Khori Michelle Petinaud is back on Broadway. This time, she’s bringing her smooth magnetism to Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’. The suave musical theater star began dancing at 13 years old at Russell’s School of Ballet in Chantilly, Virginia. Once she graduated from high school, she left her hometown studio and moved to Manhattan, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in dance at New York University. Her first professional job out of college was with the now-dissolved Steps Repertory Ensemble, a company once associated with the famed Steps on Broadway. “I see my time there as a turning point for me,” Petinaud says. “It introduced me to a lot of different styles, and connected me to many different choreographers.” After a little over two years with the ensemble, she booked the national tour of The Color Purple. What followed was a series of shows with regional theaters, leading up to her Broadway debut in Aladdin in 2014. She stayed with the show for nearly four years, after which she left to perform in the out-of-town tryout for Roman Holiday before returning to Broadway in 2019 as part of the original cast of Moulin Rouge! Petinaud then debuted as a Rockette in the company’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular in the fall of 2022. In March of that year, she left “the Rouge,” and in March 2023, she began previews for the highly anticipated Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’.
Here, Petinaud shares her enthusiasm for the show, the career feedback that’s made all the difference, and her advice for educators in 2023.
What she’s most excited about for Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’ “I’m excited for dancers to get the spotlight. People don’t realize how integral dance is to their enjoyment of a show—in all genres of entertainment. I don’t want to diminish what the principals do, but there is not one Broadway show running that would be what it is without the dancers. We are actors and fully formed performers who can carry an entire evening of story. I’m also excited to stand onstage and represent as a Black female dancer. I started dancing because I saw Dance Theatre of Harlem perform and realized it was possible for someone like me to succeed [in the arts]. It means so much to me that I could potentially be that person for other little Black and brown girls.”
The career advice that’s made all the difference “I’ve been counseled to connect to the ‘why’ behind my dancing at various times throughout my career. This career is so difficult that if you can’t connect to why you are doing it, you’re going to make it three times more difficult. I’ve held on to that. When I feel confused or frustrated about the business, I reconnect to that purpose. For me, it’s that I believe this is what I was meant to do. It is something that fills me up. If I can remind myself of that, I can push through the hard days.”
Her most influential teacher and why “Al Blackstone really changed my life in so many ways. He helped me to find who I was as a storyteller. Before him, I’d worked so hard on my technique because I felt like I was behind having started so late. His class set me free from that and allowed me to connect to the character and find the joy of the movement. When I started taking his class religiously, a lot of things started to blossom in my career.”
Advice for educators in 2023 “Always be a student. When I step into a room as an educator, I’m still learning. I have something to gain from the students in my room. I remember that there is an exchange of energy between each of us. When you approach class that way, both you and your students will grow leaps and bounds. Know that you don’t have all of the answers, but, together with your students, you will be able to discover them.”