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Chloe Campbell takes Chicago in ‘Hamilton’

Chloe Campbell in rehearsal for 'Hamilton'. Photo courtesy of Campbell.

Does the name Chloe Campbell ring a bell? Dance Informa interviewed this British beauty last March upon making her Broadway debut in Tuck Everlasting. A lot can change in six months. Tuck sadly closed after less than 40 performances. But that’s showbiz, kid. And just like that, Campbell was back at the audition grind with thousands of other dancers in New York. But her talent and tenacity paid off when she was cast in the first out-of-town company of Hamilton. We caught up with Campbell, who takes on the intimidating role as a swing, after she recently celebrated the show’s Chicago opening on October 19th

Did you see Hamilton in New York? What was your first impression of the show?

Behind the scenes at 'Hamilton' Chicago. Photo courtesy of Chloe Campbell.

Behind the scenes at ‘Hamilton’ Chicago. Photo courtesy of Chloe Campbell.

“I did see Hamilton on Broadway! When I saw it, I was just blown away by the detail in the show — in the music, lyrics and choreography. It’s stimulating in every way. And I’m a huge fan of hip hop, and the beats in this show killed me! The music is so good. As someone who did not grow up learning American history, it was all new to me and fascinating. I didn’t know exactly who the founding fathers were, or their role in the making of America. To see it told by a cast that looks like the America of today, really made things so relevant to issues occurring now.”

What was the audition process like?

“It was a grueling day. This show requires a lot of stamina and, on top of that, great attention to detail, so I’m sure they wanted to see how we coped through a long day with many different styles of dance. For my role as a swing, being able to master the movement quickly is important, and I feel that that skill was tested in the audition process, too. The audition was one day of dance, and I was called back to sing. I had had two previous auditions for Hamilton (on Broadway), so I got called in a little later to go through this process.”

You’re a swing for Hamilton. Can you explain what this means? What characteristics make a good swing, and what are the benefits and challenges of the job?

“A swing is the backbone of any company. I like to say they are the unsung heroes of a show! I had never been a swing before, so for me it was a new and exciting challenge. I have always appreciated how tough the role of a swing was but never knew just how tough until I became one! A swing has to learn all the ensemble roles in the show. If someone gets injured, sick or has vacation time, then the swing steps into their role. On a show like Hamilton, it is especially difficult as a swing, as the show runs two hours and 45 minutes, and the ensemble are on stage the majority of that time. Rarely do two members of the ensemble do the same thing, so I had to learn one track at a time so my brain didn’t get muddled combining tracks. I think the main characteristic that makes a good swing for this show is attention to detail. The movement needs to be second nature, and intention for movement needs to be something that is in your body. For this show, a swing is always thinking about spacing, what prop you need, what lift you’re performing and what chair you’re grabbing. If the essence of the movement isn’t in your body, you cannot concentrate on all the other elements on the stage.  

The benefit to the job as a swing is that I get to go out and watch the show sometimes. Normally when I’m in a show, I really have no idea what the audience is seeing. You just do your show, but you don’t always know what the other performers are bringing to the table, how the audience is reacting and what the overall show looks like. But as a swing, when I’m not on, I can watch the show and celebrate how incredible the performers and the show are. I love that about my job! I love watching people grow and find new things about their character and interactions with other people on stage. I also like that, as a swing, I get to do all the different ensemble parts. I can have different experiences when I go on because I’m seeing the show from different angles and interacting with different people.  

My main challenge is keeping up my stamina when I’m not on stage. I have to train in the gym every day and do physical therapy exercises to ensure I have the stamina and strength for the show. Your body doesn’t become used to that side when you are not doing the show eight times a week.”

How would you describe the choreography of the show? Did any particular classes, teachers or training prepare you for this type of dancing?

'Hamilton' Chicago. Photo courtesy of Chloe Campbell.

‘Hamilton’ Chicago. Photo courtesy of Chloe Campbell.

“The number one rule for this type of choreography is always dance with intention. That was drilled into us from early on in rehearsals. Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography always has meaning, so if you stick to the meaning, the steps will come. It does have a large hip hop influence. I grew up dancing in a hip hop group when I was younger, so this style really plays to my strengths. Also, I have solid ballet training from college, and technique is a huge part of the show as well. You need to be very strong, especially for all the partnering work. It is a challenging show to perform, so when you have a good base technique, it’ll help keep you strong in your performance.”

How does it feel to be a part of perhaps one of the most groundbreaking musicals in history?

“I feel so extremely lucky to be a part of this show. I think, as artists, we are always fighting between being artistically fulfilled and then needing to make a living. Often in a commercially successful show, you are not always pushed artistically and it becomes just a ‘job’. In Hamilton, I am proud to say I am fulfilled as an artist. I am challenged every day. You can keep doing this show and in a year realize that there was something you missed out — realizing a lyric meant this, or that piece of music had that influence. It is filled to the brim with detail. I am sometimes overwhelmed at the detail. This is why I became a performer: to stimulate people’s senses and to excite people. This show certainly does that!”

You recently made your Broadway debut in Tuck Everlasting. Tuck was a new work but sadly short-lived. Now you’re going into a certified hit. I’m sure tickets are already sold out! How is this current project different from that or other previous experiences?

“Well, it is nice to know I have some kind of security at least for a little while! It’s what I was saying earlier — the artist’s struggle is real, and to be in something that is commercially successful and still be artistically fulfilling hardly ever happens. It’s tough with a new show. Everyone puts their heart and soul into creating something, and you have no idea if it’ll survive or not. We had incredible reviews for Tuck. It was such a sweet, beautiful show…but still it failed. There’s no rhyme or reason to that. And as quickly as you were employed, you become unemployed. And then it’s back to the grind!”

Dance Informa interviewed you a few months back. How have you grown as both a performer and as a person since your Broadway debut?

Chloe Campbell behind the scenes at 'Hamilton' Chicago. Photo courtesy of Campbell.

Chloe Campbell behind the scenes at ‘Hamilton’ Chicago. Photo courtesy of Campbell.

“How have I grown? Well, I’ve been in the business for over a decade now, so I have grown so many times over, I feel. I guess one thing is I moved to NYC from London and had a dream to be on Broadway. And…. I did it! So I guess my dreams have shifted, or transformed. I’m doing things I never thought possible! I’m just grateful and am letting life take me where it takes me. I don’t expect too much. I am more confident in who I am as a performer, and I will never stop striving to be a better one!”

What are you looking forward to in Chicago?

“The winter. Just kidding! It’s already getting really windy. I’ve been here a month now, and I love how clean it is compared to NYC. The architecture is beautiful, and I’m excited to explore all the neighborhoods. Oh, and the food is amazing!”

For tickets to Hamilton Chicago, running at The PrivateBank Theatre through September 17, 2017, head to www.hamiltonbroadway.com/chicago.php. 

By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Chloe Campbell in rehearsal for ‘Hamilton’. Photo courtesy of Campbell.

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