USA May 2012- Valerie Salgado Assistant Choreographer of SMASH sat down with Theatre Chat to give and exclusive Q and A for our ovalpike.com and Theatre Chat arts readers. Valerie is helping spread the word for the Donate Dance Shoes Today Program that was started by SDC Ron Hutchins of www.destinedtodance.com.
The Donate Dance Shoe Program has allowed hundreds of students from performance programs around the nation to have dance shoes. Children’s Theatre, Middle School dance programs and High Schools Drama Departments including individual kids in need of dance shoes. They have all shared thank you letters for the Donate Dance Shoe Program. Thanks to SMASH Assistat Choreographer Valerie Salgado the Donate Dance Shoes Program will continue to grow. So maybe a child in your local arts program in need will have on a pair of Valerie Salgado’s SMASH dance shoes one day…
Valerie Salgado is the assistant choreographer for the NBC series SMASH produced by Steven Spielberg. Salgado gave us the ups and downs of dancing in an exclusive Q and A.
Valerie working on SMASH you have worked with so many stars. Who are the stars that stand out in your mind?
“I have worked with Megan Hilty, Uma Thurman, Katharine McPhee, and Debra Messing, to name a few. “
How long have you been choreography with Joshua Bergasse?
“Well, I have worked closely as the assistant to choreographer for Joshua Bergasse for several years. With Bergasse I has worked as assistant choreographer for BC/EFA’s Gypsy of the Year opening number, associate choreographer for Bright Lights Big City (Marymount Manhattan College) and assisted with pre-production for numerous regional shows, and assisted with Bergasse’s Musical Theater Performance Project.”
What has been one of your favorite original musicals that you choreographed?
“As the original choreographer for the musical Helen on 86th St at the Chernuchin Theatre that musical sticks out in mind first, but I have also had my work shown at Dance Theatre Workshop with Motion Dance+Theatre and Band of Gypsies Choreographer Showcase.”
So many of our arts readers young and old would love to take dance class with you. Where have you taught and might be found teaching dance class for those who hope to be on SMASH someday?
“I have taught for many dance studios including the University of California, Irvine musical theater satellite program, Rosie O’Donnell’s Broadway Kids, Revolucion Latina, and Broadway Dance Center, and STEPS.”
With your extensive dance background where did you train?
“I received classical dance training at Le Studio in Pasadena, California, under the direction of Philip and Charles Fuller, and earned her B.A. in dance from the University of California, Irvine.”
As a performer you have danced around the nation. What have been some of your favorites?
“Performing with contemporary dance companies in LA and NY as well as regional theatre across the country. West Side Story, Ticket to Ride, (David Marquez), I’ll Be Damned, At the Vineyard Theatre (Luis Salgado) and I can’t forget the countless Workshops: The Great White Way, James and the Giant Peach (with Pilobolus).”
How different is it for you to dance/choreograph for TV instead of stage?
“While there are a few differences mostly the approach was the same for the purposes of SMASH. Since SMASH was about the creation of a stage musical, we tried to make each number possible and interesting beginning to end, without stopping. Our objective was to create a dance that supports the story of the show. Rather than rely on camera magic, we wanted the dance to be able to stand on it’s own. That being said, after seeing a dance in rehearsal a thousand times, when we went ahead and shot the number (especially with the steadicam) you saw the dance in ways you had never seen it before. Our steadicam operator, Jeff Muhlstock, would get inside the dance and maneuver around the dancers those were by far my favorite shots. Another big difference is time, we had very little of it. One time we had a dance rehearsal at 6:30 in the morning (not typical, but a possibilities) anything goes. And the best difference is we got to create a new number almost every week. We got to keep it fresh and explore different styles throughout the season from bollywood to jazz.”
Is the choreographer of SMASH allowing you to make adjustments as needed?
“Yes. Josh Bergasse and I have worked together for past 4 years. I can tell when he doesn’t like something before he opens his mouth, and I try to anticipate his needs. He definitely relies on me and trusts me to make adjustments as I see needed. But those adjustments are made in order to support his vision. Josh plays the assistant choreographer on SMASH, so often he is in the scene while we are shooting a dance rehearsal. In those situations, how good the shot is comes down on my shoulders because I’m the only one who is looking at the monitors making sure he and the dancers look good. I would hate for him to go to the editing room and see a dancers out of position or not at their best. I have to have a very keen eye for details.”
