Industry Insider: Succeeding as a Professional Dancer

On Friday, April 20th, Broadway Dance Center hosted Industry Insider: Succeeding as a Professional Dancer.  The Industry Insider offers a behind-the-scenes look at “the business.”  From Broadway Shows, to Concert Dance, to Music Videos, to Film, this ongoing series covers a wide range of events and gives dancers the chance to delve deeper into the ever-expanding entertainment industry.

In conjunction with National Dance Week, Broadway Dance Center and Bloc Talent Agency have brought together a panel of experts, including Bloc NYC agents Jim Daly and Fatima Wilson as well as professional dancers Shernita Anderson (Kanye West, Jill Scott), Autavia Bailey (J. Lo, Lady Gaga, Beyonce), Tyrone Jackson (“Memphis,” “Smash”), and Alex Wong (ABT, SYTYCD, “Newsies”).

BDC students crammed into the 8th floor annex to ask questions about how to succeed as a professional dancer – not just in New York, but in LA and around the globe! Here’s what the esteemed panel had to say:

“I was primarily a musical theater dancer.  When I wanted to branch out into the commercial side, I couldn’t decide between moving to New York or Los Angeles.  My friend helped me out.  He wrote ‘NY’ on one piece of paper and ‘LA’ on another.  Then he turned off the lights and threw the papers in the air.  I had to search for one in the dark…and it was LA!” – Tyrone Jackson

“Get your ‘look’ together.  You have to look the part in order to get the part.  You are a product – you have to market yourself.” – Autavia Bailey

“If you want to be a serious dancer, you have to take ballet.” – Alex Wong

“From my performing arts high school, I got the impression that I had to be a ballerina or I was nothing – but I’ve learned that’s anything but true.” – Shernita Anderson

“Go to ALL auditions, even if you’re not the ‘type’ they’re looking for.  Casting directors will see you and call you for other jobs that you do fit.” – Tyrone Jackson

“Your word is important.  When I made it through SYTYCD, I had already signed a year-long contract with Miami City Ballet.  I honored that contract and auditioned for SYTYCD the following year.  You have to realize that the dance world is so small, and your reputation is really important.” – Alex Wong

“Back then, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Debbie Allen did it all [dancing, singing, and acting]…so they did it all!  The same goes for today.  Invest in yourself [voice lessons, dance classes, acting workshops, etc.].” – Shernita Anderson

“Own who you are.  I am an African-American male.  I could go in for hip-hop calls, but I would be acting.  I’m an all-American black male – that’s my true ‘type.’  So that’s how I market myself.” – Tyrone Jackson

“Look at Backstage Magazine, Playbill.com, and Actor’s Equity.  Read the articles, watch the videos, learn as much as you can.  Be a knowledgeable dancer and do your research.” – Jim Daly

“The dance industry is 90% business and 10% talent.  Don’t just take class.  Know the business.  Educate yourself.  Be marketable.  Network.  And girls, always have your heels!” – Fatima Wilson

How to I get an agent?

  • Go to open agency calls.
  • Through recommendations from that agency’s dancers and choreographers.
  • If an agent is coming to support his/her agency’s dancer in a show, shoot the agent an e-mail so they’ll look out for you.
  • Hustle!  If you’re consistently booking jobs and networking, agents will keep hearing your name and approach you.

Mamma Mia! – Broadway Choreography Series with Allyson Carr

This ongoing series offers the opportunity to learn the original choreography to some of Broadway’s finest shows, presented by actual cast members straight from the stage to the studio.
On April 3rd and 5th, “Mamma Mia!” dance captain,

Allyson Carr visited Broadway Dance Center to teach the choreography from the show’s finale “Dancing Queen.”  Students couldn’t help but sing-along to the well-know ABBA classic as they learned the combination, which is taught at the Broadway auditions for “Mamma Mia!”  Though not technically intricate, the choreography challenged students to showcase their individual personalities within the movement.   Following the fun combination, BDC students joined Allyson in a Q&A about her dance career which has included professional performance in ballet, hip hop, modern, and theater!  When asked to give audition advice, Carr responded, “We are watching you the minute you walk in the room.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the best dancer in the world;  You have to be someone that we are drawn to work with.”

