‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’: How Jamal Sims Pays Homage to ‘Greased Lightning’ Through Dance

Choreographer Jamal Sims is no stranger when it comes to creating top-of-the-line dance numbers for television and film projects, and his work on “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’” “New Cool” sequence just extends his repertoire.

“Because I grew up on this film, I felt like [the choreography] was in me,” Sims tells Variety

The scene set for “New Cool” resembles that of another favored number from the original “Grease” film — defined by boilersuits, beat-up cars and a whole lot of grease. 

“[‘New Cool’ is set] in a mechanic’s classroom,” said Sims. “I [knew], going in, that this was going to be compared to ‘Greased Lightning.’” Indeed, the number pays great homage to John Travolta’s covertly sexual anthem. Sims says that the key difference between the two lies in the “storytelling.”

“‘Greased Lightning’ for John Travolta was all about the male ego,” but for Pink Lady Cynthia (portrayed by Ari Notartomaso), Sims says the number was about “Cynthia expressing who [they are].”

Notartomaso instills newfound confidence into the T-Birds during “New Cool” in hopes that their character can join the all-male group of outcasts. “In our story, the T-Birds aren’t as cool as they were in ‘Grease,’” said Sims. “Cynthia is telling them, ‘You guys have the ability to be the coolest [group at Rydell].’” 

Led by Notartomaso, Cynthia takes the reigns in what Sims describes as an “I can show you better than I can tell you” angle throughout the number.

“From the top, the T-Birds aren’t having it,” but Cynthia’s dominant and persuasive nature sways the group. “We see them start to fall in line with [Cynthia],” adds Sims. However, “once [the boys] jump into the sequence, it’s all about Cynthia, and they’re just the background dancers.”

Sims, too, accredits part of the number’s success to the fact that Notartomaso added in their own flare throughout the process. “Ari was so keen on who Cynthia was,” said Sims. “I allowed Ari to improvise and give their own interpretation because [it’s] important…that they added their own flavor.”

Another subtle admiration for “Greased Lightning” comes when Notartomaso and the rest of the Greasers enter into a “fantasy sequence” in which Cynthia and their male counterparts are decked out in matching classic T-Bird attire. “It was important to do that,” said Sims. “When you dream about being a part of something, and all the sudden [Cynthia has] on this T-Bird jacket, [it becomes a] dream fulfilled [moment].” 

The fantasy sequence implores a series of masculine movements, something Sims believes writes the story of Cynthia’s character arc. “The song…feels masculine and sexual,” said Sims. “[The number] is Cynthia expressing who [they are] — it is masculine, rough and unapologetic.”

The number closes out with the assembly of a makeshift motorcycle, a factor Sims says was the “hardest” part about choreographing the piece, but one that serves as the payoff point of the performance. 

“[The T-Birds are] building the motorcycle that Cynthia has always dreamed about,” said Sims. “And having the support of [them] is a dream. By the final tableau, the dream is fully realized.”

In the end, that’s exactly what “New Cool” was intended to deliver. “It was a totally different perspective [than Greased Lightning],” said Sims. “But [Notartomaso] still [had] that edge, and you obviously see that from the top — they [just] have it.”

Watch the official video for “New Cool” below.

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