Hui Cha Poos Races Back to the Lyric Stage
By RODNEY BRAZIL
Lyric Theatre Blog Writer
The dazzling dance talents of Hui Cha Poos have been seen by many Lyric theatergoers over the years, where she’s performed in shows such as Evita, The Goodbye Girl and Peter Pan. She’s been featured as Connie in A Chorus Line three times at Lyric, starting with the 1993 production with Kristin Chenoweth as Maggie. In 2018, Hui worked alongside director W. Jerome Stevenson to choreograph movement for iconic gospel music in Crowns. Now, she has created a whirlwind of original dances for the 2019 production of The Rocky Horror Show, surprising audiences with more than just the “Time Warp” again.
Hui Cha Poos is a prolific dancer, choreographer and teacher, with a long list of projects here in Central Oklahoma. Her work at the Pollard Theatre includes In the Heights, American Idiot and Bring it On. She’s collaborated on shows with CityRep, Tulsa Project Theatre and a variety of other local institutions. She is the founder and Executive Director of RACE Dance Collective, where she has created many original works, including RACE’s Hip Hop Nutcracker. Hui is also a full-time faculty member at the University of Central Oklahoma Department of Dance.
Love runs deep for Hui throughout the local dance and theatre communities. She’s worked with thousands of students and professional performers, and over the years, a pattern has emerged. Hui observes that, “Some common characteristics in the most successful performers I’ve come across either through teaching them or working with them is a disposition of kindness, gratitude, giving and an ability to laugh at themselves.”
For Lyric’s new production of The Rocky Horror Show, Poos’ choreography had to rise to a unique challenge of helping unify classic Rocky songs with an updated concept. This production took inspiration from the Mardi Gras and life in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Regional styles of movement were called for in the choreography, but honoring the iconic show is still crucial. Ultimately, all the puzzle pieces began to fit. Hui said, “I was ecstatic about how so many of the independent parts and ideas all fit together. On paper, it seemed crazy, but the randomness came together with Jimmy’s clear ideas, which led to a cohesive show.”
One of Hui’s favorite moments in the show turned out to be Frank-N-Furter’s spectacular first entrance. Without spoiling any surprises, let’s say he won’t likely break a heel during the process. Hui remarked, “When Frank comes riding into the theatre, I turn into a little girl and watch with awe and wonder every single time. So much glitter, and I’m here for it all.”
Outside of live performance, some of Hui’s dance work has been captured on film. She has choreographed for the movies Full Out 2, Swirl and Homecoming Trilogy, garnering several awards at international film festivals. Hui is an audition instructor for Norwegian Creative studios and creates many other professional opportunities for dancers in Oklahoma.
Her work has also been seen with The Russian Imperial Circus, Batman & Robin, Disney, Brian McKnight, Blu Cantrell and music videos for Monifa and Without a Face. Stage musicals and dance concerts still make up a large part of her repertoire. Hui’s original contemporary and jazz choreography has been performed in Seoul, Korea, Los Angeles for the Commonality Concert, in New York City at The Gibney and for the Conero Dance Festival in Italy.
With such a wide range of experience, Hui knows first hand how well-choreographed dance can make or break a show. Hui notes, “More than anything, the cast has to buy into the movement and have enough confidence to translate it onto their own bodies. If that registers, the movement becomes a language and an additional tool they can use to tell the story. Growing efficacy tends to be more important to me than the movement itself because it carries way past the show.”
Hui moved to Oklahoma from Korea when she was still in elementary school. The first show she saw upon arrival in Oklahoma City was at Lyric Theatre. “I was amazed and still can’t believe I get to work for this incredible company. I started dancing later in life, and my biggest influence was Cece Farha, my first teacher, who happened to choreograph for Lyric at that time. She’s the reason I do what I do now.” Hui went on to study dance at Oklahoma City University.
For those who choose a career in the performing arts, every day brings something new. There is a truth, however, that Hui has kept in her heart for many years: “The biggest lesson that carries over in every performance genre and also in life. Talk less, listen more.”
After more than 20 years working as a dance and theatre artist in the OKC area, I asked Hui how things have changed. “There are definitely more opportunities for performing now than ever. Because of TV shows & social media, people are doing more about creating and sustaining their careers here at home instead of having to move away. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to create RACE Dance Collective here in OKC, which provides commercial dance opportunities for local dancers. I’ve also watched many of my friends and colleagues do the same, and that’s inspiring.”
“My love for Oklahoma and adoration for its performing arts community grows exponentially as I get older. I’ve been lucky to travel a lot and compare the talent here to the rest of the world. I am happy to report that we are among the best, and I want to help foster confident, strong, independent performers way past my 50th Birthday coming this January.”