Motown the Musical: The Low Down With Preston Dugger

A look into the magic of Motown Records through the eyes of its Dance Captain
The Temptations MoTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour (c) Joan Marcus, 2014

Arturo Hilario/El Observador

Washington DC native Preston Dugger III has roots in San Jose, his career within theater arts had its beginnings at Ballet San Jose. After wanting a change within his career, Dugger left to pursue Broadway. “I have quite a history with San Jose. I danced there for about 5 years under the direction of Dennis Nahat, and I left to join a Broadway show called ‘Memphis’.”

The musical was right up Dugger’s alley, involving a technical approach that is something he very much enjoys in dance. “I danced in there over 4 years, until it closed. During his time with ‘Memphis’ the stage production of ‘Motown’, a story about the famous record label, was under creation. An interest in this upcoming production was only natural to Dugger, which led to him trying out for an ensemble role.

“Motown is a staple in my family, it’s Motown! You can’t go anywhere without hearing Diana Ross. So I auditioned for the show and I get it, and at first I was just going to be ensemble, be a person that was going to be on the stage dancing, and then they decided to put me in the position of swing.

A swing is position where a performer must be able to fill in many shoes of the production’s ensemble, being able to recall moves for several of the stage performers on the fly. Upon receiving this role, Dugger maintains he studied and worked on his craft as he moved up the ladder of ‘Motown’ production. “So slowly but surely I kept on moving up the ladder. Then they said, ‘hey he can sing’. So before I knew it, I was the Assistant Dance Captain.”

Eventually, Dugger moved up to being the Dance Captain, a role he currently enjoys and worked on hard to perfect. In this role he works with the stage manager to maintain the artistic standards of the choreography and musical production. “I assumed all the responsibilities I had before but at the same time it’s extremely liberating and gives me that feeling of purpose. There is a lot of responsibility in being a dance captain, there is no room for mistakes but if there is mistakes you’re figuring them out immediately.”

As far as the show, ‘Motown’, Dugger says “the show is based around the life and the legacy of Barry Gordy, telling the story about how he came up to meet groups and how these groups came around. And how he fell in love with Diana Ross and how he fell in love with Michael Jackson and The Temptations. It’s giving a sliver of what’s happening in his life during that time, during the time when Martin Luther King was killed, during the time when President Kennedy was killed.”

The musical not only traverses this point in time and history, but the journey that Gordy had from his move from Detroit to Los Angeles, where Dugger says “he decided to take up this whole company from nothing and build this empire.” Dugger adds that the show, “makes people remember that legacy and story, his trials and tribulations, and how he is where he is today.”

One thing that is unique about this production is the variety of people that attend. Fans of Motown music are everywhere, and may not even know they’re listening to a Motown artist. Dugger states, “It’s funny because you meet people that come on the show now and see every demographic, Whites, Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Asians, young and old, and they all come out with the same kind of joy.”

The experience people have while watching the show comes from a variety of work that is being put into the production. Dugger’s enthusiasm for the craft allow for seamless execution of dance and keep things running smoothly. “I am researching all the time, I’m constantly reviewing the show constantly looking at footage of the show, going to my dropbox account and listening to all of the tracks that I cover. Wake up, then study. Then from there we have rehearsals and we are either watching people rehearse the show. We are cleaning what we see is out of line, which is movement that is a little out of pocket from what is the idea of the section. We’re trying to keep the integrity it’s had from the very beginning. Make sure it’s pure, make sure it’s period.”

All is not studying and work though. Dugger recalls one of his favorite moments of magic in his time with the show was at opening night in New York City, a star-studded event. “My dad is in the audience and there’s a point in the show that’s the finale and all of the celebrities are coming up and one by one Glady’s Knight comes up, Barry Gordy comes up, Smokey Robinson comes up, Diana Ross comes up. Stevie Wonder starts coming up and is at the bottom of the stage where there are no steps and he has an assistant that is with him and the assistant says ‘Stevie lift your right leg up really high to step onto the stage,’ and this is happening right in front of me and he extends his arm up for help and the only person there was me. I help him up and look up at my father and whisper ‘Stevie Wonder’ and he looks and he says ‘I know’. I’m actually holding the man that created so many amazing songs that I listened to as a child cleaning the house. I loved it. It’s still a job, but overall, I am having a good time, and that’s rare. I know I’m blessed when it comes to this.”

Dugger says that for those uninitiated with Motown of the musical itself, prepare to journey through a music filled historical romp that will get the audience grooving. “They can expect to be brought back to a time. If you don’t know about it, you’ve read about when Michael Jackson left Motown. You can expect to have those memories flood in. If you did experience it you can expect to not sit still in your seat, I can promise you that. You’re going to be having a great time, you’re going to be clapping, dancing. It’s definitely an all around feel good show.”

Motown the Musical is at Broadway San Jose from Tuesday June 21 to Sunday June 26. More information and tickets can be found on

Sin categoría