Thursday, April 4, 2013


He used to live in the building that is next door to ours.

His limo was often parked directly in front of our building.

Golly, the shows Tommy Tune directed -- this guy could really put a hit together. The list is amazing; the awards he got are amazing; the way he's done what he wanted to do with no clear career pattern tells me that this man hasn't been seeking money, or fame, or notoriety.

That's why I want to write about him. This man takes on a job that interests him, and brings to it all the talents he has -- the visual artist, painter, costume creator, set designer, casting agent, as well as the dancer, choreographer, director. Top billing, I think, goes to the dancer aspects of this guy. He was one, is one, and everything he does right now continues to have what I call the dancer mentality. (Yes, it takes one to know one.)

Tommy sees patterns; he knows physicality, and the joy of expressing himself in movement. He can really move -- bet I could teach him the dance that I do every day -- the steps are simple, but performing them is not simple.

It's revisiting -- ala Stanislavsky, (method acting) -- a room. Seeing it, noting everything -- ceiling, walls, outlets, and cracks on the walls, furniture, floor, marks on the floor -- discovering everything freshly. Mostly, a dancer doesn't discover freshly. The dancer locks in a movement by repeating it, practicing it's like a conditioned reflex. Only a real dancer, though it's locked in as a reflex, creates the movement as he dances -- performs it, as if it has never been done before.

Is Tommy Tune my favorite male dancer? No, but he's my favorite creator in the field of movement for the stage. Oh my -- how young he is, despite the fact that he's in his early seventies now, and 6'6." Surely he has knees, back, hip areas that are worn down, and plenty of aches and pains.

I have to confess, I especially like the fact that he came to my show when crowds were coming (I was temporarily chic when my dance-drama "Zinnia" was being performed on weekends at the Colonnades Theater (across from Joe Papp's huge building). Tune told a lot of people that "Zinnia," my dancing brought tears to his eyes.

My husband, John Cullum co-directed this dance-drama. The music was Mahler's Tenth Symphony. Carole Mayo Jenkins played the speaking character. I was "Zinnia," the child dream aspect of the actressThe truth is, I wear Tommy Tune's praise -- that sentence he said -- like an orchid, pinned to my blouse.

Here's Tommy Tune, talking, singing, dancing around the way he's been doing all of his life, telling his own story.


Peggy Bechko said...

Great post Em, and ties in nicely with your earlier post on dreaming - plainly Tommy lives his dreams. Inspirational.

Carola said...

I love your idea of exploring a room as the premise for a dance.

Linda Phillips said...

I so enjoyed the blog and loved the video. Tune is a true "One and Only"!

I have had the good fortune to have seen several of his Broadway musicals. He is truly brilliant.

Last year he directed a show called "54 Forever" about the famous New York Disco, Studio 54. It was performed by students at a University in Florida. One of my dearest friends wrote the "one an only" original song that was used in the show. Both the show and my friend Stephen Cole's song received wonderful reviews.

There has been talk that it may be produced in NYC at the theatre that once was the actual Studio 54.

kitjoegia said...

This is so wonderful Em! Thanks so much for sharing this great piece on Tommy.

Mary Russell said...

I was wondering how tall he was, as in the photo he looks huge. 6' 6"! I'm sure he'd adore this tribute to him. What a privilege it must've been to see him dance in his heyday. Considering we're all born with more or less the same bodies, it also astonishes and impresses me when someone can channel their physicality into the medium of dance and interpret the music and story so beautifully. Alas, not me. Graceful, I am not.