WOZ dance captain speaks on physicality, leadership

Musical theater presents a unique combination of artistry and athleticism. While many viewers may appreciate the storytelling and creativity of dance, fewer appreciate the physical exertion required to put together a production. 

“It is a big commitment, and it takes a lot of experience,” said senior Brooks Ellis, who was one of the dance captains for Central’s recent production of “The Wizard of Oz.” 

Because musical theater takes so much physical exertion, I asked Ellis if they would consider musical theater to count as a gym credit.  

“It is physical activity; it is really complicated doing this stuff,” Ellis said. “If things like band count, I think musical theater definitely is very taxing, it’s a lot of work to put into it. It is a big commitment, and it takes a lot of experience.” 

In musicals, dance captains are the experts of a show’s choreography. The role is physically and artistically challenging and helps to create a well-rounded show. “As a dance captain, I had to be there for every single dance that was being taught, whether I was in it or not,” Ellis said.  

Ellis learned every dance in the show. Then, when actors had questions or missed rehearsals, Ellis helped the cast members catch up with choreography. 

“I had to talk with the choreographer so I could make sure that I understood it very quickly, so if anybody had any questions, I would be able to help them,” Ellis said. “I had to be at the front of dances so people could look to me.” 

Ellis led the cast in other ways as well, supporting them through learning each dance. 

“I had to go home, film a video of myself doing that one part of the dance, going over it step by step, and then send it out,” they said. “I was watching the routines to see, ‘that person wasn’t really doing that right,’ so I could give them a few notes.” 

Ellis is an experienced dancer. They were the dance captain for Central’s production of “Hairspray,” in the fall of 2019. “It was stressful,” Ellis said, “but I really liked it. I’ve been dancing for so long. I can’t really remember a time I wasn’t doing dance. I enjoy it, it’s part of my life, I want to help people also explore that to make the dancing for the show as good as it can be.” 

Ellis’s favorite part of their role was being involved in all aspects of the production. “I got a good appreciation of every little thing that went into the show,” they said. They also enjoyed learning and leading the Jitterbug dance.  

“We got to put on a totally different vibe and aesthetic,” they said. “I loved the costumes. It was the most complicated of the dances and it was with a bunch of people who had dancing experience. It was fun doing all the creepy stuff and being playful onstage.” 

Ultimately, Ellis enjoyed being one of the dance captains in “The Wizard of Oz.” “I think dance is a really important art form to express yourself and I think more people should try it out,” they said. “Dance will always be a big part of my life and I don’t think I can ever live my life without it.”