Upcoming workshops in BDC’s Broadway Choreography Series:

“How to Succeed…” with Chris Bailey: April 7th and 14th, 12-1:30pm
“Evita” with Chris Bailey: April 10th and 12th, 1:30-3pm
“Chicago” with David Kent: April 14th, 10:30-12pm

BDC Presents Parsons Dance in Residence

On January 4th 2012, Broadway Dance Center welcomed the new Parsons Dance in residence, an education and outreach partnership.  Company members teach weekly classes at Broadway Dance Center.  These one-of-a-kind classes focus on David Parsons’ dance vocabulary and movement technique.  The curriculum was developed by Katie Langan, a former Parsons Dance Board member and Chair of the Dance Department at Marymount Manhattan College.  The Parsons repertoire brings fresh, contemporary classes to BDC and provides students with the opportunity to learn from current company members and David Parsons himself.

Parsons Dance is an internationally renowned contemporary dance company under the artistic direction of choreographer/director David Parsons. Parsons Dance is committed to creating and performing American dance works of extraordinary artistry that are engaging and uplifting to audiences throughout the world. Parsons Dance tours nationally and internationally, including an annual season in its home community of New York City.

The Company includes nine full-time dancers and maintains a repertory of more than 80 works choreographed by David Parsons. Since 1985, Parsons Dance has toured an average of 32 weeks per year, to a total of more than 250 cities, 35 countries, six continents and millions of audience members. Many more have seen Parsons Dance on PBS, Bravo, A&E Network and the Discovery Channel.

In addition to choreography and performance, Parsons Dance is committed to audience development and arts education for participants of all ages and all levels of artistic experience. Parsons Dance regularly offers outreach opportunities including post-show discussions, master classes, open rehearsals, and studio showcases. In partnership with Marymount Manhattan College, and Broadway Dance Center, Parsons Dance offers year-round training opportunities in New York for professional and pre-professional dancers from throughout the world.

“Parsons movement is equal parts athletic and expressive . It is a unique and beautiful style that asks the dancer to both live within its technical boundaries as well as break through them.” – Lara Luzim (Professional Semester S’12)

Currently Parsons classes take place on Wednesdays from 1:30-3:00pm.  However, with the opening of our additional studio space downstairs, we are happy to announce that BDC will be able to offer 2 Parsons repertoire/technique classes per week!

Upcoming Parsons classes:

  • Now-April 4th with Eric Bourne
  • April 11th with Steven Vaughn
  • April 16th with Miguel Quinones
  • April 18th with Sarah Braverman

Interested in attending the Parsons Dance Summer Intensive? Apply here!

and 5, 6, 7, 8, SMASH!

Last night marked the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the premiere of NBC’s making-of-a-musical series, the “Great White Way of Hope” (LA Times) SMASH. Choreographed by Broadway Dance Center’s very own Josh Bergasse and starring many BDC dancers (did you spot Ricky Tripp in the baseball number?), the show boasts stars like Debra Messing (“Will and Grace”), Angelica Huston (“The Addams Family,” “Ever After”), Megan Hilton (“Wicked, the musical”) and Katherine McPhee(“American Idol”). The much-anticipated series which was honored in 2011 Critic’s Choice Awards as one of the “Most Exciting New Series,” accounts the making of a new Broadway musical about the life and legacy of Marilyn Monroe and shows that most of the “drama” occurs off stage, behind the scenes.

We hosted some pretty SMASH-ing events yesterday in honor of the show’s premiere. Kiira Schmidt, assistant to Josh Bergasse, taught a SMASH-inspired theater master class.

“The SMASH class was a blast; it was a privilege to not only work with someone soheavily involved in this new series, but to also get an inside look at the authentic choreography and put it on our own bodies.” – Lizz Picini (BDC student)

And at 10pm, BDC students and staff rushed to studio 4 to watch SMASH on a big-screen projector while munching on popcorn. The events were sponsored byLaDuca Shoes who gave away free dance shoe bags and even raffled off a pair of their beautiful character heels (also adorned by the dancers on SMASH)!

True story! While shopping for snacks at Food Emporium for our own SMASH premiere party, Emily Bass (Marketing/Events Coordinator @ BDC) ran into Katherine McPhee (star of SMASH) at the checkout line! McPhee obviously would have stopped by our BDC SMASH Extravaganza but she was planning for her own casual get-together with a few of her friends.

The baseball routine, “The National Pastime,” seemed to jump off the screen with its innovative choreography, clever humor, and talented performers. Keep your eye out for many other BDC-goers dancing in upcoming episodes!

