You can tell it’s a dream factory from its golden glitter, this storefront dance studio at a grimy intersection in Weston, a suburb moldering in the back pocket of Toronto. The gold is a one-way coat that keeps passersby from ogling the five dancers in black leotards on the other side of the glass, lazily flexing their long legs while Brian Foley ponders the choreography of the next eight bars of music.
It takes the 32-year-old Foley as long to decide as it takes to play the tape. “Ready: step, hop, hitchie-koo, pas de bourrée, rock!” he chants, stomping the chilly boards with his high-heeled shoes. He leads them sinuously through the just-invented movements and the girls—even Belinda Metz, with her fractured toe—stick like kittens to their mother, bending and swaying as if they could read his mind.
They practically have to. It takes an aw^ fui lot of choreographing to bring in more d than $100,000 a year, as Foley estimates I he’s earning now, so the dancers must drive I as hard as he does if time isn’t to be squan£ dered. “Everyone in show business de| serves an ulcer like mine anyway,” Foley g jokes, blaming his condition on the coffee § he drinks incessantly rather than on the £ impossible schedule and the jobs he has on
the go like so manyjuggler’s balls. “I don’t mind spending half my life in airplanes,” he says. “It’s the only time I can really get my head together.”
Though he can’t skate himself (he clumps around the ice in his boots), Foley has choreographed programs for internationally known skaters such as Olympic gold-medal winner Dorothy Hamill. Last year, Foley had Toller Cranston’s The Ice Show, which he choreographed for Broadway, running at the same time as a Las Vegas ice show he’d created for the Hacienda casino. Between these, he bounced across the continent giving dance lessons for $ 125 an hour (four hours minimum) or putting what he calls “that Foley look, that Foley charisma” on TV specials, thousands of miles down the line.
It’s no better this year because Foley is red-hot now, hotter than any Canadian choreographer ever has been. “He’s head and shoulders above anyone else we’ve got,” says Paddy Sampson, executive producer for the March 29 Juno Awards, which Foley is now staging for the CBC, in addition to four Final Audition talent shows.
Nearly all of this is in rehearsal at the same time—in the two weeks in February he’s set aside to invent 90 minutes of highenergy dance patterns for his five dancers in the Canadian Designer Showcase, which design critics have described as “the fashion event of the year.” Foley has made it unique by insisting that dancers, not models, be used to show the clothes.
After a mighty row with the designers, who were terrified and appalled by the idea, the persuasive, talkative Foley first got his way in 1976. Moreover, he got some of his dancers to sweat off as much as 25 pounds to get that “model” look. For three seasons now, Foley has been inventing movements that show off the spring and summer garments of Canadian designers— 22 of them this year—to best advantage. “I give them energized, dynamite looks,” he enthuses. “I create emotion and dynamics so the dancers can communicate with the audience, physically, and keep them on the edge of their seats.” After a March 6 debut in Hamilton and a March 16 show in Toronto, the showcase travels to 24 other cities with “clothes that, for the first time, I’d consider buying for myself,” reports Denise Neville, who has danced her way from coast to coast twice before, playing to nearly 40,000 people each time.
Foley, meanwhile, will hustle off to Minneapolis and the set of Columbia Pictures’ feature, Ice Castles, which he describes as a cross between Love Story and The Other Side Of The Mountain. “I’m choreographing Marvin [A Chorus Line] Hamlisch’s music, but we’re so busy we have to work over the phone: he hums and I dance.” Foley has long been anxious to crack the movie business, “for Hollywood is sinking $60 million into six rock-dance movies, like Grease and Hair, in the next few years.”
Full-scale film choreography of the Busby Berkeley type is one of the biggest challenges left to Foley, not many years after his main concern was survival. For, if Foley’s talk is all Sixties slang, his story is pure Judy Garland. After a terrific start on CBC’s Jackie Rae Show at 10, Foley has paid for every dance step he’s taken. At 15, experts in New York told him his body was “impossibly tight” and suggested a career playing piano. By 21, he’d opened his studio on $35 and gall, and made it work before he lost the building and also went $27,000 in debt. The only consolation was that, at 23, he had a lifetime to pay it back.
“But I never say die,” Foley grins. Four years later, he was back “on point” and has stayed there—will stay there, “because I have to dance. If I lost my legs—yes, they’re insured—the business would suffer but I would die.” To dance, he pushes himself till he’s leaning forward as if propelled by an invisible wind. And he remains loyal to his same dingy part of town, where the dross around him gives lustre to the dancing gold within. KASPARS DZEGUZE
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