Former Webster University student Geoff Myers has been dancing to the “Circle of Life” for almost 14 years.
Since 2003, Myers has been involved with several productions of Disney’s The Lion King, the musical based on the hit animated film. He started out as a member of the ensemble and has seen his role expand as time has gone on and productions have changed.
His first dream was to be a tennis player. That changed when he saw a production of A Chorus Line during his senior year of high school.
“It changed my life,” Myers said. “That’s what I want to do. I want to be a dancer. I want to perform. I want to be up on that stage.”
Myers wanted to see the show again, and said he knew he could not afford to see the show again. He came up with a solution: getting a job at the theater that showed the musical as an usher.
“I got to see the show every night for that run,” Myers said.
After asking one of the performers for advice, Myers started looking for opportunities to get an education in dance. Myers studied at Webster from 1980 to 1982.
Myers said one person who served as a mentor for him was Gary Hubler, who was the artistic director of the dance program and is currently a professor emeritus. They are still friends and communicate to this day.
“[He] really saw that I had some raw talent and that I have the drive, and he really mentored me and really pushed me,” Myers said.
Hubler said Myers came in, basically a novice, and worked hard for his eventual dream: to study at the University of North Carolina School of Arts. Myers was going to leave after his freshman year, but Hubler convinced him to stay another year to make sure he was prepared for the audition to get into the school.
“It’s always exciting for a teacher, first of all, to see a student who works to their fullest potential, and that’s the only way to excel that quickly,” Hubler said. “I saw a lot of me in him. I was also a late starter, so I could look at him through my own eyes.”
After Webster, Myers applied for a summer program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts which eventually led to an audition. The school offered him a scholarship, and he got the rest of his dance training there in ballet.
Webster may not have been his alma mater, but Myers said his time there was a big influence on his dancing.
“It was invaluable, the training I got at Webster, because also it just laid that foundation,” Myers said.
Myers wanted to work with the dance company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, since seeing a PBS special about the company. He moved to Chicago after being offered a dancing role in a production hosted by Chicago City Ballet.
Since he was living in Chicago, he started taking classes from Lou Conte, the founder and former artistic director of Hubbard Street. Conte saw Myers in the classes and offered him a scholarship. He left North Carolina to take it.
Afterwards, Chicago City Ballet offered him a contract, and he returned to the company. In 1984, Hubbard Street was losing two of its male dancers. Myers auditioned for Conte and got in.
“I thought the way he moved and his personality would meld well with the rest of the company,” Conte said. “He evolved with the company.”
Myers said he peformed with the company for nine years, until he took a break to finish his undergraduate studies at Columbia College Chicago. He returned to Hubbard Street until 2003, when he joined The Lion King. In all, he was with the company for 16 years.
“It was an amazing repertory company where I got to work with . . . these world renowned choreographers,” Myers said.
The King of dance
A Chorus Line was the reason Myers got into dance, but a musical was something he had yet to perform in.
“The one thing that I hadn’t done was the one medium that had inspired me to do this in the first place,” Myers said.
Myers originally auditioned for Movin’ Out, a jukebox musical with songs by Billy Joel. While he did not get in that musical, he was directed to another show that was undergoing casting: a Chicago production of The Lion King. About a month later, he auditioned in the same studio where Hubbard Street was located. It was the same studio where his dance career took off.
“I felt at home there, and I felt like this is sort of, maybe, meant to be,” Myers said.
His audition was successful, and his part as an ensemble dancer was just the start of his relationship with the musical. Productions moved cities, and Myers moved through different roles, including as a fight captain and dance captain. When he performed with the Las Vegas production, he, along with the ensemble, was featured on an episode of Dancing With The Stars.
Myers serves as the Resident Dance Supervisor of the current North American touring production, which will be coming to St. Louis at The Fox. His role is to preserve the original choreography established by Garth Fagan by teaching and perfecting it with the cast.
Myers’ advice to those who are looking to make it big in the professional world, whether it be on Broadway or through other outlets, working behind-the-scenes or performing on-stage, would be to not give up and to get in touch with those who are doing what they want to do.
“If it’s something you truly want to do, do it,” Myers said. “You’ll have naysayers and you’ll have people that may not understand your passion, but if you have a true passion or it, you need to listen to that and follow it.”