“We have great dancers, very quick, very smart, very athletic. The music’s great – I saw my choreography have an entirely new life.” – Joshua Bergasse

So what are critics saying about SMASH? Take a look!

“The show seems to have a lot of promise, and the musical numbers dazzled.” –The Wall Street Journal

“Glee for grown-ups” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Quite the little sunbeam…endearing characters, an instinct for backstage meows and a firm grip on its own sense of camp control.” – The Washington Post

But we want to know what YOU thought! Share your opinion of the SMASH pilot by commenting on this post!

And All That Jazz: “Chicago” Master Class with David Kent

Our Professional Semester students were incredibly lucky to take a private master class fromDavid Kent, the dance captain for “Chicago,” the longest running American musical on Broadway.  The Pro-Sems learned the famous, timeless Fosse choreography to the opening number, “All That Jazz.”

What dance training did you have as a kid?
None! I started in college. I was an athlete; I had Olympic aspirations and wasn’t even going to go to college. I lived in the Olympic training center for ski racing for 4 years. The Olympics didn’t happen for me, but no regrets! I went to college at the University of New Hampshire and started to dance. I was terrible – but I got hooked. I made it my minor and learned, fast – hours and hours each day. My initial background was in modern and ballet. Somehow I got sucked into musical theater and never left.
Did you study voice and acting too?
Yes. Both… But my strength is dancing.
When did you move to New York City?
I am from Cazenovia, New York but didn’t move to New York City until I finished Graduate school at Boston University. Broadway auditions were always priority, but I went to anything and everything.
When was your “Chicago” audition?
I went to a couple. There were just a bazillion people there in the beginning, and I kind of just got lost in the shuffle. But then I had two submissions from my agency and got to the end of both auditions but never heard back. So I to went to one more required call and again got all the way through … but apparently at the time, there was no job to be had! When a position opened up, they called me but I had to turn it down because I was performing in “Romeo and Juliet: the rock musical.” Later on the position opened up with the first national tour and I was available to take it. After the movie came out I did the third national tour that I dance-captained for. Then I moved into the Broadway company and I started as dance captain after my first year there.
How did you become dance captain?
The previous dance captains in New York wanted to move on to other shows and projects. Its a very time consuming job and doesn’t really avail much freedom… So I took over for them.
What are your responsibilities as dance captain?
I’m 80% psychologist, 10% telling people where to stand and 10% teaching choreography. That’s probably an exaggeration… Maybe more like 33% of each is more like it…. There are  a lot of egos to balance. You need patience. You need to get a job done while being considerate and respectful to your cast mates. I have the responsibility to teach everybody – I teach the stars, I teach the ensemble, I teach and maintain the choreography and staging. I also handle the dance aspect of the audition process. My bosses are basically Annie Reinking, Gary Christ (dance supervisor), and Walter Bobbie (director).
Why do you think “Chicago” has been so successful as the “Longest Running American Musical?”
It is so well written (it was trimmed down from the 1976 version). It’s down to its basic minimum, its just good story telling. It’s staged to be a feast for the eyes and ears too. You cannot help but laugh at some of the scenes while at the same time feeling the effect of a sensual drive that can leave you squirming in your seat. “Oh ya, and we’re not really wearing anything!”
Do you think there was resurgence after the movie came out?
Definitely! It brought in a whole new audience. Before the movie, the audience was made up of an older, regular theater crowd. All of a sudden this young, excited group of teenagers/twenty-something’s started coming to the show. We also began casting current stars – Usher, Ashlee Simpson, Kara DioGuardi, Kevin Richardson…. people like that are a huge draw.
What is your opinion of contemporary movie musicals?
In general, I would much prefer them to tape the live shows and air them on PBS. But Rob Marshall did an excellent job on the film [of “Chicago”]. It’s a huge feat. People keep trying, but have only had moderate success in comparison to what he accomplished.
What is it like to be part of “Chicago,” a show that has become such an American icon, especially in the dance world?
It’s an honor. I’ve done over 4000 performances now. With that said, I don’t care how tired I am or how broken I am, the minute that Overture music starts the adrenaline kicks in and its a whole new game. I love performing that show. I’ve had opportunities to leave and do other projects but it’s never even a question…. No thanks, I’ll stick with Chicago. Particularly with this show, if you don’t feel inspired, you should give someone else a chance. It’s too important of a piece to be lazy or uninterested.
Why do you think “Chicago” was chosen as the theater master class for BDC’s Professional Semester?
“Chicago” has become an icon. I really want to pass on all the information that I can, at least in the context of the people who created and originally performed the work…Because with every generation it is going to get diluted or changed – everyone is going to have his or her own take on it. I think it’s important to pass this choreography on in the way that it was intended. Particularly because numbers like “All That Jazz” can become over-simplified, pedestrian – and it’s not like that. Its actually hard, if you know the specifics, if you know the back-story, if you know the intent of the whole number and the number with in the context of the show. Even though you’re moving slow… There is resistance… Like moving through a thick soup… And your internal motor is still running full speed!
What is your teaching approach?
I am a really positive person and I believe in encouraging people. Particularly with this sort of material where there’s going to be improv involved, I think you have to learn to be able to look at yourself and not be judgmental.  I’ve noticed over time that it is better to encourage students than to yell, “You’re not doing this or that right!” I can get that way in the show, you know, after someone’s been doing a hundred performances and is still not doing something the choreographer has asked – a little bit more “tough love.” But my approach is basically: get them warm and then start right away with the material. I don’t do a long choreographed warm-up, because that would be more about me. I want to teach as much of the material as I can and be as specific as I can. I want to encourage students to find ways to look at themselves without being judgmental beyond the lines they are trying to create.
What advice do you have for dancers who want to audition for “Chicago?”
Good question – there is actually an audition coming up! Okay, for the women, you’ve got to dress sexy and edgy without being (forgive my language) “a whore.” You have to be intriguing. I like hair down. But we all have our own opinions behind the table. Also, you know you’re going to improv in this audition – LESS IS MORE! Do your three or four eights of improv in your apartment and take the best eight count out of whatever that was and make that last the whole time – you will stand out. Also learn to check your dynamics. You can move really quickly for four counts and then super slow for twelve. Know where you’re looking and what you’re looking at. Lack of focus is a big deal. I talked at a cocktail party with one of Bob’s former dance captains from “Sweet Charity” and she said, “Nobody teaches focus anymore.” Good reminder for me to mention it all the time. Men – be men…. Be fluid with out being light and soft… You can even make up the character – you are the guy that every other guy wants to be and every girl wants to be with – but you’re not trying, you are thoroughly comfortable with yourself.
Be sure to “rouge your knees and roll your stockings down” for the “Chicago” audition!
March 19th at Ripley Grier
10:00am Women
2:00pm Men

