GORHAM — Jon Rua says he knows that a lot of people couldn’t afford to go to New York and watch the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which has played to sold-out performances for the past year.

Until he left the show in June, Rua was the understudy for the lead role and contributing choreographer who played the part of Charles Lee eight shows a week, including during the musical’s off-Broadway run. Rua said one way he can give back is to teach some of his moves to dance students who couldn’t afford a ticket to “Hamilton,” which is sold out through next May and costs $849 for a premium seat.

“A lot of people who take my class don’t have the money to see ‘Hamilton,’ but they get to experience some of it through me,” Rua said.

Rua, 33, taught classes to 140 young dancers Saturday at the Dance Studio of Maine in Gorham and will again Sunday. This was his second appearance at the studio owned by Trish Moulton, who has featured master classes with other well-known dancers and choreographers, such as Kate Harpootlian and Ellenore Scott, both contestants on the “So You Think You Can Dance” TV series.

Rua was also scheduled to choreograph an original piece during the weekend that Moulton will use in competitions.

Rua is a rising star who hopes to combine choreography, acting, writing and directing into one career. The son of Colombian immigrants, Rua said he grew up in humble surroundings in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He said his own mother could only afford to see him in “Hamilton” once.


Although he was active in marching band in high school and minored in music in college, he didn’t enter the world of entertainment until after graduation from Rutgers University, where he majored in communications and public relations. He describes himself as a recreational dancer and performer who is mostly self-taught. Contemplating what to do after college, Rua found himself at a crossroads.

“I had been offered a job as a financial adviser and was accepted into a hip-hop company,” he said.

Choreographer Jon Rua watches students dance at the Dance Studio of Maine in Gorham on Saturday.

Choreographer Jon Rua watches students dance at the Dance Studio of Maine in Gorham on Saturday.

He took the unpaid dance job and never looked back. He began to meet people in the hip-hop world on and off Broadway. He has appeared in two other Broadway shows, “Hands on the Hardbody” and “In the Heights.” He choreographed the Phish road show and the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis’ 2016 production of “Aida.”

He said he was ready to leave “Hamilton” and the demands of performing eight shows a week. Since then, he has packed his days with teaching dance classes, creating new dance pieces, singing, auditioning for parts, and writing.

“I felt I was opening a new book, rather than a new chapter,” Rua said.

Students at the Dance Studio of Maine said they were thrilled and nervous to dance beside a Broadway performer. Maya Lee, 12, of Gorham said she likes acting and dancing, just like Rua.


“I am nervous but in a good way,” Maya said.

Mikki Leskowsky, 13, of Gorham sipped on some vitamin water to keep herself hydrated before she took Rua’s class.

“I’m kind of nervous but really excited,” Mikki said.


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