Anyone who saw Holiday Inn at Roundabout Theatre Company this past fall thought one thing when they left the theatre: That jump-roping, tap-dancing extravaganza was epic.
The idea to turn Christmas garlands into jumpropes during the tap-dancing romp “Shakin’ the Blues Away” was one of choreographer Denis Jones’ first ideas. “This was the first thing we did within two hours of the first day,” says Jones, now a Tony nominee for his work on Holiday Inn.
“The first thing I thought about is: What would be in the room? If you’re decorating for Christmas, what are the things that are around? Wreaths, Christmas garlands, ornaments. And then how do we play with these things?” Jones explains. “I like jumping rope and tap was my first love so I thought what would those two things be together in a grouping like this—three ladies and a jump rope?”
Still, the routine relies on spontaneity. “You want it to feel like it’s happening in real time, in the way that the character Jim is experiencing ‘Oh, I’ve never seen this before,’ you want the audience to feel that same way,” says Jones.
Jones has peppered the number with moments of daring to propel that momentum. And he enjoys when there is potential for things to go wrong. (Watch the full pop up video above to see those moments and find out if any of them actually did go wrong.)
But the choreography of “Shakin’ the Blues Away”—and all of Holiday Inn—is not only a high-octane joy ride. “My style does bend according to what project I’m on,” says Jones. “Holiday Inn was very much a celebration of movie musicals of the Golden Era, which I was very inspired by as a kid and continue to be inspired by.”
And tap dancing, be it in those movie musicals or Jones’ Holiday Inn, can be as communicative as other styles of dance. “All of the ideas in [‘Shakin’ the Blues’] are playful, joyful, rowdy, fun ideas that would bring a smile to [our leading man’s] face because that’s the story of it,” says Jones. “If you can also bring a smile to the audience’s face at the same time then it’s a win-win.”
Thanks to BroadwayHD for providing the video capture of Holiday Inn. Visit BroadwayHD.com to see the full musical and other theatrical offerings on-demand.