Here’s what our Professional Semester students had to say about their master class with David Kent:

“I had not done a lot of broadway work and was feeling a bit insecure. After taking the Chicago Master Class I felt inspired and confident . The class gave me the insight that I could be any type of dancer/performer I choose to be . And dressing up was a blast!” – Lara Luzim

“Learning the “All that Jazz” choreography from David Kent was a dream come true! I can remember countless times when I would dance around my living room as a kid to “All That Jazz!” Being able to learn the original choreography with such a warm and positive person like David was very comforting. Before the master class I would of never had the confidence to go and audition for the show, but now I feel like I am Velma Kelly! The master class will forever be one of my favorite dance memories!” – Molly Day

This was the best experience I have had so far while being in the city. David Kent was so inspiring and helpful, and he gave me the confidence to really let go. I had learned this choreography once before, when my high school did a production of Chicago, but this was so awesome to learn the little details and tricks to transform the dance into “more than just movements”. I am so happy that I was given the opportunity to be a part of his class!” – Julia Udine

Having the opportunity to have a master class with David Kent, and learn the choreography to “All that Jazz” was phenomenal, and by far one of my favorite experiences living in the city. I took a master class from him this summer at BDC, but this particular class was so helpful because we had more time to learn about the character, quality of movement, and  audition process. It has been a life-long dream of mine to be in Chicago on Broadway, so being able to meet David Kent, and learn actual choreography from the show left me a little star struck. Now I feel confident that I can go out and make that dream come true!” – Lara Scott

I am not a musical theater dancer, but this class made me wish I was! I have always been a huge fan of Chicago so I was very excited when I found out we had the opportunity to work with David Kent. He definitely helped boost my confidence in the performance aspect of my dancing. I also really liked how we all dressed up for the class; I thought that was a lot of fun, and it really helped me get into character. This was definitely my favorite master class so far!” – Mollie Kuhn

Sonya Tayeh comes to BDC

The studio’s been abuzz all week in anticipation of contemporary classes with Sonya Tayeh, who is best known for her inventive, combative jazz/contemporary choreography on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Tayeh has described her unique style as “combat jazz,” because “[i]t’s staccato, aggressive, and engaged, even when it’s slow. I’m always ready for battle.”

