When it comes to choreographers, you know as an actor who has a natural instinct for this career. They can't just focus on the movement. It's about formations, functionality, but more importantly it's about the story being told through movement. It's rare to find a choreographer who incorporates all of those elements to really enhance a production.
Christina Kudlicki Hoth is one of those rare gems.
But as gems often do, it has taken years for her to become one of the most sought after choreographers here in DFW.
Christina has been dancing in Dallas Ft. Worth for 27 years. "I grew up dancing doing, studio work and theatre primarily through school. I didn't do community theatre work until college while I was getting my dance degree. It kind of fed my need to do the singing and acting side while my main focus thirty hours a week was on dance." Before her "return" to theatre, Christina claimed numerous national awards for choreography in the competition dance world with either her studio she directed at Excite Dance Company or through contract work. But with all the flare she can bring in her choreography she also has an eye for technique. Christina has a Cecchetti Foundation of America Ballet Certification that brings her choreography up to a technical level most theatre choreographers don't have experience with. More recently you may have seen her award winning choreography in Pippin at the Firehouse Theatre where she won the Column Award for Best Choreography. And if that doesn't impress you enough, she also won the Column Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing "Eurydice" in Polaroid Stories at Lakeside Community Theatre. For only being "back" in the theatre world for four years and "feeling like a newbie" I think Christina is taking this community by storm both with her performance and choreography credits.
But as all performers usually do here in Dallas, Christina balances a day job, a social life, along with theatre work. Her advice? "You need to ask yourself 'What can you mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially handle?" Christina had to ask herself this when she realized the quality of her work was suffering due to her full time devotion to the dance world. "I felt like a lot of pieces were sub-par. There's only so many times you can choreograph to "Rockin Robbin" or "I'm Walking on Sunshine before you start losing it a little bit." Surprisingly, her passion has only grown for the arts since her switch to the corporate world as her main job while having the arts as an optional gig. "I choose to do this. That for me is what's healthy. Some people are built to do nothing but theatre and scrap and scrimp and save and pick up all the different jobs they can have, I'm not one of those people. I'm a planner. I like to know where my next meal is coming from. This is the cherry on top of the day job." For many DFW actors, that's a reality. Christina is proof that just because theatre isn't your career, doesn't necessarily mean you can't be successful. "It doesn't necessarily have to be your career and it doesn't necessarily have to be your passion, it can just be something that you're good at and get's you through the day."
For the aspiring choreographers wanting to get into the industry, Christina recounts how her connections made the difference. "I got my first choreography gig from Lon Barrera for Falsettos at Runway Theatre. That was my first theatre industry choreography gig. I had been a dance captain for two shows he had been involved with, so he had seen how I worked with the dancers in the chorus." Her skills as a dance captain would soon move over into her choreography work. "I feel like one of my strengths is being able to pull technique out of 'non-dancers'." Hear that, Movers! After that she co-choreographed Thoroughly Modern Millie and Mary Poppins at Firehouse Theatre and it has continued from there. Her reputation has been built on each job and now she is sought after. From what I can tell, she isn't slowing down anytime soon. She does have advice for those choreographers with very few connections in their community. "Start sending out your resume. Theatres are hungry for people that will work on the production side and that have a good body of work beneath them. If you can get in good with a theatre, and show them that you're willing to work and you put out a good product, you're going to get work consistently." In this small community of performers word spreads fast. Once she receives the job, Christina says her best asset is preparation. "The sooner you can get me sheet music, the better. Seeing the measures, seeing the notes help me immensely know how to appropriately choreograph where it is musically sound. That is key to musical theatre music, you can't fight it, you have to go with it."
Christina has a passion for this community of actors. However with that passion comes strife, and sometimes we need a little tough love. "My biggest frustration with DFW Theatre actors is I get the comment almost every single production 'I am not a dancer.' I feel like the notion of the triple threat is lost on our community and that's really sad to me. There are a lot of shows that are fantastically suited for the stages that we have that we cannot do." She continued on to say how it would be a dream of hers to choreograph Bullets over Broadway, but unfortunately finding the specific talent for that show at this time, is not there in this community. "Here's the thing. A shift needs to happen. Actors need to take it upon themselves and just like they do acting lessons, voice lessons or master classes weekly or monthly, whatever they can afford, they have got to take it upon themselves to get into a technique class. If you are doing musicals and have not taken a dance technique class in the past year, you are doing yourself a huge disservice." She makes the point that as an actor, you get special discounts to take dance classes. Just have proof that you have been in a show. Contemporary Ballet of Dallas, Park Cities, Center for Dance and Power House are great examples of amazing studios that offer that benefit. Take a Ballet, Tap and a Jazz class at some point. 'The excuse of I'm not a dancer' doesn't fly with me. My actors all end up dancing by the end of the show." She warns that complacency could lose this community their roles. It makes sense. How many professional ballerinas perform on Broadway in their off season? A ton. So DFW, do something about it. "The thing about dance and theatre, nobody is ever perfect. There's always room for improvement and if you're not a lifelong student, you're stagnant. It's important to keep up with your education."
On top of everything this woman already juggles, Christina is also a fantastic critic for Broadway World. She credits the dance competition world for forming her eye for critique and watching for specifics. "I catch a lot of detail so I tend to be more critical than other reviewers in the area, which I am okay with." Some would say that might make her unpopular among theatres, but that's not the case. "I am not here to dog any theatre. I am so unbelievably floored and blessed that DFW theatre has breadth of theatres that we do. So I am pleased for anyone putting their art out there." When she writes her reviews, theatres often take it in stride to find ways to improve and grow. A professor gave her the mentality that if you aren't receiving feedback, that's when you should be worried. That often meant they didn't see any potential. "That always stuck with me. It's a fluid art. There is always room for improvement. Reviewers that blow smoke and compliment everybody are not helping us grow as a community." In fact a director has even thanked her for a critical review and replied that they needed that feedback to become a successful theatre. She was so impressed, she even worked there. Wouldn't it be nice if every theatre took a negative review as a helping hand?
With this reviewing expertise, I really wanted to know of any theatre companies she felt we as a community needed to keep an eye out for. "Imprint Theatreworks with Joe Messina and Ashley H. White is absolutely a company to be looking out for. They seem to have a really edgy take on the theatre process and I think they are going to have a lot of exciting stuff coming out. For me personally my interaction with Lakeside Community Theatre in The Colony has been a very positive experience. I feel like that is a theatre that is not often heard of and maybe overlooked. They are off 121 and what I like about them is that their board on the production side is very supportive. They respect the artists to make their decisions."
To wrap it up I asked Christina what her goals were for this next season. "I really want to dance more before I get to old to do so. There are some big dancing roles that I would like to take a bite out of. Being a dancer first you kind of get thrown into the ensemble so I've been really working on my acting skills and taking vocal lessons to become that triple threat. Practice what you preach. And as for choreographing, I will be doing that until I am 99."
God bless that!