Dirty Dancing – Interview with Amy Campbell & Charles Bartley
I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting to Amy Campbell and Charles Bartley recently as they embarked on the Sydney run of Dirty Dancing. Amy has been honoured with the role of Dance Captain and Charlie has the challenging role of being a ‘swing’ for the male ensemble cast.
Amy and Charlie first came to our national attention as Top 3 contestants in the 2009 Australian ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ series and have appeared together in many performances and productions since.
I asked Amy and Charlie about the new cast, the iconic show and how they were loving their experience with Dirty Dancing so far!
Amy, what is it like to be given the role of Dance Captain …
AMY: ‘This is my first time being dance captain for GFO but I have been honoured with that position before. It’s a very full on role with this show. Everyone is doing really well! I have that much choreography in my head but we are doing well!’
What are the most challenging parts of the role of Dance Captain in this particular production?
AMY: ‘I think, personally, because I also understudy six roles in the show, it’s a LOT of content!! And everyone is from a full age range in the cast so it’s just about making sure that the dancers are looked after and learning all their choreography because there’s a lot of full-on dancing, a lot of partnering so my job is to make sure that everyone knows what they’re doing and that they’re all doing it safely and just to help them execute it best and then of course just to learn what everyone is doing in every part of the show!’
Which are the roles that you are understudying?
AMY: ‘I understudy the four female ensemble and then Marge the mother, Penny the Rockette and Vivienne who is one of Johnny’s women.’
Charlie, you are part of the ensemble cast and a ‘swing’ –what does that entail for you as a performer?
CHARLIE:’ I’m a swing on the show but I’ve actually ended up in a couple of numbers in the show as an ‘onstage swing’ which is pretty exciting because I get to go on each night and do some of the iconic numbers which is really cool.’
As a swing you need to know every single role on stage don’t you?
CHARLIE: ‘Yes that’s correct. There are four male ensemble that I have to cover – it’s quite a dense show choreographically so a lot of new numbers and there’s very little unison. There are a lot of fronts between the couples and the challenge as well is to dance with four separate girls who have their own separate styles as well so it’s going to be quite an interesting challenge as I go on.’
What have you found to be the most challenging part of the rehearsal process?
CHARLIE: ‘The hardest part has been learning ALL of the choreography that I have to cover – particularly because I’m on for a few numbers as well so throughout the rehearsal period I would have to go home and go over the rehearsal footage to learn all the other parts I have to cover as a swing. Without being just on site watching and learning has been the hardest part.’
How have the cast gelled together?
CHARLIE: ‘It’s a very small cast – about 25 – which I think benefits us because we can have a bit more time to get to know each other. Because we obviously dance very intimately together throughout the entire show you are kind of forced to get to know each other really well really early so everyone is getting on really well – it’s a fun cast and it’s a fun show!’
You both have worked together many times in the past but there are some first-timers in this production aren’t there?
AMY: ‘Yes, there are lots of people doing their very first show which is really exciting to see. It’s great when people get their first big show – it’s such a important part of their career and we’ve got so many of those performers spread out through the ensemble and playing various roles. They bring such a new energy and a great work ethic to the process which has been exciting. It’s really nice to be able to pass on knowledge and share the experience with them and see them going through everything for the first time. They’re all handling it so well and they’re so professional – just great!’
Did you find it challenging to learn the style of dance required?
CHARLIE: ‘Yeah, it’s actually a really interesting show because we do a majority of ballroom and Latin styles but it’s not your competitive version of those styles – it’s more social – it’s been interesting to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of those styles and trying to put them in a kind of 1960’s feel rather than a modern day feel.’
AMY: … and it’s different to a musical because it’s like a play with music so you’re not performing out front to the audience as much as what you are for each other on the stage. There’s so much partnering so everyone’s had to learn everything from the Foxtrot through to good old ‘Dirty Dancing’ – lots of hip grinding and thrusting – so we’re using the full spectrum of our dance ability – full pressage lifts, back-flips and everything so any trick the dancers have got it is pretty much in it!
SEE AMY, CHARLIE AND ALL THE BRILLIANT CAST IN ‘DIRTY DANCING’ PRODUCED BY THE GORDON FROST ORGANISATION.
CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEWS WITH LEADS KURT PHELAN AND KIRBY ….
CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW WITH CHOREOGRAPHER MICHELE ….. HERE