All of Tayeh’s classes sold out hours before their scheduled time, and with crowds of wait-listed students watching at the windows, it was clear that the BDC community had been captivated by the quirky choreographer.

“From the moment Sonya entered the classroom, she commanded each and every single student’s 100% undivided attention and pushed us all to be better dancers than ever before. The energy and inspiration in the room was nothing I have ever experienced before. Her choreography, her warm up, her “words” – everything was out of this world! Everyone you talk to will tell you that a single dance class with Sonya will change your life. She’s a genius.” – Daniel Montera
“It was one of the most inspiring classes I’ve taken in a long time. She’s one of the strongest women I’ve met and she will push you to your ‘limit,’ only to find that you have no limit and are capable of anything.” – Megan O’Leary

We hope to have Ms. Tayeh back to teach many more classes here at BDC!

New BDC Acting Class is a Class Act

It is said that after one of Fred Astaire’s first screen tests the director noted, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Can dance a little.” Boy, was that wrong.

It is a common stigma, however, that dancers “can’t act.” We are taught from our very first ballet class to watch our alignment, straighten our posture, and improve our turnout. The only thing we’re really supposed to emote (or at least try to emote) during tendus at the barre is a sense of calm confidence. So maybe acting isn’t a real part of dancing then, right? WRONG! Just take a look at what some notable industry professionals have to say:

“…commitment from the dancer means communication to the audience. This is true for both the actor and the dancer, because dance is acting and acting is dance. The principles of storytelling are the same.” – Tony Testa (Los Angeles; ‘The Cheetah Girls,’ ‘Wizards of Waverly Place,’ ‘Dance on Sunset,’ a music video for Miranda Cosgrove, halftime shows for slamball on ABC, commercials for Skechers and Versace, shows for Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, and Danity Kane)

“The most important acting skill a dancer can have in my work is the ability to get really honest—to be able to relate to the work personally.” – Jack Ferver (New York; Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project, the New Museum, Théâtre de Vanves (Paris), an upcoming piece for Performance Space 12)

“I like dancers who put themselves out there on the line without the fear of embarrassment. Dancers are constantly seeing themselves as they dance. My advice is to get past that voice in your head, the one saying how you “should be.” Instead, like the good actor, find that quiet, open space that lets you be whatever you want to be—or whatever I ask you to be.” – Mark Swanhart (Los Angeles; ‘Viva Elvis’ for Cirque du Soleil (Las Vegas), Celine Dion’s ‘Taking Chances’ tour, ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ a film of ‘La Bohème,’ the 2003 Tony Awards)

“If you don’t think of “acting” per se, but rather use your imagination to infuse your movement with clear intention, strong imagery, discovery, subtext, and self-knowledge, you will be more likely to enter that magical zone of “being in the moment.” – Dance Magazine, “Going Inside the Role”

“Today’s world of musical theater demands dancers to have acting and singing skills. In musical theater there is always a story to tell and a plot to further– no one is ever just dancing steps. Every dancer needs to comfortable using their voice and have the confidence to speak on stage. Broadway shows are full of ” one liners”, which are typically assigned to the chorus. If a dancer is asked to read sides during an audition, he or she must make a strong choice and read with authority; there is no time to be embarrassed about how you sound or how you “act”. This is why a basic knowledge of acting is essential to dancers hoping to break into musical theater and Broadway. In terms of casting, the more skills you have the more valuable you are. This is why the cliche “triple threat” exists; if you can do it all, you are a threat to those who cannot. For example, Directors always need understudies, a job which typically goes to a member of the chorus. A dancer who can potentially understudy a lead role is more likely to book the job over one who cannot. Just as in life, being a well-rounded individual adds dimension to a dancer’s talent and creates more opportunity.” – Kiira Schmidt (New York; “Follies,” “White Christmas,” “Stairway to Paradise,” “Mame;” assistant to Josh Bergasse for NBC’s “SMASH”)

“Agreed!” remarks Bronwen Carson, a recent addition to the faculty here at Broadway Dance Center. Ms. Carson, who will be teaching “Acting for Dancers” (Tuesdays at 10:30am-12pm), describes, “Dancers inherently have tools at their disposal to become powerful storytellers, but are rarely shown how to translate the precise control they have over their bodies into truthful, nuanced character portrayals.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a performer.

