Magazine article Dance Magazine

On Broadway: Throwing His Weight Around: Former Paul Taylor Dancer Andrew Asnes Tries out Gymnastics in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers

Magazine article Dance Magazine

On Broadway: Throwing His Weight Around: Former Paul Taylor Dancer Andrew Asnes Tries out Gymnastics in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers

Article excerpt

He's danced in Aureole, Esplanade, and Arden Court. Between 1989 and 2000, Paul Taylor made more than a dozen roles on him. He's performed his own choreography at the Guggenheim Museum. So what is Andrew Asnes doing in a baggy, yellow tracksuit, surrounded by seven other guys in baggy yellow tracksuits, performing drill-team gymnastics? Asnes' answer is simple: "I'm on Broadway in a Tom Stoppard play. That's protocol."

Well, yeah, it is protocol. It isn't often that a world-class playwright writes "a not especially talented troupe of gymnasts" into an absurdist inquiry into the existence of God and then names the play for them. But that's precisely what happened with Jumpers, and why a world class dancer like Asnes finds himself on Broadway in a play rather than a musical.

The casting call asked for "college professors--amateur gymnastics required." The characters are members of the philosophy department of an unnamed British university, and they are the physical manifestations of the mental somersaults required to prove--or, for that matter, disprove--theoretical propositions of the simplest kind. Last year David Leveaux's National Theatre revival of the 1972 play became a hit in London. Now it's a hit again on Broadway.

The Jumpers are an assorted lot--tall, short, older, younger. Asnes, 39, is the only one with an extensive concert dance background. That's no accident. When he auditioned men for the Jumpers slots, choreographer Aidan Treays says he saw plenty of incredible athletes. They didn't interest him. "A lot of guys looked too much like dancers. I wanted guys who were a bit quirky, who had an interesting quality. After all," he says, "they are English philosopher-acrobats. They are eccentrics."

Asnes, a former member of the Paul Taylor Company, remembers his audition and how inadequate he felt after watching his competition. …

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