The Story of Motown*
Motown is a mini show, what Celebrity calls an ‘interactive theme party,’ that we play weekly with 4 singers and the entire cast of dancers. Our portion of the show is one big medley of Motown tunes such as Sir Duke, Tears of a Clown, Reach Out, I Wish, and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, amongst others. This is definitely one of the most fun things we do here and while the music is cool, what makes this event truly great is the extra dancing from the orchestra.
I’ve been playing this show more or less every week (minus vacations) for a little less than two years and it is not always fun. Some bands scowl and bury their faces in the music and seem to be truly miserable. I suppose I’ve been in bands on both ends of that spectrum but I’ve come to believe that if you can’t have fun playing some of these songs you’re probably in the wrong business.
What started as a way to make an out-of-shape trombonist bend at the waste and do embarrassing dance moves has evolved into a complicated and costumed choreography that is clearly the highlight of the night. Here on the Century, Bandmaster Martin Hamer encouraged us to play the show from memory, which has increased our ability to dance exponentially. Now with wigs, courtesy of the activities department, we are looking the part as well.
The dancing started out with simple imitation of the singers and dancers; a little step touch, snaps on two and four, and some horn directionals. It’s current incarnation features spin moves, side to side marching, ballet arms, and some lyrical interpretation. Just as Stevie lays out some of music’s pioneers in the first verse of Sir Duke, I must give credit to some brave, hip-shaking pioneers. There’s Brian Morgan, Andrii Boychuk, Jason Wicks, Greg Turner Overdrive (from funkytown USA), and of course the king of all Mike Hankins. (inventor of the ballet arms finale to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough)