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EXCLUSIVE: Go behind the scenes with the queer queens of ‘Bob Fosse’s Dancin’’

(l-r) Aydin Eyikan, Kolton Krouse, Pedro Garza, Yani Marin, and Gabriel Hyman.
(l-r) Aydin Eyikan, Kolton Krouse, Pedro Garza, Yani Marin, and Gabriel Hyman at The Dickens. Photo by Neil Grabowsky/Through The Lens Studios for Queerty

Laughter permeates the second floor of The Dickens, New York City’s recently opened multi-level gay complex. Five openly queer performers from the Broadway revival of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ have gathered a few hours before showtime for an exclusive interview and photo shoot. In between set-ups, the close-knit ensemble shares anecdotes about show stans, onstage mishaps, and the grueling but rewarding life of a Broadway dancer. 

From splitting pants seams during the Act II opener “Sing, Sing, Sing” to discovering backstage signatures from the Music Box Theatre’s last tenant, Dear Evan Hansen, to managing the expectations of over-enthusiastic fans, life in the spotlight is more than you might think. 

The talented dancers opened up to Queerty about their lives, queer visibility, and revisiting Fosse under the watchful eye of director Wayne Cilento, who was in the original 1978 production.

Kolton Krouse (@koltonkrouse)

Kolton Krouse
Kolton Krouse. Photo by Neil Grabowsky/Through The Lens Studios for Queerty

By 2019, Kolton Krouse (they/them) — who started dancing at the age of nine and studied at Julliard — was fed up with casting calls that almost exclusively used “male-presenting” and “female-presenting” terminology for largely cisgender roles. 

“I wasn’t resonating with ‘go in and present yourself as a male,’” the Arizona native tells Queerty. “That’s not me. I don’t want to go on stage and be someone who’s not me, and I don’t really care to tell a white cis straight story anymore. So I’m gonna show up with a full face and makeup and red lips. Not always red; sometimes I’ll change it to a more muted tone, but I will find a job eventually.”

And just like that (if you ignore the pandemic), along came Dancin’, which Krouse not only booked (“I showed up in a leotard, tights, heels, and a full face”) but completely rules in Act I’s “Spring Chicken,” then later as the Trumpet Solo in “Benny’s Number.” 

“I really f*cking wanted it,” admits Krouse, who made their Broadway debut in the 2016 revival of CATS choreographed by Andy Blakenbuehler.

For Krouse, this was the second time working with producer Nicole Fosse (daughter of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon) after the FX limited series Fosse/Verdon, in which Krouse portrayed a Kit Kat club dancer.

While Krouse admits a Tony award nomination or win for Dancin’ would represent a “seen moment” that would “show a lot of the queer community that our stories do matter,” they ultimately feel that sometimes the best roles and opportunities are the ones you create for yourself (during the pandemic Krouse started co-writing and recording songs).

“One of the people I’ve grown up working closely with, she’s been like a mentor, is Dana Wilson. And she always used to say, ‘Hey, make your own work because it’s not always going to be there for you.’”

Pedro Garza (@pedrogabrielgarza)

Pedro Garza
Pedro Garza. Photo by Neil Grabowsky/Through The Lens Studios for Queerty

There are some wild stories about Dancin’s original production, which ran for 1,774 performances, including how shadier dancers would sabotage castmates by putting glass in their shoes so they could take their routines and the spotlight. But for the Abilene, Texas-born Garza, one stands out as the most absolutely batsh*t. 

“It was three acts,” he laughs. “Another hour of dancing? That’s got to be crazy. We’re not trying to do a Tony Kushner epic here, so I think we’ve condensed it to a concise two acts and hours of energetic and poignant bits of dance. Wayne’s done a great job of honoring people’s favorite numbers but incorporating a good amount of the lesser-known pieces, too.”

Admittedly late to the discipline compared to his castmates, Garza’s initial focus was singing. He didn’t begin dance training until he was 18. Nonetheless, he was passionate enough to be part of the show that, even after being cut from the initial audition process last year, he rushed home from a European vacation when the call came to try again. (Admittedly, it took additional prodding by his agent and a best friend since “last time I was pretty crushed, and I didn’t know if I wanted to spend thousands of dollars to get home to go through that again!”). 

The effort paid off. As a bonus, Garza as an offstage principal dancer, gets to cover for his boyfriend, ensemble member Tony D’Alelio (they first met while both were in Hamilton).

One thing Garza most appreciates about Fosse’s signature moves, like jazz hands, the sugar, and snake in the grass (“arms up, hands splayed out!”), is how they continue to influence and appear in new media, including the viral Wednesday Addams dance from the Netflix series. “I’ve seen a lot of ‘frug arms,’ the swinging of the elbow, wrist, hands, and Wednesday incorporated some into it,” he observes. He also appreciates the chance to queer up Fosse’s sometimes binary dance language, injecting a touch of his feminine side, which he admits was discouraged while growing up in a typically machismo-driven Mexican family. 

“What’s crazy about that is the Mexican culture is so matriarchal,” he shares. “Women lead the household in so many different ways. It’s kind of strange that when a young boy exhibits a lot of feminine qualities, it’s struck down. But I think something so big with the show is that dance has no gender. It pushes the boundaries because many intricate and visceral movements live so deep in the body with Fosse’s choreography — the moving of the hips, the turning of the wrist, all of these things that could in someone’s eye be seen as ‘feminine’ and shouldn’t be done by men are thrown out the window because you just see absolute excellence, athleticism, energy, and zest for life.”

