Dancing Armitage: ‘All Arms & Legs,’ Yet Poetry in Motion

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Crystal Chandlyre put together this special video highlighting Richard dancing in rehearsals for “Cats” back in 1994-95.  You get to see the same dance sequence from two different vantage points and both in and out of costume with Crystal giving some cues as to when and where to look for RA.

Of course, as she says, once you’ve spotted him, you somehow don’t miss him again (even with the less-than-perfect quality of old video footage).

I love watching him dance. That tall, lean, muscular frame, the former gangly teen transformed into a graceful swan–a big man who never somehow takes up too much space. I know he grew dissatisfied with his career as a dancer and choreographer in musical theatre for various reasons, but as I have said before, it wasn’t from any lack of talent, surely.

And musical theatre’s loss was definitely our gain as admirers of a versatile, expressive, nuanced actor.

His dance training and experience shine through in so many of his acting performances, from Lucas’s cat-like stealth to Porter’s balletic grace with a weapon to Thorin’s amazing spins in combat–Armitage the dancer still captures our attention and commands our admiration and respect.

What a bundle of talent that man is. Bravo!!  And thank you, Crystal, for putting this together.

42 responses »

    • I wish the vids were of better quality, but it is still a joy to watch him move. Poetry in motion. *sigh* What a treat it would have been to see him back then and wonder about that really tall, gorgeous male cat. 😉

  1. He can´t be the perfect man! Perfect body, beautiful face, wonderful voice, the personality of a great gentleman and in addition he dances!
    I want him for me, right now!

  2. Over the years, I’ve seen “Cats” at least 6 times, and loved it every single time–but what I would not give to have seen Richard perform in it, especially when he had a real role, such as “Rum-Tum-Tugger”, which I know he did several times. Now, I guess I’ll have to settle for hoping he does more singing in that gorgeous resonant baritone that send chills up my spine.

    • Oh that voice! I was fortunate enough to see Cats in London twice and the dancing sends tingles down my spine, but to think that Richard has been doing the same, in those costumes – phew! Did it just get hot in here?! I am thoroughly enjoying listening to him reading audio books at the moment, amazing how much more pleasant my housework is!

  3. It’s a pleasure to see Richard dancing. However, I’m not a fan of musical theatre and I can’t tell you how glad I am that he switched to acting. I might never have seen him if he hadn’t and my life would not be so gloriously “ruined.”

    • Their loss was definitely our gain. I’d be in the same boat. And a dancer’s career tends to be considerably shorter than an actor’s, so I am glad all around that amazing dancer decided to switch career paths. 😉

          • And our lives would have been sadly lacking! Doesn’t bear thinking about. *goose bumps at the very idea*

            Even apart from the height I doubt if we would mistake those elegant yet powerful limbs or those broad shoulders. He has the most amazing control over his body movements that are certainly evident in other roles. 😉

            • The shoulders, the thighs, the hands . . . the distinctive masculine beauty of it all. *sigh* He uses everything at his disposal–voice, mobility of facial expressions, precision of his body language–when he creates a character.

              • And does he *ever* have a lot at his disposal! 😉 I’d love if someone could single out the bit where he does the pas de deux with the pale/white cat and lifts her up above his head! Be still my beating heart! It just shows how strong he really is. *melts*

              • The phrase “poetry in motion” might have been invented for him–he is certainly the current definition of it in all respects.

  4. Wow! It’s funny how he plays this part of his life down, he was/is extremely talented! But nothing is ever truly wasted and wow how he brings that controlled elegance into play in his other roles! The coat swirling, high jumping, sword wielding beautiful Thorin and gorgeous Guy spring to mind first. It’s particularly clear when you see stills of Guy takien during a fight scene, those long limbs elegantly poised, how on earth would Robin have actually been able to beat that! Even my 8 year old says “Mummy, how comes Robin always wins? Guy is much bigger and stronger?” Any idea how long he was in Cats for? I was fortunate enough to see it and would love to know if it would have been with him in it!

    • I believe he was in several different companies over a period of time–however, he is also in the commercial production available on dvd with Elaine Paige if you can find one. They’re getting pretty scarce–but he is actually listed in the credits as “Swing Cat”. I already had the dvd when I first began scouring the world for anything he had ever done–imagine my surprise (and excitement) when I pulled out the dvd one day to watch it and saw that gorgeous form flying across the stage. My first thought was “no, it can’t be”–then I read the credits at the end, and sure enough, it was–so he actually did get to perform “Cats” with the legendary Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella, the cat who sings “Memory”, in London. Sigh!

      • Now that just got the imagination working! Sounds like you had a very lucky find tucked away there! I saw cats in London in about 1999 or so. I was a teacher on a school trip so was unable to get momentos,think I was probably too late to see him but that would have been a thought to cherish!

      • Stephanie, that’s so cool to know! What a find that you have one of something that sounds more scarce than hen’s teeth! 😀 I do remember now that he was credited as “Swing Cat.” I have never seen “Cats” on stage, we had signed up to see if when we went on the trip with my students to London and Paris, but ended up at “Grease” instead. Wasn’t a particularly happy camper about that, let me tell you. One of the girls sat and read TS Eliot through the whole thing! LOL How lovely to know he got to perform with such a legend, too. 😀

        • If you can believe this, I actually saw it three times on the first national tour it made to Washington in it’s debut year within a two month period! However, the Elaine Paige version is supposed to be the definitive performance and I think it’s wonderful that Richard was able to be included in the lasting record of the show. His role isn’t huge, but he’s definitely there. Still, it would have been lovely to see it live and be able to see him dance on stage. He reminds me of a throwback to old Hollywood, where stars had to be able to do pretty much anything–even Clark Gable had to dance in an old movie called “Dancing Lady” with Joan Crawford.

