Can a dancer’s body be tense and at ease at the same time?
The answer is yes, but it’s not easy, and it’s something Saco native Camden Loeser is working hard to master. Loeser, 21, is a dancer in the current Broadway National Tour of “Pippin,” the splashy 1970s musical famous for original choreography by Bob Fosse. The tour will stage two shows Saturday at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium, giving Loeser a chance to dance in a professional production in his home state. The shows are being presented by Portland Ovations.
The Fosse style, Loeser said, demands that a dancer’s body be tense in certain moments and in certain places while giving the audience the perception of ease. So the moves don’t always look exceptionally athletic or physical, but they take a toll on the body.
“It’s very physically demanding, because you use every part of your body, and very mentally demanding,” said Loeser, a graduate of Thornton Academy.
“Pippin” opened on Broadway in 1972 and won a Tony Award for Ben Vereen as the “leading player,” a sort of a narrator. A later production won a Tony in 2013, picked as Best Musical Revival. The show’s story focuses on young prince, Pippin, who goes to war to prove loyalty to his father, the king. This latest version includes a troupe of acrobatic circus performers, woven into the story. The show is probably better-known for it Fosse-style dancing and ’70s pop feel than for individual songs like “Magic To Do,” “Corner of they Sky” or “Morning Glow.”
Loeser, who is currently taking a leave from his studies at New York University, began acting in community theater as a child with his whole family. He was in productions at Lyric Music Theater in South Portland and at City Theater in Biddeford. He also took dance classes.
“My dad had grown up loving musical theater, and he wanted to get us involved,” said Loeser. “I did ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with my whole family. My dad was the scarecrow, and I was a Munchkin. My sister and my mom were involved too.”
Loeser played Pippin in a Thornton Academy production. He credits the Thornton Academy dance program, run by Emma Arenstam Campbell, with helping him on his way to a career in musical theater.
He’s gone to camps and festivals over the years, for musical theater and dance, and one was the famed Jacob’s Pillow dance festival in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. There, he met people and formed connections that led to his audition for this current tour of “Pippin.” The tour started in December and is slated to last at least until August.
Loeser is one of the male ensemble dancers and is in just about every scene. He’s also the dance captain, which means he has to know every part in every dance routine and help correct errors or problems from show to show.
Once the tour is over and he goes back to school, Loeser isn’t sure of his exact career path. He might continue to focus on Fosse-style dance. Or he might decide to focus more on musical theater and audition for shows.
“This is my first professional tour, so I’m trying to learn and am really enjoying it,” Loeser said.
WHEN: 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $45 to $70
WHAT ELSE: Camden Loeser, who grew up in Saco, is the production’s dance captain.