On his toes

IMG_0467From ‘Black Swan’ to ‘Billy Elliot,’ Fort Worth’s Kurt Froman lives to dance

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

When you step into a room with Kurt Froman, you’re so struck just by this gay man’s boyishly handsome face, it crosses your mind the only thing better than chatting with him is if there were two of him. And, to an extent, there are.

Froman, a Fort Worth native, is an accomplished dancer and choreographer. And so is his twin brother. They even pursued the same dream: Leaving Cowtown as teenagers to attend the School of American Ballet in New York.

DANCE 10 LOOKS… 10 | Fort Worth native Kurt Froman, above at the Winspear, has the daunting task of keeping the ever-pubescing cast of Billys, left, in tip-top dance form. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

 

But for this Froman at least, the similarities end there. Even though they used to dance together, Froman has never felt competition with his twin  —“I always think we are so obviously different,” he says — though he admits having a doppelganger who was equally proficient at the same endeavor put him through “a delayed adolescence. We did everything together.”

At least until 2002. That’s when Kurt “left school to do Movin’ Out on Broadway.”

The dance musical, directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, was a huge hit and helped Froman establish his break out. Since then, he’s done more Broadway (Pal Joey), TV (Saturday Night Live — he played a Versace boy) and, most notably, the film Black Swan, in which he played the male dancer’s understudy and served, behind the scenes, as associate choreographer. His principal responsibility: Teaching Oscar winner Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis how to move like ballerinas.

“I am a huge fan of Darren Aronofsky,” he says of Black Swan’s director. “To get to work alongside him and [Portman and Kunis] was an amazing undertaking.” (He even had input into the script, developing a dancer who is losing their grip.)

But Billy Elliot, which opens next week at the Winspear as part of the Lexus Broadway Series, represents something new for him: His first national tour.

“When I heard it was coming to Broadway, I sent [them] a reel,” Froman says. “I said, ‘This is a show I definitely want to be a part of.’”

Based on the 2000 film, it tells the story of a working-class British boy who, at the height of unease during the Thatcher regime, makes the unpopular decision to study ballet — something that does not sit well with the men in his community, and gets him labeled a sissy. Elton John co-wrote the songs, including “Expressing Yourself,” an anthem to individuality. The show won 10 Tony Awards in 2009, including the first-ever threefer, with all the boys who alternated playing Billy sharing the best actor trophy.

As resident choreographer, Froman’s job is a daunting one. Most people who travel with shows as a director or choreographer merely keep the vision accurate and help replace the occasional actor whose contract ends. (Froman also understudies the Older Billy role.) But this Billy has five Billys. It’s not just that the role is physically demanding; it’s that all of the boys are at incipient puberty and grow out of the role quickly. Still, teaching the kids is sometimes easier than the adults.

“There’s no ego there,” he says. “They have everything to learn and nothing to unlearn. They need me to make them look the best they can.”

Even if the kids are easier to work with, Froman is still tickled to be touring with Broadway diva Faith Prince in a featured role.

The one-two punch of Billy and Swan this year, though, has been eye-opening for Froman. He sees the depth to both, from “the neverending mindfuck of being a great dancer always subject to being replaced by someone younger [in Swan]” to the passion that drives Billy, Froman can personally relate to what’s being portrayed. Now that he’s in his 30s, many dancers younger than he are coming up the ranks. So, his work with Billy aside, he’s looking forward.

There’s still a lot more he’d like to do: “I’m excited for the next phase of my life, what’s next on the horizon,” he says. “I’d like to have kids.”

And maybe, like Billy, they’d be as interested in dance as Dad.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

500 days of Samir

Male dancer Samir breaks the chains of Cirque du Soleil to blossom as ‘the guy’ with Bellydance Superstars

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Samir
GRACE LAND | Samir adds a different flair to bellydancing as Bellydance Superstars’ first and only male dancer.

BELLYDANCE SUPERSTARS
Palladium Ballroom, 1135 S. Lamar St. Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. $20–$39.
BellydanceSuperstars.com

…………………………..

Going by a single name is a ballsy move that usually works more in favor of women: Madonna and Cher. Pink. Charo.

Then throw in Bono. There’s always one guy willing to go against the grain.

Samir is no singer; he’s a dancer. But the solo moniker isn’t the only thing about him that defies convention. He also seeks to prove that a dance traditionally performed by women has room for at least one guy. Samir is part of the harem of Bellydance Superstars, which is in Dallas this week. Just don’t box him into the male label — or even gay. He sees himself in a more primal fashion.

“I don’t identify as a male dancer or female dancer,” he says. “I’m more like a creature and I never had people criticize that. That’s what’s unique about it because audiences are confused and I think they like that.”

Samir is the first male dancer onstage for the Bellydance Superstars show, but it’s also one of the first times in his professional life that he’s felt like his art is blossoming. He first burst onto the public scene as part of Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. That experience looked great on his resume, but Samir wasn’t thrilled come curtain time each night.

“To get to Cirque, I felt something was different,” he says. “It was totally new for me but I was also never a backup dancer. For three years, I basically went out every night to just do these beautiful poses.”

For Samir, Cirque was a grueling process that left little for the Tajikistan-born dancer to be inspired by. He could recognize the art and technique that went with the show, but he says it was not a place for people who create.

“I found myself killing my talent and my time,” he says. “It was just a regular job doing the same thing every night. It was good exposure, being in Vegas at the Bellagio, but Cirque is only for dancers who are retired. They can enjoy their life there until they go to heaven.”

Samir discovered early that this wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Regardless of his excitement, the marriage was doomed from the moment he signed the contract.

“They told me all the good things, but changed it once I started,” he says. “The rehearsal part was all love and sex but the honeymoon ended right after I signed with them.

He applauds Bellydance Superstars producer and creative director Miles Copeland for stepping away from the norm to see the dance as an art. The show gives him the creative outlet he has been searching for.

“[Copeland] doesn’t want to keep you locked away,” he says. “Here you can show your stuff and if he likes it enough, it will be in the show. He respects your talent and that make me want to give more. I feel great here.”

Unlike Cirque, this show offers Samir a family of like-minded individuals — not a mishmash of athletes and artists. For him, everybody here talks the same language and has become one family. Plus, the touring has allowed him to see more of the world. The different places, people and even different dressing rooms each night are a longshot from his former routine.

Samir’s desire for creation is in his blood. Both his parents were involved in the arts: his mother a famous folk dancer, his father a musician. Samir has been dancing since he was 2 and had already tasted fame when he traveled the country with his parents. He fits in naturally to the whirlwind of touring and bringing bellydancing to the masses — even if his audiences are aficionados more than curious onlookers.

“The show is all about bellydancing and Indian and Oriental tradition dance. Only people who are into it and understand it usually come to see the show. But I hope some new people will see how beautiful it is,” he says.

Samir is coy about a few things. He won’t reveal his age but says he’s young enough to finish the tour. However, once the tour wraps up (for now) in February 2011, he teases about his next career move.

“It’s going to be a big surprise,” he says with a likely smile. “Contact me in a year.”

Just like a bellydancer to coyly leave one veil hanging.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens