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Every Single Step

Imagine having reached the highest level of skill in your field through hours of grueling work that began when you were four years old. Now imagine knowing that you'll never get a permanent job, but will, if you're lucky, be hired periodically — that is, if your potential boss likes your height, hair, legs, aura and style. At every job interview, you'll encounter hundreds, perhaps thousands, of equally dedicated rivals with equally charming hair. This is the life of a Broadway dancer.

Every Little Step is a documentary about the casting of the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line — and A Chorus Line itself, which premiered in 1975, is a musical about the casting of a Broadway show. Much of the text f this classic is taken from the words of actual Broadway gypsies who spoke with choreographer-producer Michael Bennett about their lives. Bennett commissioned Marvin Hamlisch to write the songs. The script was arrived at through a process of brainstorming, and the rest is theater history.

In the film, director Bob Avian claims that Bennett created "the workshop device," but this is nonsense. Long before 1975, workshop-inspired productions had proliferated off-off-Broadway, tossing out conventional ideas about structure, focusing on process over product, and elevating the lives of ordinary people. Bennett's genius was to apply this approach to the big musical.

In the film, we meet Rachelle, who seems a shoo-in for the role of haughty Sheila but loses out in the final round with a too-emotional rendition of "At the Ballet." And Deirdre, who's been out of work so long she's contemplating leaving the stage but gets the part Rachelle lost with a pitch-perfect display of arrogance. There's Jason, whose monologue on growing up gay has the judges in tears, and Stephanie, the conventional blonde from New Jersey, who dances with such precision and abandon that she wins a key role though she's being considered only as an understudy. Charlotte D'Amboise, a highly respected performer and the daughter of Balanchine principal Jacques D'Amboise, dances her heart out for a chance at Cassie. And Baayork Lee, now part of the casting team, was the original Connie, a role built on her experiences as a brilliant ballerina too cutely tiny for a professional career. She protests fiercely as an actress she considers too cute is cast as herself.

It's left to Jacques D'Amboise, whose body eventually rebelled against the rigors of ballet, to communicate the fervor that drives these artists. Dance "becomes everything there is," he says. "The cosmos. The hardest thing is when you can't dance."

 
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