An Interview with “Step It Up & Dance”’s Jerry Mitchell

As a choreographer, Broadway and film veteran Jerry Mitchell
has guided the dainty footsteps of a dragged-out Harvery Fierstein in Hairspray, a blind Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, and he’s coached
hundreds of hot nearly naked chorus boys and girls in the hugely popular annual
New York
fundraising spree of exhibitionism and showy sass that is Broadway Bares. He
scored a Tony for his work on the 2004 revival of La Cage Aux Folles and he directed and choreographed the current Broadway smash Legally Blonde. But did all that prepare him for taking on Nomi

This week Mitchell debuts as the co-host, alongside Showgirls survivor Elizabeth Berkley, on
the new Bravo reality show Step It Up
& Dance
. Twelve hot-stepping dancers will compete to score a chunk of
prize money, and get recognized by some of the fiercest choreographers working
today. And — shocking news! — four of the six male contestants are gay — as is
the lovely Mr. Mitchell himself.

All this means it’s time to quiz Mitchell about this latest
super-gay Bravo TV series, and whether we can cope with yet another
dance-centric reality show. Plus, he also gabs about effeminate dancers,
sleeping with cast members (a big no-no!), his favorite divas and, of course,
what it’s like to work alongside the world’s most famous (or is that infamous?)
showgirl of all. Hi
Jerry, thanks for chatting! I just finished watching the first episode.
Jerry Mitchell
: Episode
One, which I haven’t even seen yet.

AE: Well, you look
lovely in it. You’re wearing a Fire Island
Pines T-shirt.

JM: I am? Oh, good.

AE: Why this show? Do
we need another reality dancing show?

JM: Anything that promotes dance to a national audience, I’m
behind 100%. We’re the stepchild of entertainment. We’re always at the bottom
of the barrel. So, I love that dance is getting so much coverage on television.
And people respond to dance like you respond to a bird flying — it’s something
you want to do but very few can.

AE: A big reaction
that people have to the show so far is, “Oh my God, Nomi Malone? Why the hell
is Elizabeth Berkley hosting this show?”

JM: [He laughs.] Elizabeth
has always been a dancer. She studied dance and she still does dance. I knew
that about her. We both grew up in the Detroit
area, but we didn’t really know each other before this. And I was a huge fan of
Showgirls — as is everyone. I said to
her the very first day we were shooting, “I want to time how long it takes
until one of these dancers does that fabulous Nomi move where they flick their
fingers in front of their face.” And, of course, the moment we walk out in the
first episode… Is it in there?

AE: Well, we see her
do it.

JM: She did it because they
did it. We came out and the dancers all
went, “Oh my God! Nomi!” and then — “Whoosh!” they all did the move. It took a
total of about seven seconds. But you know, that movie spoke to dancers in a
camp way, but also in a very realistic way about what can happen in your
career, the different types of dance you can get involved in and the cutthroat
world it is. So, in a melodramatic way, it’s true.

AE: I think Showgirls is a cautionary tale for

JM: Absolutely.

AE: So Elizabeth has fun with
it, and has a sense of humor about it?

JM: Oh, she looooves
that she was in that movie.

Mitchell with Step It Up co-host Elizabeth Berkley

AE: Will we see you
dance at all?

JM: So far you haven’t, but who knows? It’s early…

AE: In a loincloth,
like in your breakout Will Rogers Follies
role maybe?

JM: Well, there’s always Broadway Bares this June, which I’m
trying to rope Elizabeth
into doing. I think she’s going to do

AE: What’s the
biggest surprise about making the show for you? How much work it is, or the

JM: That I got emotionally attached to the kids. But I’m one
of those people who roots for everybody, and by the third episode, I was really
moved when someone got eliminated. I guess the intensity with which you film
these shows, and you’re together 24 hours a day for such a long period of time,
you become very connected.

Next page! "Did I look like a fag?"

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