Working with the choreographer do you feel you still create the magic together with the cast (dancers)?
“Yes. Josh is the choreographer and it is his vision and his vocabulary that we are using. But parts of the process are more collaborative. For each number, Josh and I would usually get in the studio first with just a few dancers and build phrases together before rehearsing with the whole group of dancers. Sometimes they were dancers on the show, sometimes they weren’t. During pre-pro ideas of all kinds were thrown around by all. Good or bad, all ideas were welcomed…. it is a very open space.”
For those taking dance class what advice can you give them to jump from stage to TV?
“Get an agent! SMASH had very small exclusive casting and they were invited only. Also, arrive at the audition camera ready. After a cut is made at the audition, you are generally put on camera so that the producers can watch and give their stamp of approval on you. Like it or not, your appearance speaks volumes in the world of television.”
What styles should they focus on in class to be in a hit show like SMASH?
“I think it is best to be a versatile dancer whether you want to be on stage, screen, or a company. Work hard in whatever style you are studying. In SMASH we used a lot of very technical dancers…. you need your good friend, Ballet, with you where ever you go.”
If you could choreograph any show on Broadway what would it be?
“Oh my god this is a great question! If we are taking about existing musical, then maybe Peter Pan…. I think it would fun to create playful movement for that show. But I think it would be awesome to choreograph an original musical with contemporary movement. Modern dance is a big part of my background and I would love to choreograph a show where that type of movement really supported the characters and the storyline.”
What is your favorite Broadway choreography of all time?
“I love dancing in West Side Story so I gotta say JEROME ROBBINS…..but I also went through a serious Bob Fosse obsession for a while.”
What is your favorite number on SMASH?
“My personal favorite was the Bollywood number “A Thousand and One Nights.” It was shot so beautifully and, I felt, really evoked an emotional response from the viewer. We also had men doing very athletic movement and women being exotic and sensual. It had a huge cast, including all of the principle actors on the show. And it really covered a spectrum movement wise. I think it was the number i was most scared of initially, never did I think I’d ever be choreographing Bollywood.”
Who inspired you to make it today at this SMASH level?
“Many people! My teachers growing up who encouraged me and told me my dancing was special (not necessarily the best). My family who have supported my career path. My mom likens the arts to a religious calling. If it is what you are meant to be doing, you are simply called to do it, and can’t help but follow that voice. My friends who supported me and told me to keep trying during the low times in my life. DANCE itself keeps me going. When other parts of life have been hard in the past, dance remains a constant and what I’ve gotta do. And my stubbornness and determination has kept me in the game. I’m not one to give up.”
What projects are coming up?
“I am assisting the choreographer Walter Painter on a live 4th of July special for PBS called “A Capitol Fourth.” I am also supposed to assist Josh Bergasse on a number for the AEA Centennial Launch, but it is currently postponed. I’ve also been teaching in guest slots at STEPS and Broadway Dance Center. My own personal project is to train and explore in the studio simply for the sake of growth. Lately I have felt so blessed to be an artist that it nearly bring tears to my eyes.”
To all of our readers please spread the word on the amazing SMASH Assistant Choreographer Valerie Salgado and the Donate Dance Shoes Program. You can give in your local area or contact SDC Ron Hutchins of www.destinedtodance.com. But please tell them the Donate Dance Shoes fund began because of Joe Killilea, a performer friend of choreographer Ron Hutchins who was the first to offer his dance shoes to www.destinedtodance.com. Joe was killed but his kind offer has inspired a Nation to give back to the kids, schools and arts programs. The Donate Dance Shoe Today group on facebook has hundreds of artits and arts lovers. “Thanks Joe!”
Richard Cameron fo Theatre Chat thanks Valerie Salgado of SMASH for taking time away from a busy schedule to share an exclusive interview with Theatre Chat arts lovers. Cameron’s articles have featured conversations with Tony Award winning Producer Stewart Lane, Emmy Award winning Casting Director Jeff Greenberg (Modern Family/Cheers), Valerie Salgado of SMASH, multiple Broadway and TV stars and creative teams bringing arts lovers together around the world for the largest social media arts movement. Tag you’re it! Subscribe. Click the facebook link to share on facebook with your friends and arts community.