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In League With the Dreamers: An Arts Reviewer's Log

by Rita Kohn
November 14, 2014
Catching up with the Lingner brothers along the Ohio and Hudson Rivers

This article was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
For the next many months you can travel an hour or so eastward to Cincinnati and applaud Christopher Lingner in six programs at Cincinnati Ballet, starting with Peter Pan, Nov. 7-9, in Proctor & Gamble Hall at the Arnoff Center. Find the joy at https://www.cballet.org/1415/peterpan
And, you can hop on a plane for a flight of similar duration to New York City and cheer for Cory Lingner in the forecast long run of the revival of On The Town at Lyric Theatre at 213 West 42nd Street. Catch the allure at http://www.onthetownbroadway.com.

Imagine being the parents of two sons who are achieving their separate dreams to make dancing a career. And imagine that happening for boys [now young men] growing up in the passionately boys-don't-dance city of Indianapolis. We all know this is Hoosier Hysteria basketball country, with a toss to football and a growing nod to soccer and hockey, and of course, a huge high-five to motor sports with our legendary Indy 500.

Louise and Terry Lingner are the parents of Christopher Lingner and Cory Lingner. As a dance/theater reviewer, I've been following the family for some 15 years as Chris and Cory began to appear on Indianapolis' dance and theatre scene, initially in school recitals and then in programs elsewhere. Chris, older by 1 ½ years, hasn't been as focused on Broadway as has Cory, yet gaining his initial vision "to dance with a strong college-based company" has been circuitous compared with Cory reaching his Big Apple goal head—or actually 'feet-on.'

Their resumes provide audiences dream reading in printed programs and come-ons for casting directors.

Christopher Lingner

Right out of high school, with plans for college deferred, Christopher Lingner made his professional debut in the 2008-09 touring company of Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out, as one of two youngest to dance the principal roles of Eddie and James.
Not at all in his immediate plans, a bit of serendipity seemed to be at play when Chris impressed a judge at a dance competition and was invited to audition for Movin' Out. Meant to be? Perhaps. Twyla Tharp, you will recall, also is Indiana-born. Yet Chris reminds, "You have to be ready and deliver every time," adding, "Always show up and give it everything."

Louise interjects, "We found out later that Sean Kelly, who hired Chris on the spot at his Chicago audition, didn't know exactly how he was going to cast Chris but he knew he wanted him in the show. Chris took it upon himself to go to the extra rehearsals and learn the tracks for the lead role of Eddie, which led to him getting that part. A good way to impress a director/choreographer, go the extra mile."

Chris recounts, after the Movin' Out tour [with a weekend stop in Indianapolis, playing to his hometown friends] in quick succession he then "joined the first full-length Broadway show to hit the high seas as Brad in Hairspray and was a featured aerialist in the revue show Come Fly With Me on the Oasis of the Seas with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines." He went on to perform with Las Vegas star Clint Holmes in his new musical My Own Song, and in Guys and Dolls. In 2012 Chris was made a member of the Actor's Equity Association and Sonya Tayeh created a new work on him for an NFL Super Bowl-sponsored benefit.

And that, says Chris, is when he realized his true vocation was ballet. He ceased auditioning and instead took his experiences from show dancing to study ballet in the Jacob's School of Music at Indiana University, where his repertoire included works by George Balanchine, Josh Bergasse, August Bournonville, Nicolo Fonte, Peter Martins, Dwight Rhoden, Paul Taylor, Violette Verdy, Michael Vernon and, yes, Twyla Tharp.

Having achieved his goal to dance in "a strong college company," and particularly being mentored by Michael Vernon and Violette Verdy, Christopher Lingner made his professional ballet debut with Cincinnati Ballet during their 2013-2014 50th Anniversary Season. When Cincinnati Ballet opens its 2014-15 season with Peter Pan, Nov. 7-9, Christopher Lingner will be on stage as a member of the corps de ballet dancing as one of the lost boys and a pirates.

Cory Lingner

A year after graduating from the University of Oklahoma, Cory Lingner made his professional debut on Oct. 16, 2014, in the revival of the Comden-Green-Bernstein 1944 musical, On the Town, newly directed by John Rando and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse. With rave reviews as an impetus, the cast recording on November 3 is set for a PS Classics release in January 2015 of a two-disc cast album. Cory Lingner will be noted as a member of the Ensemble.
On the way to his #1 dream, Cory utilized his college years at Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre at University of Oklahoma, and the year after graduating, to gain regional credits, including [who could have foretold?] a run as Gabey in the University of Oklahoma Theatre production of On the Town, along with Larry in A Chorus Line. During 2014 he performed in A Chorus Line with Sacramento Music Circus and Grease with the St. Louis MUNY, where he earlier was in Shrek and Mary Poppins. At Music Theatre Wichita, Cory portrayed Josh in 9 to 5, was understudy for the role of Don in Singin' In the Rain and appeared in Fiddler on the Roof, HONK! and Legally Blonde. At the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma he played Brad in Hairspray and was a featured Dancer in Oklahoma City Philharmonic's The Christmas Show. At CityRep (Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre) he was Harry in My Fair Lady.

