenon in gay culture – the “anti-effeminate” preoccupation. Frank used elements of his own life, from small moments to whole characters and narrative arcs.
“With no other boys at [my early dance] studios or any other real male role models in dance, I was constantly preoccupied with staying manly, even in my dancing. At every competition, I worked hard for every ‘you dance like such a man’ comment.”
The character of MANNY in With Somebody Who Loves Me steadfastly prefers ‘masculine men’ as possible suitors. Frank questions the underlying issue in “the prevalence of this in the zeitgeist of gay dating: is this an acceptable preference or self-hating homophobia? Are scores of men summarily dismissing the possibility of love because they can’t really come to terms with the fact that they’re gay?”
The “dansical” concept was a result of roommates brainstorming.
“Years ago, my roommate at the time Everett Smith –top 4 finalist on So You Think You Can Dance Canada — and I came up with the concept of a “dansical” – no dialogue, no singing, but establishing concrete characters and storyline within the world of dance.”
The root of the dansical is a belief that if an audience can identify with characters and their motivations in a dance then the emotional resonance is heightened. Frank and Everett’s concept moved dance away from abstraction and spectacle, toward portrait and story.
Frank’s first dansical has developed gradually over time, a collection of inspiration from his family and friends, and this idea of a dancing story.
“Although in my soul I’m a dancer first, I’m also a storyteller. When I decided to try to stage a show around these ideas, I sat down and fleshed out each character, and their story arcs. From there, the dance pieces tent-poled the format of the show… It’s a dansical – similar to a musical but without cheesy singing…”
There will be no tutus or abstract motifs. With clever transitions between dance pieces Frank has been able to create a cast of concrete characters “that you not only get to know, but actually care about…when they hurt the audience will know why.”
When Frank describes the creative process of With Somebody Who Loves Me, I have a clear image of a series of maps: Story-arcs, dance-scenes and song lists, a master-map with strong emotional motivation as the route through it. But there was also a lot of sweat and long-days.
“Every night after work, I took off my banker suit, turned off my blackberry and took my portable mirrors down to my condo’s squash court and choreographed.”
My last question to Frank is a tricky one, it’s simple, a bit cliché, but sometimes it’s like poking a sleeping bear. I think Frank had no hesitation in answering. What inspires him to keep making, creating, producing, performing?
“I love dance. I love storytelling. I love to entertain. I’m just at the point now where I have things to say, stories to tell, and the confidence to do it with conviction.”
By: Frank Manzo
Company: Manzo Entertainment Inc.
Company origin: Toronto, ON
Choreographer: Frank Manzo
Show length: 60min.
Warnings: Strobe Light, Nudity, Sexual Content
This performance is accessible for non-English speakers
July 06 01:15 PM
July 07 07:30 PM
July 09 08:30 PM
July 10 01:15 PM
July 11 09:15 PM
July 13 05:45 PM
July 14 11:30 PM
at-the-door tickets ($10)
($9 + $2 service charge)
Available up to three hours prior to the start of a performance: Online at www.fringetoronto.com
By Phone at 416-966-1062
July 2nd – 15th, daily, 9:30am – 6:30pm
In person at the Festival Box Office July 4th – 15th, 12 – 10pm @ The Fringe Club, 581 Bloor St. W.
5 Pack ($45) – savings of $510 Pack ($82) – savings of $18!more info: www.fringetoronto.com