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Updated 10:00 AM April 10, 2006




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Spotlight: Choreographing life

According to musical choreographer John Luther we should spend our lives becoming, and you could say he's doing his part.
John Luther has choreographed the popular musical "Chicago" twice, including this winter 2003 performance at the Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak. (Photo courtesy John Luther)

"As humans, we are supposed to be continuously growing," says Luther, the career development coordinator for the School of Art & Design (A&D), whose own pursuit of creative energy and personal growth has led to his work choreographing staged musicals.

Luther averages about three productions a year and has garnered prominent reviews in local and regional press. His spring 2005 production of "Seussical the Musical" played at Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak, and his fall 2005 production of "Beauty and the Beast" played at the Windsor (Canada) Light Opera.

His most recent production, "Zombies from the Beyond," finished its run this month at Stagecrafters. Currently Luther is in production for his next show, Elton John's "Aida."

Luther says bringing his ideas to life on stage makes him feel alive. "There is an ultimate satisfaction seeing it on stage," he says. "What originated in my head, started out as an idea—seeing it manifested in the real world is incredible."

For Luther the art of the musical means more than just the production. It is an opportunity to explore the world and the people within it. "Take for example 'Chicago.' The sensibility of the show itself is so wonderful—the political overtones; a corrupt culture that pretends it's not corrupt; the gullibility of the public; turning murderers into celebrities. I had to capture all of that within a musical. The choreography is a style that embodies all of that," he says.
Luther says this scene, "The Cell Block Tango," is his favorite number in the show. (Photo courtesy John Luther)

At age 16, Luther took his first ballet class, and at 18 he ventured into New York City from Elmira, N.Y., to pursue professional dance. After attending Hunter College of the City University of New York for his undergraduate education, Luther returned to school to search for something more meaningful.

In 1996 he earned a degree from the School of Social Work, learning counseling skills to help guide alumni and students.

Luther loves his day job, but his life extends far beyond the office. "You can be a writer, a dancer, or a basketball player," he says. "Just find something you love to do, where you feel like you can transcend space and time. Achieve something that will make you feel most alive. You can make it happen; and when it does, you are transformed by it."

Luther's source of inspiration continues to be the energy of creativity that has surrounded him since he was a young boy. "I grew up in a house where there was always music of all kinds," he says. Now the same creativity surrounds him in A&D. "The building is permeated with creativity. This creativity inspires me, as well as students. Seeing their artwork, projects and hearing their dreams... it can be very exciting," he says.

"I have a very balanced life; I'm very good at not taking my job home. Balance isn't stasis—it's always changing.

"My life has been a result of just a combination of being smart and lucky—smart, in the sense that I only choose to do what I like."

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