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16-year-old choreographer behind “Mamma Mia!” dance moves

September 24, 2018

The Camille Playhouse is closing its 55th season opener “Mamma Mia!” on Sunday with an evening encore performance after two weekends of sold-out shows. The person behind the energetic—and at times, hilarious — choreography to the ABBA-centric dance routines was 16-year-old Noe Solis, along time Camille Playhouse performer.

Noe said Camille Playhouse Executive Artistic Director Chris Ikner asked him to choreograph the show. After weeks of practice, the Lopez High School junior watched the cast perform on opening night of “Mamma Mia!” Sept. 14.

“It was really exciting just seeing everyone having fun on stage,” he said. “It was so good. You just wanted to get up and start dancing with them.”

Noe has performing at the Camille Playhouse for more than half his life. He starred in “Pinocchio” at 7 and has been in 12 productions, most recently “Heathers.”

When Ikner invited Noe to take charge of the choreography, Noe was surprised.

“At first I didn’t know what to say,” he recalled. “(I thought) this might be a fun opportunity for me to share the love of dance that I have. Anything to give back to the Camille, of course.”

Noe wasn’t a “studio baby,” but rather got his start through ballroom dancing in 6th grade and was encouraged by friends to join the school’s dance team.

Noe said he had only once led a dance recital while a student at Porter High School before taking on choreography for “Mamma Mia!”

“That was really the only thing I had choreographed by myself,” he said. “It was really new to me.I had never been exposed to teaching other people.”

Noe combined well known “Mamma Mia!” dance moves with his own ideas to plan what audiences saw on the Camille Playhouse stage. A couple things made him nervous once it was time to start rehearsals, he said. The first was that most of cast were adults, and the second was they were starting with the first act closing song “Voulez-Vous.”

“Are all these grown-up people going to listen to a 16-year-old?” he recalled thinking. “It turned out to be, ‘Wow, this was fun.’ Throughout rehearsals, it was a blast.”

Aside from theater, Noe has an interest in several other creative fields. He’s part of the Lopez High School Golden Stars dance team, is practicing photography and is an aspiring model. He has even been to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall on flute during 8th grade.

He called his parents “my No.1 supporters.”

Noe’s love of theater started by watching his dad Jose Solis, a P.E. coach, perform skits on stage at Del Castillo Elementary. The elder Solis is also artistic, plays accordion and is a writer with a published children’s book.

Michelle Solis, Noe’s mom, said it can be exhausting to make sure her son gets to all his extracurricular activities, but she’s proud of his accomplishments. She’s thankful for Ikner’s guidance in helping Noe grow as a performer.

“It’s just been an amazing thing,” she said. “He’s just a creative kid with just endless possibility. He makes everything look so easy.”

Noe’s goals after high school include studying musical theater and dance at The Julliard School in New York City. He hopes to someday be on Broadway performing some of his favorite shows, including “Les Misérables” and “Shrek the Musical.” With the title of choreographer now on his resume, it’s not hard to believe he will do just that.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished one thing most people can’t say, ‘I’ve choreographed this whole show,’” he said of “Mamma Mia!” “When I went to see it opening night, I was so happy seeing them up there doing the steps I worked on. It was an amazing feeling.”

Tickets for the Sunday encore performance of “Mamma Mia!”will be available for $10 at the Camille Playhouse box office from 4-8 p.m. No online or phone sales will be available. Get more information at (955) 542-8900oratfacebook.com/ CamillePlayhouse.

nadia@brownsvilleherald.com

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