Breaking into Broadway

The lights are bright, the buzz and energy is so full of life. It’s full of song, dance, storytelling, exciting choreography, extravagant costumes and sets. It’s Broadway. It’s lovingly called The Great White Way – one of the first streets in the U.S. to be lit with electric lights. Its history and reputation and potential for amazing things make it a “bucket list” item for many dancers. But when so many dancers are vying for the same goal, how can you turn this dream into a reality? How can you break into Broadway?

Here, we turn to Stephanie Bissonnette, a 2010 graduate of Broadway Dance Center’s Summer Intern Program (now called the BDC Professional Semester), who made her Broadway debut in the musical Mean Girls last April. She knows all there is to know about what kinds of classes aspiring Broadway dancers should be taking, how to prepare for that singing audition and how you, too, can make it on The Great White Way, doing what you love.

Stephanie Bissonnette.What’s your dance background? 

“I grew up as a competition dancer at my local studio. I competed and trained in all styles, as well as participating in my high school and community theater productions. I then received a BA from Point Park University in Dance Performance with a concentration in Jazz.”

When did you make your Broadway debut? What’s your role in the show? 

“I just made my Broadway debut last April in Mean Girls on Broadway. I’m in the ensemble, and I play Dawn Schweitzer.”

When did you train and intern at BDC? What did you like best about the experience?

“I did the Summer Intern Program in 2010. It’s now known as the Professional Semester. It helped my experience immensely because I was able to build close relationships with the teachers at BDC. This has given me many different performing opportunities, as well as mentors that I still train with today.”

What are some of your favorite classes and teachers at BDC? 

“My favorite classes are Sheila Barker’s jazz class, Beth Goheen’s ballet class, and Karla Garcia, Josh Assor and Nick Kenkel in theater dance.”

For you, what was the appeal to BDC?

“The many types of training offered. I love training in all styles.”

How did it feel when you booked Mean Girls?

“It was an overwhelming feeling of joy and relief. It was wonderful to finally achieve what I had been working so hard to attain. I felt grateful for every teacher and friend and family member who encouraged me to keep going after my dream.”

What are your suggestions for dancers who want to make it on Broadway?

“I think it’s so important to be versatile. The more you can do, the more marketable you are to casting directors. I take all styles, as well as taking voice lessons every two weeks.”

What sorts of classes would you suggest dancers to take to prepare themselves for Broadway?

“All styles. Everything you bring to the table is important. Being comfortable in many styles will only open up more doors.”

Many Broadway auditions require dancers to also sing. How should dancers prepare for the singing part of an audition?

“Get a voice teacher you are comfortable with and work on building a ‘book’. Have a versatile repertoire that you can pull from for any and all auditions.”

What else should dancers do if their dream is to perform on Broadway?

“It all depends on you. How much effort you put in is what you are going to get out of it. Train and audition as much as possible. You are the only person who can push yourself to achieve your dream. Surround yourself with positive role models, friends and mentors. Most importantly, don’t give up, even in the face of adversity.”

To catch Stephanie Bissonnette in Mean Girls, get tickets at meangirlsonbroadway.com.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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