Dancer, choreographer and teacher Jamal Story doesn’t know for sure what he’ll be teaching the students at his master class Sunday.
“I’m just going to go look at the room,” he said. “I’m going to teach a standard class, at least one of my standard dance classes. I’m going to try to find one technical issue I can address; figure out what piece of information they need. I’m going to tackle one thing and that’s all going to depend on who’s in the room.”
The students who come to Story’s master class are probably in for a treat, but the audience at this year’s Dance FestivALL Wednesday night will likely get something special, too.
Story will join Charleston Ballet, River City Youth Ballet and JADCO Contemporary Dance Company on stage at the Clay Center. It’s hard to say what they will come up with, but Story brings a lot to Charleston.
His resume reads like a greatest hits list of plum dance jobs.
The dancer and choreographer has worked on hit Broadway shows like “Motown the Musical” and “The Color Purple.” He has toured with iconic pop artists, including Cher and Madonna. His name has been attached to several notable theaters and he currently serves as the co-chair of the National Dance Committee for the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), a labor union representing dancers, actors, and other media professionals.
Devoted to the study and application of movement, Story said he’s loved it all, though each gig or assignment seems very different than every other gig or assignment.
Currently, he’s again working with Cher on her “Classic Cher” show.
“She’s doing a split residency at the MGM casino in Oxen Hill, Maryland, and at the Vegas Park Theater at the Park Casino [formerly the Monte Carlo] in Vegas,” he explained. “We do 31/2 to 4 weeks at those venues, alternating with Bruno Mars and Ricky Martin.”
The dancer and choreographer described it as the best of both worlds.
“Being the wonderful employer that she is, Cher treats it like it’s a tour. We don’t just get up and relocate,” he said.
Story doesn’t have to give up his home in Brooklyn or the tight community of dancers and artists he knows in New York, but he’s still around creative people in Las Vegas enough to feel like he’s also a small part of that community, too.
Residencies have their charms, he said, but the eight show/six-day work week can get to be a grind, though touring, going from city to city, living on a bus, can wear you down, too.
“But it’s exhilarating,” he said. “You’re in and out and you really feel a sense of the road.”
Touring with megastars like Madonna, he said, is unlike anything else he’s ever done and very different than a Broadway production.
He described Broadway shows as the cast having more control of the energy exchange between the performance and the audience.
“You and the other performers are the ultimate level of authority in that dynamic,” he said.
Going on stage with someone like Madonna is not like that.
“When I did the Madonna tour, I will never forget the experience of how overwhelming it felt to be in the space,” he said.
Story remembered being in Barcelona and feeling the excitement coming at him like a wall or a tidal wave.
“Touring with a megastar means you and your co-workers will never be able to create the amount of energy that’s being thrown at you on stage by the fans,” he said.
It is awe-inspiring.
Story said he looked forward to coming to Charleston again. It will be his second visit inside of a year. He always enjoys the dance and sharing the things he knows with an audience.
Teaching comes with a different set of pressures.
“You have to make sure whatever you’re passing on is valuable, but will also take them in the right direction,” he said. “You don’t want to lead anybody astray. It’s a big responsibility.”