Lynne Kurdziel-Formato, associate professor of dance, works professionally alongside her position at Elon University and has for many years. This summer, Kurdziel-Formato raised her skill set and experience to yet another level when she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to the Fredericia Teater [Theatre] in Denmark.

For the past five years as well as during her recent sabbatical, Kurdziel-Formato worked with the Fredericia Teater on projects such as the European premiere of “Aladdin” and the Scandinavian premiere of “The Little Mermaid.” Last month she returned from her most recent production abroad, the Scandinavian premiere of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

The show was directed by Thomas Algerholm with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, manuscript by Peter Parnell and Soren Moller as executive artistic director. Kurdziel-Formato served as director-choreographer.

“Since the time that I was very, very young, I’ve always wanted to be in theater,” Kurdziel-Formato said. “My younger brother and I used to keep our babysitter captivated while we did our own shows and I always danced to music in my head.”

Photography courtesy of Frederica Teater in Denmark.

Kurdziel-Formato has come a long way since living room dances and an audience of one. “Hunchback of Notre Dame” enchanted the Frederica Teater and often sold out shows.

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” used dance genres such as folk, ballet and tap to jazz. Her director experience allowed her to run rehearsals when Algerholm was accomplishing other jobs to maintain the production’s timeline.

Her experience as a choreographer was also critical, she said.

“As the choreographer, [you] have to create how, why and in what fashion do they dance,” Kurdziel-Formato said. “You have to read the script. That’s what informs you about many, many things — time period, style. You have to read the script to understand the context.”

Kurdziel-Formato arranged several big dance numbers, but also orchestrated the staging of large ensemble and choir movements.

“There’s a choir that sings, so I had to find a way to move these people in robes and create beautiful patterns on the stage that called into play Catholicism and Christianity, but also took it to a theatrical place,” said Kurdziel-Formato.

Photography courtesy of Frederica Teater in Denmark.

In “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the main protagonist, Frollo, is torn between his secular self and the passion that he has for Esmeralda. Frollo, the gypsies and the townspeople each have their own vocabulary that changed the way Kurdziel-Formato was inspired to choreograph and stage the show.

Kurdziel-Formato also gained a new set of skills in the professional “Hunchback of Notre Dame” setting that she can apply to Elon student productions.

“This was an enormous technical production,” Kurdziel-Formato said. “Even though I worked with Fredericia before and we’ve performed at the opera house in Copenhagen, I learned even more about the integration of LED with physical plant and sound design. I mean, we had everything from hydraulics to flying.”

Kurdziel-Formato also had the opportunity to work with a larger timeline and budget. The show prepared to go into rehearsal for almost two years and tech week was three weeks compared to the three days Elon student productions are typically allotted.

Such technical work is not something that is always possible in educational theater.

“It’s a different ballgame,” Kurdziel-Formato said.

All differences aside, Kurdziel-Formato had no difficulty bringing her newfound knowledge to the Elon performing arts community and working to strengthen her capabilities as a professor.

“I brought back a refreshed desire to continue my own education,” said Kurdziel-Formato. “To find those things where maybe I’m not as strong as somebody else. To find the time to study, and put myself into other positions where I can enhance my own education.”

Kurdziel-Formato hasn’t so much as paused to take a breath since her return to Elon last month. Next on her agenda will be directing and choreographing Elon’s Winter Term, dance-heavy musical, “Cats!” The show presents itself as a perfect foil to past student productions such as “Parade” and “Little Women,” because of to its allowance for freedom in creativity in dance, within the natural parameters of its lyrics and score.

Kurdziel-Formato then heads back to Denmark, where “Hunchback of Notre Dame” will be remounted at King’s Theatre in Copenhagen for the summer. Opening night is set for June 23, 2017.


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