If you don’t know the name “Richard Ellner”, you should. He is the man behind Broadway Dance Center and the reason why we’re able to enjoy dozens of fun classes with working choreographers and well-known teachers each week. Ellner was a life-long lover of the performing arts, although he didn’t take a dance class himself until the age of 52! He had visions of a home for dance in the heart of NYC, where dancers could receive diversified training from the best in the business, all under one roof. So, 35 years ago, in 1984, Ellner founded BDC.
To honor Ellner’s legacy and contribution to the dance community, BDC has announced recipients of the Richard Ellner Scholarships, awarded to three students of BDC’s Professional Semester Program. The generous Scholarships will cover half and full tuition costs for these dancers. Here, get to know the scholarship recipients and why they’re so thrilled to be training at BDC.
How does it feel to be a recipient of the Richard Ellner Scholarship? What does it mean to you?
“I am extremely honored to be a recipient of the Richard Ellner Scholarship. Through Broadway Dance Center, Richard Ellner achieved a global center of versatility and community in dance that is unmatched to this day. I am grateful to have the opportunity to honor his vision of versatility and community within the dance community in this amazing city. I have gained a new perspective on how his dream uniquely transforms dancers who train at Broadway Dance Center. It’s incredible to cultivate art in the presence of all styles of dance and people from around the world!”
“It means so much that the scholarship committee was willing to invest in me and my dreams of being a professional dancer. Throughout the course of this program, I’ve gained more and more tools to help believe in myself, but the assurance that others believe in me, too, enabled me to push through new challenges and take risks in my training more than I ever thought possible.”
“Being awarded the Richard Ellner Scholarship was an absolute honor. Richard Ellner was so accepting of all types of dancers in all forms of dance, so it was very important to me to try new styles that might have been out of my comfort zone and bring a positive energy to each one.”
Why do you like training at BDC and in the ProSem program? How has it already helped you grow as a dancer, artist and person?
“I’ve been coming to BDC to train over summer breaks for as long as I can remember (I’ve even been to their old location on 57thStreet!), so I can truthfully say that this studio is a second home to me, and where I’ve developed the most as both an artist and person. I love that Richard Ellner’s vision for BDC is still totally alive; amateurs can train right alongside professionals and equally learn from and inspire one another, in every dance style imaginable. I’m constantly in awe of the talent, camaraderie and creativity that I witness here every day. It really makes you appreciate how much art impacts people’s lives and unites us across cultures and backgrounds.”
“I love the intensity and caliber of BDC’s professional-level training. I value my relationships with the faculty and am so grateful for the ways in which they have cared for me and invested in my personal growth. I have improved as a whole dancer but particularly in the realms of learning choreography quickly, performing for the camera and audition strategies. The content of the Professional Semester courses are extremely useful to achieving success in the dance industry. Most importantly, training at BDC has pushed me to levels I never thought possible and helped me tap into a deeper passion for dance than ever before. With 15 classes a week, coupled with professional development seminars and master classes, the Professional Semester dancers are truly taught to be the strongest version of themselves in an environment that demands nothing less. The friendships made in this program are friendships that will last a lifetime. Often, in hindsight, people would make different decisions in life. I auditioned twice for the BDC professional program because I believed this program was the best option for the dancer who wants to move into the professional world. Looking back, I realize I would make the same decision again, and I could not be happier to have chosen BDC as my home for growing into the professional dancer I am meant to be!”
“Every single person I have met at BDC has both inspired and motivated me to push the limits on my comfort boundaries. It is the most amazing atmosphere to try new things free of judgment. The studio has also taught me a new approach on how to get the most out of all my classes. From warm-up, all the way up to the last groups for a combo, the techniques BDC has shown me allow myself to take something away from each comment a teacher makes and each movement that is expressed. I’ve also been introduced to styles I’ve never even thought of trying. I’ve grown to love musical theater, which I’ve never trained in previously. The many layers of dancing, acting and singing was something totally new to me, and overall it’s opened up my performing skills immensely.”
What are some of your favorite classes and teachers at BDC?
“Anytime I need good energy, Neil Schwartz’s class is the one to take. He’s shown me that subtlety can still be powerful if you have intention. Ryan Miller, David Thomas, Ian McKenzie and Keenan Cooks’s classes always challenge my groove and musicality. Mishay Petronelli, Shirlene Quigley, Candace Brown and Yvonne-Marie Sain taught me correct heels technique and the impact your walk can have on an audience. Anytime time I just wanted to get funky, Ms. Vee’s locking/popping class was the way to go. Tom Richardson, Kyle Robinson and Nijawwon Matthews showed me the different textures of contemporary. I discovered my love for theater in classes with Lane Napper, Josh Assor and Justin Boccitto. And although I’ve only taken him the last two weeks of my program after he ran our mock audition, Josh Bergasse’s class is everything and more when it comes to challenging yourself in technique and performance. Finally, all the love in the world goes out to my favorite ballet teacher, Barry Kerollis. He’s shown me how to appreciate an art form even if it isn’t my strong suit.”
“Some of my favorite teachers to take at BDC are Kenichi Kasamatsu, Theresa Stone, Neil Schwartz, Lane Napper, Josh Assor, Al Blackstone, Bo Park, Jamie Salmon and Jill Kenney. My favorite classes usually consist of street styles and theater because those are my concentrations, but Jamie and Jill have made me fall in love with ballet and tap in ways I never expected!”
“I have to say that Barry Kerollis has been an amazing ballet teacher and all-around mentor for me during my program. Josh Assor will challenge your idea of theater in the best way possible. Yvonne-Marie Sain’s got heels grooves for days and always makes sure you keep your lines intact. Discovering Pilates with Joy Karley and Linda Farrell took my technique to a new level. Every dancer could benefit from the focus and passion that Sheila Barker’s class inspires. And finally, get in Lane Napper’s acting and Bettina Sheppard’s vocal classes! They are fantastic, knowledgeable teachers who inspired me to explore singing and acting in ways that boosted my confidence and skills as a performer overall.”
For more information on BDC’s Professional Semester program, visit www.broadwaydancecenter.com/training/professional-semester.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.