More Musings by Marianne


Pink Flower

Well, it’s almost that time again – time for another new dance competition show on TV!  And there go my Monday nights.  Why?  Because I’m totally hooked.   I think it’s just fabulous that dance is so hot these days.  Dancers are now IT!  We’re no longer low man on the totem pole.  We’re actually garnering admiration, acquiring stature - and, dare I even say it?… respect.

And it feels good.  After all, I am a dancer, always was, always will be.  How very gratifying that our particular discipline has now finally been acknowledged and validated.

That’s why these shows please me so.  I enjoy them every bit  as  much as the general population, and   probably  even  more – because I know what it takes to do what they do, how very hard  it is to make it look so easy,  and to manage to accomplish it all in nothing flat – very impressive.

I also think the judges have done a terrific job of educating America about dance.  I have a non-dancer friend who said she has learned a great deal about dance just listening to the judges’ critiques.  And that’s a very good thing; with each succeeding season, America does seem to be voting smarter.  

How I chuckle when I think back to the 80’s, when I was choreographing TV commercials. I can still hear those ever-so-wise pundits from the ad agencies telling me, “Dance is over now – this is the end of it – there won’t be any more dancing on commercials”.  Yeah, right.  I defy you to turn on the TV now and NOT see a dancing commercial – they’re dancing about soup, they’re dancing about real estate, they’re even dancing about Emergency Rooms!  Isn’t it wonderful!

So, here I am, relishing the popularity of dance.  But as I’m watching these splendid young thoroughbreds, there’s a bittersweet pang.  I look at those gorgeous costumes on those gorgeous bodies, and I can feel the weight of those beaded dresses I used to wear onstage.  And as I watch the women move so effortlessly in those 4” heels, I remember how terrific it felt to dance high on my releve and be in total control of my body. 

Now don’t get me wrong - I’m in pretty good shape… for my age - or any age for that matter.  I’m sure many women of my “vintage” would kill for my 115 pound body.  But, I know it’s not the body of my twenty-year-old self.  And sure, I can still get my leg up over my head, but now I pay the price.  My knees aren’t at all happy on stairs, my arabesque is more like a tendue since spine surgery, and those 4” heels will never grace these cranky feet again.   Those big jumps across the floor at the end of ballet class that I used to adore, will never again be a part of my life.

Sunny Road

So be it.  Things change.  You adjust.  You move on.  Life is not stagnant.  There are new interests, new abilities.   And yet, at the same time, I feel I’m dancing better now than I ever have; certainly not technically, but as a complete dancer.  Wouldn’t it be something if the dancer of our younger days could merge with the mature dancer we are today?  Ah, dream on…

So, although I’m a different dancer now, once a dancer, always a dancer.  And my dear husband claims I still have the best legs on Broadway.  He may not really mean it… but at least he says the right thing.  Smart man.


About Marianne Selbert

DO40 member Marianne Selbert began her professional career as a performer, in the classic Broadway productions CABARET (original cast), COCO with Katharine Hepburn, CANTERBURY TALES, SUGAR and MACK AND MABEL.

Her television credits include the Emmy Award-winning specials BARYSH-NIKOV ON BROADWAY and BEN VEREEN, HIS ROOTS, where she served as assistant choreographer to the great Ron Field. Other stars Marianne has put through their dance paces include Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Debbie Allen, Nell Carter, and Chita Rivera.

For ten years, from 1989 to 1999, Marianne choreographed the "Christmas in New York" segment of the annual CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR at Radio City Music Hall, starring the Rockettes and also served as associate choreographer on 5,6,7,8 DANCE! at the Music Hall, starring Sandy Duncan. She has choreographed numerous television commercials, including the very long-running MILFORD PLAZA, which has become a classic for product identification as well as longevity.


Clean, But at What Cost?
by Marianne Selbert

Hello, my dear fellow mature gypsy friends. Something has been bothering me for quite a while now, and I’d like to throw it out there for discussion.

Let me preface my comments by saying that I think today’s young theatre dancer is technically extraordinary. They knock my socks off! My God, these kids are so strong, they can do stuff I couldn’t even dream of doing! And that’s as it should be – in art, in science, in sport, in whatever – each generation should evolve beyond the one before it.

Now, here comes the big BUT… I think something has been sacrificed for the sake of cleanliness and strength. Movement seems to have lost its flow. We were taught that you never stopped moving – you filled the phrase and arrived just in time to move on to the next one. But what I see now is so rigid, harsh and robotic. It is clean, clean, CLEAN – but where is its life, its breath, its soul?

And the dancers themselves seem to crave this style (or lack thereof…). When I’ve choreographed, they want to know where every eyelash is at every moment. I don’t get any individuality or exploration of what a movement WANTS to be or where it WANTS to go. It’s all locked in before it’s given a chance to express itself. And the thing that baffles me is that these kids are SO good, they could easily do it all. So, is it a self-imposed trend or are the choreographers demanding it of them?

Also, I certainly acknowledge the usefulness of numbers along the edge of the stage for spacing purposes; but, when a dancer is told they’re on Number 2, I’ve actually been asked if it’s their left foot or their right foot! And then the next question: does this movement take them 3 feet to the left or 4 feet? My God, if they’re so riveted to the numbers, how can they be dancing? Can’t we just dance and see what happens? Didn’t we feel the space around us? Weren’t you able to place yourself between the body on your left and the body on your right? Am I imagining things?

Well, I guess I’ve done some venting, haven’t I? So, dear friends, what do you think? Have you had the same experiences and perceptions as me, or am I just an old dinosaur who should go back to puttering happily in her garden? I’d love to hear what everyone thinks, either as an open forum on the DO40 discussion board, or to my email, if you’d rather: mselbert@optonline.net

Much love and Happy Holidays!


Photo By Jeff Eason, Wilsonmodels, Inc