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Dancers Over 40 ARTS Legacy

DO40 Arts Legacy Interview

Bobby Hedglin-Taylor | Linda Rose Iennaco

Bobby Hedglin-Taylor

What inspired you to become a dancer?

My earliest memory of dance was watching West side story on a black and white TV when I was three years old and having no idea what was going on, except I saw the joy in the men’s bodies as they traveled through the streets of New York. I remember very specifically and vividly how my family would not embrace anything possible about the thought of dance or movement that wasn’t masculine. After elementary school and seeing my first Broadway show in the 70’s, I was blown away at what theater was and what dance was. I wanted to make it my career, but being from a small town in Pennsylvania only gay men did that. So no matter what avenue of dance I chose it had to be perceived as masculine. As sad as that is, I chose the route of ballroom dance, because it was very romantic and it was a way to experience the world of dance without being seen as just another gay man. It was a form of hiding back then, hard to be closeted and pretending. I saw my first Bob Fosse show Chicago in the summer of ‘75. I was blown away at the way that the dancers actually made shapes with their bodies that weren’t typical. It awakened me to this ideal that movement was not just frenetic, but it was explosive at moments quiet at others. Then going to see shows by Joe Layton, Michael Bennett, Jerome Robbins I began to understand how the human body was used to tell a story. It was a very exciting experience once I had that realization, and it was indeed a gateway to my true self and my true calling.

Who were the most influential in your career?

There are so many, but I will go back to West Side Story. All those men in the chorus of were influential and inspiring me to be a dancer, and to not only express myself through dance, but through the art of movement in general. My first dance teacher Kathij Hubner was a former Fosse dancer; she worked with Bennett, de Mille and so many more. She was in the 1976 revival of My Fair Lady and toured with the original companies of Cabaret, Follies and Promises, Promises. She was a tough love kind of teacher who would challenge you at every moment to be your absolute best. She knew how badly I wanted to be a dancer and immediately put me on scholarship. I danced for her through high school and college until I moved to New York. Other people that were influential don’t really know they were influential. Bob Fosse is a huge hero of mine. I have always been enamored by the way that he structured a dance to tell a story while breaking all the norms and shapes of the body that were traditional musical theater and traditional ballet.

One of the few people who started my circus career was DO40 member John Sheridan, an actor, dancer and singer, who was on tour with Mary Martin in Hello, Dolly. His big claim to fame was as Tulsa in the 1974 revival of Gypsy with Angela Lansbury. He plucked me out of a coat check from a bar in the West Village and gave me my first job. He sent me to a circus coach, and my circus career was born.

His attention to detail of what he was looking for in the way that he helped guide and push was absolutely beautiful. I remember him teaching me the dance routine for Gypsy used in the multiple Broadway revivals and the TV version that used the Jerome Robbins choreography. John’s patience was being tested time after time, because I wasn’t getting one of the moves until finally he demonstrated full out what it was supposed to look like. I went for it and got called back several times. I may not have lots of Broadway credits, but the dancing I did, I worked hard for, and the drive is still in me every day when I think of dancing. Be yourself and be brilliant. I don't care if I'm 100 years old. I will still want to be on the stage, performing.

What were your most memorable dance performances?

I was cast as Bobby in A Chorus Line and learned the original Michael Bennett staging. Being a swing in the musical Barnum and dancing the Joe Layton choreography. I and covered 17 chorus parts and 3 principles and understudied PT Barnum. Some weeks I was on for a different role every show.

Learning and performing the original choreography and Hal Prince staging of Cabaret. Being able to learn and perform original staging and choreography has been a passion of mine since I started my career.

What was the most frightening or funny story?

While doing Kiss of the Spider Woman in summer stock, I was tasked with being the inmate who escapes to the yard, climbs the wall and gets shot down. I started my entrance and snuck across the stage. The music started to swell. I saw the guards and I ran into the wings. I entered on the second level of the set, and I started climbing this giant steel framework of the jail. It had specific little spots where I could put my hands and little tiny platforms for my feet so I could climb really high. It came time for the dramatic moment where they shoot me down and I fell dramatically 20 feet to the stage (safely of course).

During my climb, my shirt got stuck in the set and I was literally stuck to the set. I saw the guards positioned looking like they’re about to shoot me down, waiting for my cue, but there’s no sound effect of the gunshot. The chorus kept singing “over the wall! over the wall!” They reached the climactic moment of the song and I had to do something so I feigned like I was electrocuted and shuddered. Then I hung there because I was stuck to the set and slumped down playing dead 20 feet in the air. I heard the gunshots and as the lights are going dark, my shirt ripped, and I slipped slowly down to the stage and slumped into a pile. The lights came back up and the guards came to pick me up and take me offstage. People who saw the performance couldn’t figure out if I was electrocuted or shot. And neither could I!

