For more than 15 years, choreographer Barry Lather has been working his magic with some of the greatest stars in the music world and on the ice. Since cutting his choreographic teeth in 1986 when Janet Jackson gave him his start, Lather has choreographed everything from Super Bowl halftime shows to the Miss America competition. For his work on the stage, Lather has been recognized with an MTV Award and two Billboard?Music Awards. In 1992, he brought his style to the ice, choreographing a television special starring 1988 Olympic gold medalists Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt, and he has been enchanting audiences ever since.
Raised by two dance teachers, Lather began dancing at the age of five, and he still loves the process above all. His favorite part about choreographing is creating the steps. As he begins to visualize the completed project in his mind, he is always excited and cannot wait to share it. "You have to keep the audience in mind," says Lather. "When I'm creating the steps I always think, if I were watching this, would I think this is cool, or not? Would I be excited too?'" Not an ice skater by trade, Lather recognizes the differences between stage choreography and ice choreography. While his varied background brings a fresh new style to his ice productions, the mesh of dance and ice is not without challenges. "Choreographing for the ice is totally different ?the terminology, the mind frame, the physical aspects," Lather states. "The lingo is the biggest problem," he explains. "The vocabulary in dance is different from the vocabulary in skating. Also, skating is much more physically challenging than dancing. There are aspects of dance that won't transfer onto the ice, but there are moments that will only work on the ice ?and that made for an interesting challenge." So, Lather hires a skating assistant who knows the language of the ice, everyone works a bit harder to overcome the obstacles, and the result is a charming tapestry of storytelling, woven throughout with excitement and energy.
Another aspect of this Disney On Ice adventure that Lather enjoys is the opportunity to choreograph both people and animals from Disney's The Jungle Book, TarzanTM and The Lion King. When choreographing for the animals, Lather keeps the costumes in mind. "For example," he says, "when you're planning the steps, you have to keep in mind which of the animals have tails. That can affect the choreography. You have to think gorilla-like for some of the songs, and that's a lot of fun."
Lather is very excited about this unique Disney On Ice production, which ties together three of Disney's greatest jungle adventures. "The story is so well written and the transitions are so smooth that the story becomes a good time." From the comical Jungle Book production of "I Wanna Be Like You" to the highly acrobatic Tarzan number, "Trashin' the Camp," this production is a wonderful roller coaster ride that always remains true to the choreographer's vision for the show. Lather says, "While every new telling of a story reflects the storyteller's own interpretation, the most important thing is to maintain the integrity of each role and capture its true energy and true personality ?and make sure everyone has a great time in the process."
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