On his death bed, the great Russian dancer Nijinsky
vowed to be reincarnated. As a horse.
In 1970, a horse named Nijinsky won the British Triple Crown. Nijinsky’s sire was the champion Canadian thoroughbred
Dancer (A Musical In Ten Furlongs) is the story of Northern Dancer, the “horse nobody wanted” – the too-small, too-ungainly, too-willful thoroughbred who overcame doubt, injury and history to become the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby, in 1964. And he won it in record time! The Dancer then went on to become the most successful sire in thoroughbred racing history.
This joyfully original show is written by Jim Betts, the Dora and Chalmers Award winning playwright and lyricist, with music by multi-award-winning composer Marek Norman, and choreography by Emmy-Award Nominee Stacey Tookey.
How do you tell the story of a racehorse in a musical? Taking inspiration from his name, Northern Dancer, and all the other horses in his story, are played by dancers, communicating only through dance and movement. Bringing together the thrill and beauty of galloping horses with the grace and athleticism of dance makes Dancer a natural winner.
The show itself is part ballet, part musical, part rock concert. It’s a musical where the lead character never speaks or sings, a ballet with dialogue, and a rock concert featuring songs that icons like The Beatles and Gordon Lightfoot never got around to writing in the ‘60’s.
The real-life humans of the story are played by actor/singers – characters like E. P. Taylor [Daniel Kash] the legendary Canadian businessman, Winnie Taylor [Louise Pitre], who saw Dancer’s potential long before her husband, Horatio Luro [Gene Gabriel], the flamboyant if controversial Argentinian horse trainer, and Daryl [Sam Rosenthal], the archetypical Track & Race Announcer.
Other colourful characters include Willie Shoemaker, the world’s most successful jockey at the time, and the very enthusiastic Canadian Prime Minister, Lester Pearson, who at one point almost put Northern Dancer on his new Canadian flag.
The character who best speaks for Dancer, however, is his quiet, enigmatic African Canadian groom, Bill Brevard [Sterling Jarvis]. Brevard and Dancer have a lot in common, both of them largely dismissed, ignored and discriminated against, until – together – they make history.
Dancer is a unique Canadian musical with the potential to excite Canadian audiences across the country. Thrilling, thought-provoking, and joyful this show will feature some of our country’s best creative artists, and promises to be a show unlike anything the Toronto Fringe has ever seen. As one of the songs in the show says, Oh, What a Ride!
“Run Dancer” Demo (Marek Norman with David Bradstreet)
“The Ride” Demo (Marek Norman with David Bradstreet)
“Kentucky Rose” Demo (Marek Norman with David Bradstreet)
“Distant Pasture, Green” Demo (Marek Norman with David Bradstreet)
© 2023 Jim Betts
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