Cory also has his "opportunity coming out of nowhere" stories. "The reason you take class even when you're working, is you never know who is watching," he says. "In class in New York City, during the time I was auditioning, a woman came up to me and we exchanged information, which led to dancing in the 32nd Annual Fred and Adele Astair Awards recognizing great Broadway Dancers on June 2, 2014 at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts."

It meant hustling to fit it in with his already set summer regional gigs, but "It was all worth it," reports Cory. "It was one of the most enlightening, thrilling experiences." There he was onstage with amazing talent, including the legendary five-time Tony Award nominee Pat Birch (West Side Story) who was receiving the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award. "To be on stage with the best of the best…" Cory runs out of words.

Keeping busy is the mantra for both Chris and Cory. During the summer break for Cincinnati Ballet, Chris simply moved over to the Cincinnati Opera summer season to perform as a dancer. And in New York City Cory is "working during the day on another show being developed by the director and choreographer for On The Town." That's along with understudy rehearsals. From there it's straight to the evening performances, with only Mondays off.

"It's a constant challenge," inserts Chris. "It's knowing balance—when you need to sit down and admit you need a break. On the one hand you don't want to give up an opportunity, on the other hand you're not invincible."

"Your body is your instrument," adds Cory. "You have to be healthy and smart. Eight shows a week is hard on your body and voice. Every day is a new day and you are being vulnerable to complete strangers."

So when Louise and Terry Lingner tell me they savor the good fortune I know they're equally aware of the commitment and hard work, and I cheer along with them the special moments they talk about in unison.

"In my mind's eye," says Terry and Louise assents, "I will never forget the moment that Chris came down from the Movin' Out audition and said, "They want me.""

"And it was the same," says Louise, and Terry agrees, "Hearing the unbound joy in Cory's voice on our family conference call when he said: "On the Town is going to Broadway and I'm in the cast!"
"He had been so totally focused on that goal ever since he was little, and it had happened!" enthuses Louise.

"Both of these moments just felt like a place and time right out of A Chorus Line," summarizes Terry.

The journey to where they are started at an early age for Chris and Cory and the entire family names off a litany of people who helped along the way, that sounds like a who's who of dance in Indianapolis— Showtime Dance Studio with Mimi Priest, Alison Whittenbring, Kassidy Brice, Olga Dawson and Richard Merriman. Sergey Sergiev at IBC, Dale Shields at Ballet Internationale, Gregory Hancock at Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, Steven Kennedy and Kenny Shepherd at MTI, John Timm & Michael Flatley at Richens Timm Irish Dancing, and ultimately Victoria Lyras and Roberta Wong at the Indianapolis School of Ballet.
Early on the variety gave them confidence to be fearless in auditioning, and directors like Bob Harbin relished the opportunity to cast them.

"We grew up doing Nutcracker together at Ballet Internationale," recalls Cory. "We were in opposite casts, we didn't compete. That was such a joyful and fantastic experience working with professionals, learning the art of storytelling."

"We had fifteen years of multiple productions of Nutcrackers," quips Chris.

"And the three weekend runs of the same show helped me with doing a long stint," adds Cory.

Going on tour, they recount, was getting used to being on a bus for hours and then just getting up and dancing. Being away from school for a month required special understanding, so there is a nod of thanks to St. Monica School on Michigan Road and University High School in Carmel.

"I go back to the memories of being young," says Cory. "Mom would drive us from soccer practice to dance studios. We tried for all the opportunities and learned from the people who gave us those opportunities."

"Movin' Out was an eye-opening aha moment," says Chris. "I knew I needed more training to do that [kind of dancing]. And the cruise ship experience gave me the drive to learn classical ballet. That's how I ended up at Indiana University."
Chris recalls, "It started with a random phone call from Vicky Lyras. I didn't know who Balanchine was. It was May 31, 2008 when Edward Villella and Barbara Weisberger presented "An Evening with the Masters" at the Indianapolis School of Ballet, now housed in the studios of the long gone Ballet Internationale, the Indianapolis company where Chris and Corey created their Nutcracker roles. What followed from the Master Class says Chris, "Is history. Vicky created Midsummer Night's Dream on us [Chris and Cory] and gave us a rare opportunity to dance together because by junior high school we started going in separate directions."

And that's why now you have to travel to catch them on different stages, a half continent apart.
Cory getting ready to sing the anthem for a Giants/49ers game. Photo courtesy of Terry Lingner.

Cory getting ready to sing the anthem for a Giants/49ers game. Photo courtesy of Terry Lingner.

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