Mark Stuart is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Mark Stuart Dance Theatre. His choreography and performances have been featured in films, commercials, music videos, on Broadway, at Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center. Mark is the recipient of the 2011 BroadwayWorld Award for Choreography for THE WIZ, hailed as “a work of art” which my family and I had the privilege of seeing.
The Playbill Collector (TPC): How did you get your start in choreography?
Mark Stewart (MS): Funny story actually. I never planned on being a choreographer. I was very lucky to get most of my education in show business through my involvement with the Broadway musical SWING! I was involved with 16 different productions of SWING! over the first nine years of my career. I became more involved with each subsequent production, starting as principal dancer, then dance captain, assistant choreographer, and then finally I was asked to choreograph my own production of SWING! It turned out to be a huge success and then out of that came requests to choreograph other musical theater shows. Things just kept rolling from there.
TPC: Congrats on your latest show, STANDARD TIME, premiering at the Fulton Opera House last month! Can you tell us more about what that piece was all about?
MS: Thank you! STANDARD TIME is the company’s first full evening length show and raises my question to society about that prejudice: “Can we do better?” I get really frustrated with the constantly-evolving and never-ending prejudice in the world.
More specifically, STANDARD TIME is a 90 minute dance musical celebrating love’s power to defy societal barriers. The show follows three separate, period-specific love stories set against the backdrops of the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and today’s fast evolving attitudes towards gay acceptance. Danced to hit standards from the 1930′s, 1960′s, and the 2000′s respectively, STANDARD TIME features fourteen dancers, four vocalists and a five piece orchestra.
TPC: Will you be re-mounting it anytime soon?
MS: Yes we will! We are currently working on bringing STANDARD TIME to the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA in the spring of 2014. The Kirby is a huge 1800 seat touring house and we are very excited about this. Hopefully we’ll have an official announcement soon!
TPC: Your vision for your dance company is “what if…?” What is your next project that answers that question?
MS: I honestly don’t know. I try to let ideas simmer until they can evolve into something more concrete. For example, all of the initial pieces I created for Mark Stuart Dance Theatre had a similar theme. I knew they were a part of something bigger, but I didn’t know what that was until last year when the first brainstorms of STANDARD TIME started to form. For me, life presents you with experiences that inspire art. I don’t think you can force those things.
MS: Honestly, I’ve had a great time and learned so much from all of the different experiences I’ve had. If I had to pick one show though, I’d probably say it’s THE WIZ. That music is infectious and brings so much joy to the world.
TPC: What is one musical you would love to choreograph someday?
MS: IN THE HEIGHTS. Hands down. I’ve always had an affinity for latin culture and music. A handful of my company members were in the original production on Broadway so I was there all the time. Every single time I wanted to jump out of my seat and dance.
TPC: If you were able to choreograph a one night show, with only three dancers, who would they be and where would you perform it?
MS: Hah! That’s not a fair question. It honestly depends on what the show is. I always try to find people who can bring a particular story and style to life. I built my company around that principle and I try to bring it into any project I work on.
To learn more about Mark Stuart and his dance company, click here: http://www.markstuartdancetheatre.org/