Event Innovators 2018: Sarah O’Gleby
This choreographer creates show-stopping performances for live events, television, theater, and film.
Sarah O’Gleby, creative director and choreographer
Background: After seeing Grease at London’s Dominion Theatre when she was 15, O’Gleby, 39, who grew up in a tiny village in the middle of England, knew she wanted to “do that.” Following her studies at Laine Theatre Arts, she took to the stage on the West End and Broadway, eventually moving to New York for the revival of Brigadoon, which never actually happened because of the failing economy at the time.
From Broadway to Beyoncé: In 2009, three months after that failed Broadway attempt, she choreographed a medley of musical hits from movies at the 81st Annual Academy Awards with Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé. Since then, O’Gleby has gone on to choreograph several high-profile television and film events such as the Tony Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the N.B.C. Upfronts, as well as corporate events like Hermes store openings. Ongoing projects include the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live, as well as Frozen the Broadway Musical.
Event Highlight of the Past Year: For the second year in a row, O’Gleby teamed up with event designer David Stark to incorporate dance elements into the annual Robin Hood Foundation benefit, which featured dancers integrated into the New York-inspired theme, as well as a high-energy performance that helped transition guests to dinner.
“Especially in this climate right now, if you can bring a bunch of wonderfully creative problem-solvers together who want to create something magical, especially something like Robin Hood,” O’Gleby says, “if you can create a one-off, magical event and you can giggle at the same time and problem-solve together and you want it to be the best it can be for each other, that’s golden.”
On Her Transition into Events: “I wouldn’t have said that events was something that I was gonna do, but it’s one of my favorite things to do…. I feel like it’s every experience from a show business point-of-view all wrapped into one.”
Feeling All the Feels: “After being a performer for so long, I know when I’m in the middle of something and every fiber in my body is feeling it—and when it’s not. Now as a creative, the soul of me has to be in the middle of it [when it comes to events].”
On Pushing the Envelope: “If [the clients have] always done it a certain kind of way, and I come in and say, ‘well what about if we actually did it this way,’ and then I can move the dial just enough for them to feel comfortable, then I can move the dial even more the year after.”
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