What would you say to the next generation of dancers?

As DO40 president John Sefakis, at the Dancers over 40 Legacy awards quoted Chita Rivera, “Once you stop, everything drops.” Keep moving no matter what, every day find a way. Go to audition even if you don’t want the job. I know a lot of people frown on that, but it was the way that I got a free dance class. You get a chance to work with a new choreographer and learn how to pick up choreography.

I also encourage everyone to find as many ways to dance as possible. Discipline is one of the hardest things to take into your life after high school and college. Also, this business changes almost daily. When I started in the ’80’s it was a very different system. Here we are in 2023 and it’s unrecognizable. People are getting cast by how many likes they have on Facebook or how many Instagram or TikTok followers they capture. It’s a very different industry, but it is always been a business and you have to remove the emotion and the desperation when it comes to auditioning and getting jobs. Show them what you can do and leave everything in that room. Sometimes you have one of the best auditions and you leave feeling so good and never hear from the casting people again. You never know what’s going on on the other side of the table. Be yourself, show them who you are, do your best, thank them for their time and leave. A job is not real until the contracts are signed, and the first paycheck clears!!


Linda Rose Iennaco

What inspired you to become a dancer?

MUSIC: the beat, rhythm, high notes, low notes, accents, instru-ments, phrases, styles. Glenn Miller, Arte Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Xavier Cugat, Perez Prado, Guy Lombardo, Fats Domino. Swing, Soul, Latin, Waltz, Rock ‘n Roll, Boogie Woogie, Polka, Irish Jig.

Who were the most influential people in your career.

  • My parents, Leon and Charlotte Rose. Dad could and loved to dance. Mom was a beauty-queen.
  • My only dance teacher, Charles Hughes who taught me to leap and land, turn and slide without getting hurt.
  • My high school choral teacher who encouraged me to keep dancing.

What were your most memorable dance performances?

All were memorable for different reasons:

  • Dancing solo in night clubs – making crisp, precise rhythms while dancing and twirling so close to the couples dining at and admiring from their tables or the bar.
  • Go-Going provocatively atop the bars at the ’64 World’s Fair to the soulful gospel music of James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
  • Performing for the TV cameras – imagining eye contact and acceptance from the imagined audience, knowing every move was magnified so needed to be without flaws.
  • Proudly dancing in ensembles – managing to blend, but still be special.
  • Being partnered by Ron Schwinn in No, No Nanette’s “Tea For Two.”
  • My most memorable dance performance was one in which I did not dance. I was an understudy in “No, No Nanette.” On the road understudies were given the opportunity to sit in the audience for one performance and view the onstage happenings. When the “I Want to Be Happy” tappers surged through the upstage double doors, fanning out and filling the down stage from left to right, with the music intensity growing to a final 5,6,7,8. I was thrilled and got chills knowing that for every other performance I would be in the center of the pack thrilling and giving chills to those in their seats who were eagerly awaiting Ruby Keeler and the return of tap dancing to the Broadway stage. The roar of applause, the spectacular energy on and offstage remains in my heart’s mind!!

What was the most frightening or funny story?

Hmmm? I could have had a frightening or funny story, but whenever offered ‘hazard pay’ on the first days rehearsing a Broadway show I demurred. Therefore, I did not dance atop a beach ball in “Peach on the Beach,” fall off, roll into the orchestra pit, or irreparably break a patella.

And when the stagehands placed the ‘fusilli-shaped beach slide (from where ‘Hundreds of Girls” made their entrance) slightly on-angle for one of the ‘out-of-town’ tryout performances, I did not fly off mid-descent or topple from the scaffolding way above the stage where the corkscrew initiated.

And then when rehearsing the band in a mob-owned nightclub in Revere Beach, MA I took a sound cue, sped up the tempos and safely extricated myself from the stage where the ’boys’ were firing into a metal wastebasket to blowout the eardrum of a rival gangster who unfortunately for him – had answered his phone. The handset had been dangled into the trashcan. What I learned from all this: stay away from the beach.

What would you say to the next generation of dancers?

What I say to everyone who wants something: Follow your heart, gather your tools, explore the techniques of your desired “something.” learn the rules of the road, and practice, practice, practice. And if you take good care of your instrument - hydrate, fuel, move and rest - you will give yourself the gift of life and the pursuit of happiness.


Background Photo DO40 Cares 2012, By Jeff Eason, Wilsonmodels, Inc