This was followed by ensemble roles in Broadway shows (“Miss Saigon,” “Guys and Dolls,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) and soon Hunter began working as the dance captain, the ensemble member who did the choreography for each character. When she appeared in Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002, director Rob Ashford asked her to be his choreographer.
“JoAnn was always the smartest person in the room, as well as the best dancer, and I knew she would be invaluable,” Ashford said in a telephone interview. Hunter, who had just been divorced, wasn’t so sure. (She said her first answer was “aaarghhhh”.) But she had to take the risk.
“She’s a real problem solver and a great contributor,” said Ashford. “In a musical, a choreographer has to penetrate a director’s head and translate that vision into his own creation. It was always about the goals of the show. “
Director Michael Mayer, who hired Hunter in 2006 to direct Bill T. Jones’ choreography for Spring Awakening, said in a telephone interview that one of her great gifts is “understanding why the steps are there and what the characters try ”. through the movement and how the movement is in conversation with the rest of the elements of the show, even though she hadn’t invented the movements at the time. “
Hunter’s first independent musical choreography was in 2008 for a US touring production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. “I remember thinking that if I don’t try, I’ll never know,” said Hunter. “And if I’m bad, not too many people will have seen it!”
When asked if she thought this type of insecurity was particularly widespread among women, Hunter looked thoughtful. Maybe, she said. “Men tend to try things out without worrying when they have the experience.” She added that the lack of female choreographers on Broadway doesn’t boost their confidence.
Although there are still relatively few female choreographers working on Broadway, this has gradually changed: Camille A. Brown, Michelle Dorrance, Ellenore Scott and Ayodele Casel will choreograph the upcoming Broadway shows. Hunter agreed that women are now a little more visible in musical theater. “It’s amazing to think that as a dancer I’ve only ever worked with two directors, Susan Stroman and Tina Landau,” she said. “At the moment these issues are just as important as racial diversity. I hope it’s something permanent, not a fad. “