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June 04, 2009 - Image 72

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-06-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Arts

Entert

y

t,

When You're A Jet

West Side Story has danced in and
out of Joshua Bergasse's career.

Suzanne Chessler

Special to the Jewish News

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dlo June 4 e 2009

ormer Oak Parker Joshua
Bergasse is the co-choreog-
rapher of a production of the
musical West Side Story at this year's
Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
The style of the show's original cho-
reographer, Jerome Robbins, became
familiar to Bergasse, 36, as he studied
and worked early on at his mother's
dance studio, Annette and Company in
Farmington Hills.
Some years ago, he performed in
an international tour of the musical,
appearing as Baby John, the young-
est of the Jets, one of the rival New
York City gangs at the center of the
Romeo and Juliet update. After that, he
assisted with the directing and chore-
ography before moving on to choreog-
rapher at the Barrington Stage Co. in
Massachusetts and the Fulton Theatre
in Pennsylvania.
"The show is so beautiful that I
don't get tired of it:' says Bergasse of
the musical that officially opens June
5 at the Festival Theatre in Ontario. "I
love the original choreography because
it's such an integral part of the musical
and really a part of me.
"When I was on the national tour,
I appeared in Toronto, Vancouver and
Calgary; and I also went into Canada
as a performer in Movin' Out. I've
enjoyed working in front of Canadian
audiences."
The Stratford production, which is
directed by Gary Griffin, stars Chilina
Kennedy and Paul Nolan in the lead
roles. It also includes the choreography
of Sergio Trujillo, who with Bergasse
employs Robbins' original moves.
Bergasse, who lived in Oak Park
while training and teaching at his
mom's studio, decided on his career
while taking part in the summer arts
program at Oakland Community
College. He won short-term scholar-
ships to dance centers in Los Angeles
and New York and got the role of Baby
John after his first series of profes-
sional auditions.
Since appearing on Broadway in
Hairspray and The Life, Bergasse
decided to move on to choreography.

Joshua Bergasse

He has worked on productions of La
Cage Aux Folles, Smokey Joe's Cafe and
Beehive and soon will be taking on
Carousel at the Barrington.
"I haven't done dance performances
in two years',' he says. "I take classes to
keep in shape."
Work can keep Bergasse at a distance
from his wife of four years, Kristine
Bendul, a dancer who also tours.
When Bergasse returns to the
Detroit area, he often does master
classes for Annette and Company. A
graduate of Berkley High School, he
was a bar mitzvah at Congregation
B'nai Moshe and enjoys celebrating
holidays with family.
"My mom has special programs
to celebrate the anniversaries of her
studio, and I will be part of one at the
beginning of next year," says Bergasse,
who has not had a chance to see the
new version of West Side Story, incor-
porating more Spanish, now being
staged in New York.
"I believe the dancing in the show
is more important than the singing
and acting because Jerome Robbins
saw it as a story told in dance," he
says. "It was a ballet of sorts with all
the expression and anger coming out
through the choreography."



West Side Story will be per-
formed June 5-Oct. 31 at the
Festival Theatre in Stratford,
Ontario. Performance times,
days and ticket prices, as well as
information about the complete
Stratford Shakespeare Festival
schedule, can be found at www.
stratfordfestival.ca . (800) 567-
1600.

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