By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor
I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Powers, Alexandria-raised and educated, and one of the incredibly talented dancers/actors/singers now appearing in “A Chorus Line” at Signature Theatre in Shirlington. The following is my recollection of the animated and easy conversation with this delightful young man.
Zebra So Daniel, what’s your connection to Alexandria and this community?
Daniel Well, I moved here from Guatemala with my parents, Janet and Jack Powers, right after I was born and lived in Alexandria until I graduated from TC Williams High School (with an Honors Diploma). I also attended John Adams Elementary and Hammond Middle Schools in Alexandria. My parents still live here. They just moved from Braddock Heights to the West End near Landmark Mall.
Zebra How did you make the transition from Alexandria to New York, where you currently live and work?
Daniel When I was five years old I attended a performance of Alexandria Ballet’s “Nutcracker Suite” at the Athenaeum in Alexandria. Following that amazing experience I told my parents, “That’s what I want to do! I want to be a ballet dancer!” And my wonderful parents said, “OK, let’s get you in lessons!” I guess I was the kind of kid who wanted to do everything, but during my last two years of school I got serious about my ballet and ended up training at the Washington School of Ballet.
Zebra Just how does one become a professional ballet dancer, the most difficult and demanding career, I think, that you can pick for yourself?
Daniel Well, after graduation from TC Williams, I got a job with the Orlando Ballet for a year, then went on to do the training program at Houston Ballet. Following that experience I joined the Cincinnati Ballet which performed at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. I danced with them professionally for four years and then joined the Dayton Ballet for two years. I also worked for Cincinnati Opera in the summer when they needed dancers for big productions like “Aida.” Following that I moved to New York to try my hand at theatre. Recently I did a production with the Virginia Repertory Theatre of “West Side Story” and was the male swing for “Billy Elliot” here with Signature Theatre.
Zebra So did you have to audition for your role(s) in “A Chorus Line” or did they just know your work from “Billy Elliot” and say, “You’re in!”
Daniel Oh, no. I auditioned, got called back, then got a contract.
Zebra Where are you staying while you’re in town?
Daniel It’s a reunion for my family when I can work here in Alexandria, so I’m staying with them. My mother often volunteers as an usher at Signature, so she knows it quite well and is “over the moon” about my being home and working there.
Zebra What’s it like working with Matthew Gardiner, the unbelievably talented director, and Denis Jones, choreographer, and Tony-nominated for his choreography for “Tootsie” currently running on Broadway?
Daniel Matt Gardiner is an amazing director and terrific to work with, as is Denis Jones, our choreographer. “I’ve worked with many people who have created new things, but I really ‘geek out’ when I work with people like Denis who clearly understand their intention and who work in patterns and ways that are not overly complicated or dense. They just kind of make sense for your body and you go, ‘Oh, this just feels good.’”
In summary We continued to talk about Daniel’s experiences as well as his plans for continuing doing musical theatre, which he enjoys because each performance feels different and is exciting. He shared his pre-show routine each night for the intense dancing that begins at the top of the show, confiding that the opening number is like “being shot out of a cannon!” He warms up his body and his mind for about an hour before each show just to get ready for that number. Then he laughed and said that each time he hears the opening bars of the iconic “I Hope I Get It,” he always gets a huge thrill!