Anthony Marciona Urges You to Fight for Performers Rights

Born in an Italian-Jewish community off the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, New York, a typical Wednesday and Saturday for six-year-old Anthony Marciona included going to his parent’s Italian restaurant on Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District of New York City. There, he learned to shoot pool with truck drivers and meatpackers at the end of their overnight workday, and chatted with drag queens at the end of their after-hours clubbing. Around noon, his mother would take him to work his matinee performance on Broadway. The production: Hal Prince’s original production of Zorba, starring Herschel Bernardi. The opening dance sequence featuring the vigorous cast was presented at the 1969 Tony Awards and preserved on YouTube (watch his solo dance at 4:10-4:40).

Anthony found his footing at five-years of age when his mother took him to the nearby dance studio run by Marjorie Marshall ( yes, Penny and Garry’s mother!). Marjorie created many community and city performance opportunities for her students. One day, Hal Prince watched Anthony and his class perform at the 1964 World’s Fair, and invited Anthony to audition for Zorba. The special role of Zorba’s side-kick character, Antonio, launched Anthony’s career - which has, to this day, never slowed its pace.

Still a young man, Anthony’s next Broadway job was with Angela Lansbury in Gypsy. In terms of being a professional, Angela Lansbury is his idol. “I learned from her that we’re all people in the business. As you grow up and work with different celebrities and you’re up and coming, everyone has airs.” Anthony’s gaze shifts to focus his intention. “Not Angie. She had a right to act a star, but she taught me how to be real in the business… she insisted everyone call her Angie. Twenty years later on Murder She Wrote, I wondered if she’d remember me from Gypsy. I came on set and she stopped everyone and announced, ‘we have someone in the cast who was my baby in Gypsy.’ She took me to lunch, and we shot three days together. There were no airs of being special. Such a pro – when it was work time, it was work. But she was your friend.”

Since the 1960’s, Anthony has worked as actor, dancer, and later as director and producer. He worked in stage, film, and television in NY & LA, and internationally with such greats as Kirk Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Jerome Robbins, Pete Townshend, Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Lopez... the list is endless. He received his higher education from UCLA, SMU, Manhattan School of Music, School of Visual Arts, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the Groundlings.

Anthony Marciona © JackFleming
Anthony Marciona © Jack Fleming

Anthony’s current website features a feisty-red and gray home page background and a photo of Anthony in mid-jump with knees tucked under him, arms splayed, and a smile that moves from the digitized flat screen directly into your heart. “At my age, they want to know you can still move,” he laughs. But his vast character range (as seen in his lengthy resume) ensures continued success. “I’m not your typical dancer – when you look at me, I don’t scream dancer – with my figure.” His ability to be accepting and introspective has clearly added stamina to his performing years.

Anthony’s rich cultural and personal family background, interwoven with his beliefs in the necessity of community and artistic discipline, has been the template for his life’s work. Consequently, Anthony has enjoyed years of opportunities that are strung together like pearls. Once, a planned vacation to Europe turned into a chance meeting in London with a friend from home, which turned into an audition, which turned into meeting Michael Caine. Caine’s agent happened to be in town, and he extended an invitation for Anthony to travel to Cannes. The trip was a second audition, and a successful one - Anthony returned to London with a job for a few months’ work performing on the West End.

We are not replaceable. We have training.

A long-standing attention to presence in his workspace has contributed to his strong, thematic, ethos; having no airs, establishing quality of work and community, and maintaining self-worth and respect. Anthony’s life lessons come from the heart. “I’m so aware on set to be warm to everyone. To make everyone feel welcome. Especially the people just starting out, so they feel comfortable, because that’s what [Angie] did.”

After acknowledging his love of being on set with friends and creating with other artists, our conversation jumped forward to current concerns. Anthony is a delegate and alternate board member of Screen Actors Guild (SAG); however, his efforts to help protect dance members in the workspace can only extend so far. He harbors a deep concern that young dancers have 2-hurdles to straddle to give themselves a satisfying career in the dance world.

from top left to bottom right: Anthony Marciona on set with John Travolta, Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lopez, and Kelsey Grammer
from top left to bottom right: Anthony Marciona on set with John Travolta,
Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lopez, and Kelsey Grammer

First, being aware of contracts. “Pay attention because right now, we’re at a very disadvantaged time in the union… and God bless Bobbie Bates who’s been [active], but she’s [only] one person. We need a bigger presence [in the union] to protect our wages and working conditions, which have diminished in the age of streaming.”

“This brings me to community. Dancers are a community, more so than actors. Dancers have a camaraderie because they know…when working together they need to be...cohesive for the team to work. And dancers will do whatever the director or choreographer wants, because there’s a yearning to please. That eagerness, ‘I’ll do it! I’ll do it!’ and the issue of wanting to shine and be featured in a little section [to a fault] – be aware – you have to be paid for this work. We’re *making a living* as dancers.”

Second, being aware that your skill-sets are a specific talent. “Dancers can easily be shunted aside with no dressing rooms, sat and fed with background – no disrespect, but their skill-set is different. Dancers have a specific talent, a disciplined talent…producers and crew like to type you in like you are disposable background. And you are NOT. We are not replaceable. We have training. We follow choreography, which is what we’re hired for.”

Never limit the other artistic disciplines because it all helps you as a dancer and as you get older.

Anthony’s perspective and advantage comes from years of experience. “Your choreographer is your director who stands up for you. You have to let them know how you’re being treated, and yes, you have to balance it all. Stick up for what you are [and understand] dancers still are not as respected as stunt persons who have more pull.”

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Anthony has an incredible gallery of work – fifty years to be exact - that demonstrates a limitless enthusiasm for challenge. He is currently writing stories in film and musical format and has 2-projects in progress. And, his entrepreneurial skills extend to co-owning Thats A Nice!, a line of all-natural, Sicilian Italian food, for which he won a SOFI Silver Award.

He is adamant that dance is a specific discipline. Understanding that as dancers, we are artists; this understanding can offer more creative outlets. “Never limit the other artistic disciplines because it all helps you as a dancer and as you get older. It gives you opportunities to branch out in our field.

About the author

Laura Fremont’s Dancing Ahead interviews dancers who have gone before, either leaping down a traditional path or twirling along a road less traveled. For more than thirty years, Laura’s dance work as a performer, choreographer, and educator has connected her to an industry of talented and passionate fellow professionals in film, television, and stage. These closely held associations offer rich insight to our newer generation of dancers, to help guide their success, give support, and offer confirmation for their dance journey.