During their final week of rehearsals, Greater Hartford Arts Council volunteer, Lindsey Hopper got to sit down with a few of the members of Breakdancing Shakespeare to talk about their summer with the Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios program at Hartford Stage. Step inside the rehearsal studio to learn more about the cast of Hamlet.
Tackling Shakespeare can be challenging enough, but have you ever tried reciting soliloquies with beat boxing in the background? When this years’ Breakdancing Shakespeare group came together, it was clear that there were many obstacles to overcome to put on a flawless production of Hamlet in just six weeks, from memorizing lines to learning dance routines. And if that wasn’t enough, at the start of the summer, it was glaringly obvious to many of the apprentices that they were all very different from each other. The groups’ dance experience spanned a few weeks to thirteen years, and styles ranged from ballet to salsa to jazz. However, looking back on their summer, most of the apprentices believe that it was right from that first day that they began to bond and find their style as one cohesive unit. Their summer concluded with an abbreviated performance in front of fellow apprentices in other studios and three sold out shows at the University of Saint Joseph.
They told me that it was during that very first week that they started connecting through cyphering, a type of freestyle dance circle, and instead of watching their differences pull them apart, they saw their mutual talent and love for dance bring them all together. Featured dancer Gabriella Dominguez told me that it was the most memorable moment of her entire summer.
For the many of the apprentices, though, getting to dance at all was the best part of the experience. Reese Hart, who plays Hamlet, said, “Dancing has been one of the driving forces in my life. I picked it up when I was four and I’ve never let go since then. It’s been like a form of meditation for me, it’s helped me get through a lot of challenging portions of my life.” Daisy Infantas, who plays Ophelia in the show, reiterates his sentiments saying dancing is her outlet for everything. Like Reese and Daisy, the groups’ passion for the craft does not go unnoticed; their collective desire to dance has given them the appearance of a professional dance company.
Beyond the sheer talent of the entire group, I was most impressed by how committed they were to supporting each other. The apprentices told me that they were all pushing each other to do and be their best, and were constantly learning from one another. Reese told me that he believes he is a much better dancer because he was encouraged to learn from and collaborate with his fellow cast members, “I’m always getting some form of tutelage from the choreographer Brandon or the other dancers.”
Their amazing group dynamic and work ethic has helped them accomplish the near impossible while also having a ton of fun. Beyond learning lines and dance routines, and perhaps more importantly, the cast has become a tight-knit group, some even calling each other family. Jewels Rivera, a member of the dance company said, “We have fun here. I get to be with my friends. We’re more than just a cast, we’re family.”
Learn more about the Breakdancing Shakespeare apprentices:
How long have you been dancing?
- Since I was 8. I started out with salsa, then merengue. Eventually I got into hip-hop and breakdancing. – Daisy Infantas
- I started dancing when I was 3. – Lili St. Amand
- I’ve been dancing since the fifth grade. – Dana Clarke
- Seven years, I’ve done everything but my favorite is contemporary. – Gabriella Dominguez
- I started dancing this summer. I started with hip-hop and I’ve fallen in love with it. – Jay DeJesus
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
- I see myself in New York City, auditioning for Saturday Night Live. – Daisy Infantas
- I’d like to live in Los Angeles doing air traffic control, and of course dancing on the side. – Dana Clarke
- Hopefully making movies and TV shows. – Ben Stone
- I see myself teaching at a dance studio and maybe traveling to each at other studios, too. I want to be like Brandon [the choreographer]. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. – Lili St. Amand
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