Ballet Stars
Leanne Cope with Robert Fairchild in An American in Paris. Photo Courtesy Trafalger Releasing.

Former Royal Ballet first artist Leanne Cope made the ultimate ballet to Broadway crossover. In 2014 she was asked by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon to originate the role of Lise Dassin, a hopeful young ballerina, in his new stage production of An American in Paris. Alongside former New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild, Cope starred in critically acclaimed runs of the show on both Broadway and London's West End. Though the production closed in London last January, audiences will have the chance to see Cope and Fairchild in their original roles in a filmed version of the West End production in movie theaters around the US and Canada September 20 and 23. Pointe caught up with Cope to find out what it's like seeing herself on the big screen, her advice for ballet dancers interested in musical theater, and how she managed dancing the same steps eight shows a week... for nearly four years. To see if An American in Paris is coming to a movie theater near you, click here.


What was the best part of doing An American in Paris?

One of the most exciting parts was opening on Broadway and opening on the West End. They were two very different evenings, but by the time we got to London I knew the show much better, so it was nice to know that I felt comfortable in the role. Getting to perform at the White House for Michelle Obama was also amazing—there were so many things, it's hard to pick just a few.

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News
Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild. Photo Courtesy Trafalger Releasing.

An American in Paris, the wildly popular musical directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, comes to movie theaters nationwide September 20 and 23. Filmed in London in 2017, this version features the show's original stars: former New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild and former Royal Ballet first artist Leanne Cope. Based on the classic 1951 Gene Kelly film with a score of Gershwin standards, An American in Paris played on Broadway and in London's West End to rave reviews and numerous awards, including a 2015 Tony for Best Choreographer. This limited screening will bring the best of Broadway up close to the masses. For a full list of participating theaters and to purchase tickets, available July 12, click here.

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Fairchild and Sterling Hilton in "Duo Concertant." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet announced today that principal dancer Robert Fairchild will give his final performances with the company this October. Since his 2015 leave of absence to make his Broadway debut as Jerry Mulligan in Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris, Fairchild's presence on the Koch Theater stage has been rare. A true song-and-dance man, as a child he dreamt of following in the footsteps (or tap shoes) of Gene Kelly. Fairchild leaves the world of ballet to take on the surplus of opportunities in musical theater that have recently come his way.


Fairchild in "Apollo." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

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Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in An American in Paris. Photo Courtesy Broadway World.

If you haven't seen Christopher Wheeldon's Tony Award winning musical An American in Paris yet, you better hop to it. The hugely successful Broadway production closes on January 1, 2017 after a nearly two-year long run. Don't panic if you can't drop everything and buy a plane ticket to New York, though: The show will commence its national tour in October 2016.

The U.S. tour will star former San Francisco Ballet soloist Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan (who has been performing the role on Broadway) and former Miami City Ballet soloist Sara Esty as Lise Dassin. At the show's London opening in March 2017, New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild and The Royal Ballet's Leanne Cope will reprise their originating roles.

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As America anxiously awaits Stephen Colbert's return to the small screen, dance and theater fans have something special to look forward to. Christopher Wheeldon, the choreographer of Broadway's An American in Paris, along with its two stars, New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild and Royal Ballet first artist Leanne Cope, will appear on "The Late Show" on September 18. Fairchild and Cope will perform an excerpt from American in Paris. Kudos to Colbert for featuring performers beyond the usual Hollywood stars! 

Photo by Kyle Froman

Ever wonder what life is like as a ballerina on Broadway? Just peek inside Leanne Cope's dance bag. Cope, who stars as Lise in Christopher Wheeldon's production of An American in Paris, carries not only pointe shoes in her Parisian canvas tote but also a well-worn pair of LaDuca heels. “My dresser, Midge, carries this bag around with her during the show, just in case of emergencies," says the Royal Ballet first artist, who's on sabbatical from the company through the end of the show's run. “She basically shadows me, because I have a lot of quick changes."

Cope always has her script nearby, as well. “Not only is every word of the show written in here, but all my stage directions. It's nice to go back to it every once in a while. When you reread it, almost as a novel, it gives you another spin on things." Her other Broadway must-have? Lip balm. “With all the singing and talking, my lips tend to get dry," she says. It also serves as a better alternative to lipstick during kissing scenes with her co-star, New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild. “We don't do lipstick—it would end up all over his face!"

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Say what you will about Nutcracker, but there's something magical about the ballet. The snowflakes falling on the stage, the little girls in the audience falling for tutus and pointe shoes.

 

Leanne Cope, this issue's "Dancer Spotlight," has a special attachment to Nutcracker. During a performance at The Royal Ballet in 2009, her boyfriend, soloist Paul Kay, got to dance the Nutcracker Prince to Cope's Clara. At the end of Act II, the choreography calls for the Nutcracker to hand Clara a prop card. Instead, Kay slipped her a note that said, "Will you marry me?"

 

"Thank goodness I didn't have to do any more steps," Cope jokes, looking back.

 

It's easy to get jaded during Nutcracker. The relentless marathon of shows is simply exhausting, both physically and mentally. But even if your run this year doesn't include a proposal, don't forget: Somewhere out there in the audience, someone's falling in love with you and what you get to do up on that stage.

 

 

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