Tidewater Women’s Stephanie Allen spoke with Lisa Wallace, who is choreographing The Hurrah Players’ upcoming musical, “All Shook Up.”
TW: What is your background in dance and choreography?
LW: Well I’ve been dancing all my life. My mom was a professional dancer and also ran a studio, so I grew up dancing. My aunts were all dancers, and some were musicians. My dad’s side of the family was all performers. I had an uncle that wrote music for Disney. He was one of the big orchestrators.
I started teaching in my mom’s studio and did some work in New York and decided that teaching was really going to be my forte. I danced for ODU ballet, and from then on I taught and performed for ODU for many, many years outside of college. I finally came on full time here [at Hurrah Players], and I’ve become their director of education. I also teach tap and jazz and choreograph the productions.
TW: Are your own kids involved in the arts?
LW: They are. They both came through Hurrah. My oldest is in the business and lives in NY. My youngest just completed her first year of school in New York City.
TW: What does your typical workday look like?
LW: I wear so many hats. I run the box office. I also set up their school shows. I coordinate [schools] coming to us on a school day as a field trip to see our shows. We do about 12-14 school shows a year. For a lot of [the students] it’s their first or only chance to see live theater.
I run the academy. We do four sessions of classes per year. I also run their camps. And then at night, I teach a couple classes during the summer and I choreograph and start rehearsals. It’s a lot, but I love what I do. Not many people can say that.
TW: If you didn’t chase your dream of a career in the arts, what would you have done instead?
LW: To be honest, I don’t know because it was what I did, and what I knew I did well. It’s what I loved and felt like I accomplished. I went through things when I was younger, you know, I wanted to be a nurse. But the first time I saw somebody cut themselves I knew that wasn’t going to work. I saw blood, and that was the end of that! I don’t know what I would have done because this is what my love is. Why be in a job that you’re miserable and wish that you had done something else?
TW: Tell me a little bit about the upcoming show “All Shook Up.”
LW: “All Shook Up” uses all Elvis music. It’s a show about a roustabout that just gets out of prison and is a wanderer. He just goes from town to town, and he winds up in a very square town and needs to work on his motorcycle. He finds a little shop that can do it. It turns out there’s a young girl that is the mechanic, and it just turns into sort of this love triangle. And the lead guy resembles the character of Elvis. He does the hip movements and the girls all swoon. It’s just got several different little interests going on in one show and it’s really clever. Very funny, very tongue-in-cheek.
TW: So you’re choreographing that whole show. What kind of education has to go into preparing a performance that’s set in 1955?
LW: You have to do your homework on the show obviously. Know the show, know the style in that time frame. Of course for the numbers that you do, you have to put people in that can handle it. It’s not just about how difficult that number is. It’s about the style of that number. That’s a really big thing for me when I teach. They give you suggestions but I don’t always like to go by that. I like to put a little touch of myself in every show that I do. I don’t get too set on every little piece of choreography because if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
TW: Do you have a favorite dance from that time period?
LW: I think I know what my favorite number’s going be of the show. I think it’s going to be Jailhouse Rock. I’m combining a lot of isolations with turning and leaping, but you know the dances of that period were very simple. They’re very fun and typical of that time frame. It’s just how you put them together with other dances.
TW: It sounds like it’s going to be a super fun show. My last question for you is, what is the most important thing Tidewater Women readers should know?
LW: I think the most important thing to know coming into the show is to have an appreciation of theatre and dance and know how hard these students and cast members work. We do two- to four-hour rehearsals, and they work hard and put on a great show for everybody. There’s a lot of training that brings them up to this. My mission here is to make sure that they all know that they have to be trained well in dance to be good at their craft. Then sit back and enjoy it.
The Hurrah Players: All Shook Up • July 29-31, 2016, times vary • T.C.C. Roper Performing Arts Center, 340 Granby Street, Norfolk • www.hurrahplayers.com • 757-627-5437 ($)