      • Hello, Stephanie! I’m Cristine and a regular reader of Angie’s blog but haven’t been commenting here for a while.

        It seems that I have the same Cats DVD as well 🙂 It was one of the first DVDs I ever bought. In the end credits, Richard is listed as “Stand In & Swing” (couldn’t believe my eys the first time I saw his name there – a very pleasant surprise indeed!). My DVD is from 1998 and it is my one and only double-sided disc. The musical in on one side and you will have to turn the disc over to watch the Making of extras.

        I’ve always believed we don’t see him in the final DVD production. I thought he is just somewhere “in the background” Could you please, please tell mee at which point he is “flying across the stage”?? I would very much like to know.

        The only version of Cats I’ve seen is the one shown here in Finland sometime in the early 80’s, if I remember correctly. I really loved the musical back then. I love many other musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber, too.

        • I should have said flying over the stage–he’s actually on a swing, I believe it’s coming from the left side out over the stage. Later on, you see him pretty obviously in back of most of the other cats (he’s the really tall one)–if I hadn’t been looking for him, don’t know that I would have seen him,but his most obvious appearance is the one on the swing above the stage.

          • I was wondering, Stephanie, if Richard can be seen on the swing in any of the YouTube clips we are able to watch? I checked on IMDb for the cast of the 1998 DVD and Richard’s name doesn’t appear, only someone called Beth Robson in that role. Or am I looking at the wrong performance list perhaps?

            • I don’t know how many times he played the “Swing Cat”–I do know he also played “Rum-Tum-Tugger” a number of times and one other role at least. The thing about “Cats” is that most of the actors train for more than one role, and since Richard could dance and sing, and was also doing some choreography at one point (is there nothing this man can’t do?), he might have had to learn all of the male cat parts.

    • Ah, yes, his audiobooks–I’m sure he doesn’t have time to be doing anymore of those now, but what a marvelous treat they are. Two of the ones he did in the third season of Robin Hood were different stories that were not part of the series–one is “The Witchfinders”, one of my favorites of the whole group and there is one more, but the title escapes me at the moment. Also getting difficult to find, because I don’t think they printed a lot of those.

      • The other one is The Siege. Don’t seem to be able locate that one on CD. I have downloaded it but am having trouble playing it on anything other than my main computer. He does a lovely job on witchfinders,very haunting.

        • Periodically check Amazon UK or Ebay–as I said, they are very scarce and if you can locate one, they aren’t cheap, but well worth having. I was very fortunate in that I got mine back when they were first issued and got them for the original price. Also–if you decide to get “Lords of the North” at some point, be careful–you definitely wanted the unabbreviated version, which is the one Richard did. It’s expensive, but very much worth it.

    • I remember reading an article some time ago where he says he doesn’t consider himself a dance, but that “he moves pretty well”, which might explain why he plays down this part of his career. Of course, it may have been the same article where he said “I’m not a bad singer”.

      • He is so very modest and self-deprecating. We all know he’s got a lovely voice and he’s a wonderful dancer, too. Re his former career in musical theatre, I think he got frustrated when he wasn’t getting the better parts as a dancer (I remember reading something in an interview). His height was sometimes a liability, I believe (I remember his tophats had to be made shorter so he wouldn’t look as tall in the chorus). Maybe he simply wants people to focus on his acting–I don’t know, but clearly his dance training shows and makes him all the better as an actor IMHO.

        • It amazes me that he was able to do such perfect cartwheels considering his height–on the other hand, given his athletic prowess, maybe not. I think everything he’s ever done has led to making him the consummate performer we know now. I also think he probably would not have ever been completely happy continuing as a dancer given the limitations of the musical theater and the fact that musicals are just not what they used to be–I have the feeling that he looks for the challenge in whatever he takes on, and he’d “been there, done that” with the musical thing. And we are the better for it. May there always be wonderful, fascinating things to challenge and sustain his amazing talent.

          • I suspect he has always been someone to work hard at being the best he can in activities that interest him. His natural athleticism certainly helped, but I bet he practiced a lot, too. 😉 And I agree-it’s come together to make him the superbly talented and versatile actor we see before us.

            He also said something about not being the type of person who enjoys “showing off” a lot and he felt that was sort of required in musical theatre–it just wasn’t right fit for his personality. And so true about musicals not being what they used to be. I feel there is so much more potential for growth and interesting challenges for him within the acting field.

            • My hope now is that he gets offered the kinds of roles that will allow him to fulfill his brilliance and let him stretch his wings now that his profile is higher. No one deserves it more.

            • Practice. Clearly that, along with natural grace. It is clear that he never does anything half-assed – something of which I appreciate. No one could ever accuse him of being a lazy or sloppy actor. Neither could they ever say he was unattractive, under-educated or lacking skill. The jealous might.

              • I certainly hope most of the world has better sense than that. They might have to deal with the Armitage Army!

  5. Oh goodness. I just saw this posted. Forgive me for not catching on earlier. Wow. Your lovely comments make me glow a bit. Thank you. I hope to do more. I certainly appreciate your appreciation of Richard and his lithe nature as a dancer as much as I do. The hours/days I spent watching that footage – well, something good had to come out of all that. At least I hope it was good. There will be more. Thank you so much for this Blog and website.

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