Yani Marin (@iamyanimarin)

Yani Marin
Yani Marin. Photo by Neil Grabowsky/Through The Lens Studios for Queerty

For Yani Marin, Dancin’ represents a triumphant comeback. Ten years ago, the seasoned Broadway performer, with credits including Wicked, West Side Story, and the 2009 musical adaptation of Almodovar’s cult classic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, was burned out, fed up with the physical wear and tear, and “put my career in the closet.”

Yet after turning down repeat opportunities to audition for Dancin’, she gave in and was reunited with what she admits was lost for too long. “I always tell Wayne and [associate director] Corinne McFadden Herrera, ‘thank you for bringing joy back into my life,’” she says. “Because without dance, I really am not whole.”

Raised in a Cuban Catholic family in North Bergen, New Jersey, the happily married, queer-identifying Marin met her wife, Grammy nominee Divinity Roxx, in 2007. Marin admits that while she doesn’t like when lesbian representation is wedged into a project, she’s pleased when creators like Shonda Rhimes explore queer relationships organically in their work and feels that Bob Fosse, whom she channels via a monologue at the show’s end, would appreciate the amped up queer elements in the revival. 

“I know Kolton’s trumpet solo has never been done by someone other than a cisgender woman before,” she says. “Fosse would be down with this version. He would be proud. He might even want to push the queerness even further!”

More importantly, what does Marin’s wife think? “She loves it and is over the moon I can still do it and am enjoying it so much,” she admits. “She was by my side all the years as I was depressed and feeling something was missing. She also hopes this show will open new doors for me.”

Gabriel Hyman (@gabehyman)

Gabriel Hyman
Gabriel Hyman. Photo by Neil Grabowsky/Through The Lens Studios for Queerty

“Especially as I entered this career, people always asked me what’s my dream role,” Hyman recalls. “I think it hasn’t been created yet, but I always imagined being a principal on Broadway as a dancer, and it’s so rare in this industry because dancers are always ‘ensemble.’ So to say that I’m a principal on Broadway as a dancer first is a dream come true. That resonated even just auditioning for this because the last time that happened was when Dancin’ was originally on Broadway.”

Hyman was raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, and considered a career in concert dance with eyes on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, but became frustrated and concerned about paying bills when auditions for dance companies didn’t work out. Having kept Broadway in the back of his mind, he pivoted, enlisted acting and vocal coaches, and auditioned like crazy (“I always say it was like my Broadway masterclass”). Later, Hyman appeared in King Kong, for which the ensemble won a Chita Rivera Award.

Hyman, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Ailey School/Fordham University Lincoln Center, admits that it proved a revelation when he first learned about Fosse.

“I remember Beyonce had a music video inspired by Rich Man’s Frug, and I was like, what is this style?” he recalls. Hyman later found a touchstone in Ben Vereen, a Black Broadway legend who starred in numerous Fosse shows, including Pippin (for which Vereen won a Tony), referenced in Dancin’s “Big City Mime” vignette. 

“I think the coolest thing about seeing someone like Vereen and a lot of his work was beyond just Black representation,” Hyman says. “I mean, it's super beautiful to see yourself as a lead in a show like Pippin, but it was also really cool that Fosse was inspired by so many people of color. That inspired his movement and what he did, so to see someone like Vereen, a Black man, embody his work tied both worlds together and married the idea of inspiration and actualizing. I'm seeing Fosse but also a new generation, something I can relate to as a Black dancer.”

Would a show or biopic based on Vereen’s life also entail a dream role? “I mean, that’s gonna be epic,” Hyman says. “Someone needs to work on it ASAP because he's iconic.”

Aydin Eyikan (@aydineyikan)

Aydin Eyikan
Aydin Eyikan. Photo by Neil Grabowsky/Through The Lens Studios for Queerty

“When I was 14, I thought I was going to be in a ballet company,” admits the Fairfield, Connecticut-born Eyikan (first name pronounced I-den). “I remember performing in the final round of the Youth America Grand Prix international ballet competition that year at Lincoln Center, and I came offstage and was like, no. It felt great, but that didn’t make me feel like I was flying, and when you do ballet, they want you only to do ballet. So I think the younger me would be proud that I stayed versatile and didn't close any doors for myself.”

Having maintained a robust social media presence since he was a dancing tween with a particular talent for contemporary — in 2019, he was a contestant on NBC’s “World of Dance” reality competition — Eyikan came out to his supportive family at 16 (his mother responded, “Oh, honey, we know”).

Eyikan’s willingness to go against convention saw him turn down the chance to study at Julliard and book his first Broadway show, The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman, instead. Alas, he didn’t get Jackman to participate in one of his viral dance TikToks, recorded with fellow Music Man cast members during breaks. “He was definitely aware,” Eyikan notes, “definitely loved them, but he had more important things to do, such as play Harold Hill!”

As one of Dancin’s swings (Broadway lingo for understudies who perform multiple roles in an ensemble), Eyikan embraces the challenges of learning multiple tracks — including captivating routines performed by the nonbinary Krouse, although not yet the ones involving high heels — plus singing, all without having to stoop down to dirty 1970s tactics. 

“This cast is full of love,” he insists. “It's a family, and nobody would ever put glass in anybody else’s shoes here. We’re very aware this was an extremely iconic show, and we're bringing it back with a new look and energy, but it's still Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. We’re doing the original choreography; it’s just within moments, everybody does their own spin on things. It would be silly to revive a show, especially with the main focus being dance, and not have our twist on it.”

Bob Fosse's Dancin' is currently playing on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre.

Interviews were edited for length and clarity.