For Twyla Tharp's chiseled army of Broadway dancers, pre-show warm-ups begin early every day. Ballet classes, weight-lifting, cardio, physical therapy, and steam rooms all precede the first pirouette in Tharp's newest Broadway show, Come Fly Away. It's the ultimate workout before the workout.
The cast members then toss, turn, and thrust their bodies across the stage to Frank Sinatra's discography for two hours a night, six nights per week.
That grueling schedule requires a rigorous self-discipline and a whole team of people to help get their bodies into tip-top shape.
"I call them the Ferrari Team," says lead dancer Karine Plantadit. "Ferraris got to go a Ferrari dealer. So you need top-notch human beings." She counts Director/Choreographer Twyla Tharp, her dance partner, Keith Roberts, physical therapist, masseuse, and coach as members of the well-oiled dance machine. Plantadit swims laps for at least 20 minutes before coming into work.
This regimen of strength training and preservation eats up a huge chunk of the dancers' days. Twyla's dancers are encouraged to sleep during the day, and leads get a bed in their dressing room to rest their over-worked muscles.
Lead dancer Charlie Neshyba-Hodges says the forced nap time isn't as dreamy as it seems. "You want so badly to, like, run out and hang out with friends and go live life and do things. But so much of your day is centered around monitoring how much energy you put out, so that you have enough for the evenings," he says. "We get to do it six times a week. But the audience who’s paying only gets to see it once."
Constantly fighting off injuries also comes with the territory. Neshyba-Hodges has been sidelined for extended periods of time in the past. If he ever gets hurt again, he plans to use his newly-received architecture degree from the University of Washington to kick-start a back-up career.
For now, Neshyba-Hodges keeps an x-ray of his foot as a reminder of his body’s fragility. "I have that x-ray to just remind me every day before I go on stage that I'm working with a very precious instrument, that, when not respected, won’t respect me back."
Come Fly Away is now playing at the Marquis Theatre.