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How dancer-associate choreographer Alison Solomon juggles two careers at once
No, that title's not a riddle. While she has performed around the country for years, the Long Island native actually earned her first two Broadway credits as an associate choreographer. Now, however, she's landed onstage in Finding Neverland, the whimsical musical about how J.M. Barrie whipped up the tale of Peter Pan. She's both the assistant dance captain and a swing, which means that Main Stem audiences are finally being treated to her athletic fire and stylistic finesse.
Solomon values both branches of her career: serving as an associate and performing. Of the former she says, "The math side of my brain organizes and understands the moving pieces of a show, while the emotional side can read the room and feel when my opinion is needed or not." At the same time, she adds, "There is a passion and exhilaration in dancing that I can't get from anything else, even being an associate."
As she was pursuing her performing career, her dance captaining, assisting, and associate work developed alongside some of the theatre's biggest names, albeit before they were famous. "I developed relationships with Josh Bergasse and Andy Blankenbuehler by taking their classes and doing pre-production sessions," Solomon recalls. "Assisting came about naturally. Often, I'm one of the only females on the team, and yes, this is a problem all across musical theatre! But because I'm athletic and have partnering expertise from ballet, having me in the room sometimes helps male choreographers shape their work more easily."
Fortuitously, Solomon's role as an assistant ramped up while she was on medical leave from the tour of Billy Elliot with a hurt foot. One phone call took her from the stage to the studio, working on what would become the Broadway production of Beautiful, her behind-the-scenes Broadway debut. This quickly led her to assist Josh Bergasse on Broadway's Gigi, and now she's on the teams of the upcoming Main Stem productions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Blankenbuehler's Bandstand.
Yet even with top-tier choreographers vying for time, the stage beckoned. "I was still dealing with this injury, and honestly I didn't think I was capable of performing eight shows a week," Solomon says. "But I absolutely missed performing. So when I was invited to audition for Neverland, I decided to go."
Her choice panned out, though the duality of her career came into focus as she approached her callback. "I was already committed to setting the workshop of The Honeymooners for Josh [Bergasse], which would be a conflict if Neverland needed me immediately," she says. "The casting team assured me they could work around it if I got cast, but these are the types of issues that pop up with doing both."
On the very night of her callback, Solomon was invited to join Finding Neverland, and she started with the company soon after. "When I accepted the position at Neverland I was thrilled, but it meant I had to give up an associate project," she says. "I knew that choosing the performance contract was the right choice, but it was hard for me to let the other job go. I've been extremely lucky lately because I've been able to juggle both, as I've worked on two new musicals while dancing. It's amazing and exhausting and challenging."
For now, though, she doesn't want to give up any part of her mulit-faceted career. "I love the stability that being an associate gives me, and in a way, that gives me the opportunity to explore creative paths as a dancer. I have to be, and can be, more selective with the projects I choose because of the crazy scheduling matrix. But it means I get to do exactly what I choose to do each day."
TDF Members: At press time, there were discount tickets available for Finding Neverland. Go here to browse our current offers.
Lauren Kay frequently writes about dance for TDF Stages.
Photos taken by Kat Hennessey and edited by Matt Simpkins .