I started in classical ballet at 7 because I wanted to be the music. It wasn’t so much the movements, that passion came later. It was the music and the story I imagined in my head when I watched dancers. I’d make up the most intricate stories about every person I met. I kept the stories to myself, like favorite books one doesn’t share at first. Now, after being in the performing arts for over thirty years, I’m ready to share those stories.

What brought you to acting?

I was incredibly fortunate to study with two extraordinary artists for the first decade of my training, Paul Curtis and Shawn Stuart. They seamlessly incorporated acting into my basic skill set as a dancer. So, almost from day one I was implementing it. I remember in rehearsals, even as a toy soldier in “The Nutcracker,” I’d be really interested in what the director was trying to convey, and how I could best portray that as a toy soldier. Later on, I received a scholarship to study at the Theater Arts Institute in the Bay Area, under the director of Marc Jacobs, a RADA trained director who put a great deal of importance upon honing the craft and technique of acting. The more I studied it and played with it as a dancer, the more I sought out projects and artists who felt the same.

Why do you think it is important for dancers to know how to act?

Because that’s what we are looking for now. When I say “we” I am speaking from the perspective of a director and choreographer. It’s enthralling and exciting to find a dancer who doesn’t drop out of character when whipping off their turns. I also see it as THE bridge to obtaining feature and leading roles in everything from concert work to film work. If you cannot act, you’ll be kicking those fantastic legs up in the background. If you can act, your chances of being in the foreground, maybe with some lines and a lot more money, exponentially increase. I’m also weary of seeing dancers work their guts out as “dance” or “body doubles” just to be replaced with an actor who receives much of the recognition or acclaim. I think more dancers should be nominated for Tony awards. why not? If it’s about excellence in storytelling and character portrayal, why shouldn’t dance and dancers accomplish that?

How did you get connected with Broadway Dance Center?

I took classes at BDC when I first moved to New York, back when they were located on Broadway and 54th Street! I’ve gotten to know Diane, Bonnie, and Vanessa through the years as a producer for Melanie LePatin and then as a producer for the Astaire Awards.

Tell us about “Acting for Dancers.”

It was born out of necessity really. I began working more as a director and choreographer a few years ago and with each audition I held, I found dancers falling into one of two categories – “fierce dancer” or “really good mover who can act.” But what I needed was fierce dancers with fantastic acting chops. The rarity of that combination concerned me a great deal. Then I realized it was not the dancer’s fault – the skill wasn’t really being taught. So, after I saw the need, I worked out the “what’s” and the “how’s” of training dancers to act. It’s a really different deal with dancers. Their control over the minutia of their bodies often creates blockades to truthful acting. I decided to create a class built for their unique strengths and challenges. I used my experiences as a professional dancer and actor to build specific exercises that bridge the two worlds. Once I felt I had a course that could offer results, I approached a number of schools in the city, including BDC. Bonnie Erickson was the first to respond with real excitement. So, a month later I started teaching during BDC’s Fall 2011 Professional Semester and am now teaching for the Spring Pro-Sem as well as newly available drop-in open classes offered on Tuesday mornings. The open classes go through March 27th.

Why do you think people believe dancers can’t be actors?

I think it’s an antiquated belief based solely upon the lack of training dancers receive in acting technique. Dancers train so ferociously on their lines, their strength, their flexibility, their “tricks”…but for the most part, they don’t learn how to build and perform a nuanced, evocative character with objectives, relationships and a storyline. Give them training and suddenly astounding abilities start to reveal themselves.

You are in the process of directing and choreographing a new work, “49th Street and Other Stories.” Why do you classify this project as a dance play?

I call it a dance play because of the sheer emphasis I’ve placed upon the storyline and character portrayal. I’m demanding a lot of myself and of my dancers, but they love it. They love being asked more of them. It’s been a thrilling and pretty daunting process. I spend a great deal of rehearsal time working out character development, relationship dynamics and tactical changes through their movements.

What prompted you to create this project and what are your hopes for the future of the project?

“49th Street and Other Stories” has been a long time in the making. There’s a huge Mason jar in my office filled with ideas and memories. It’s loosely autobiographical, so the challenge hasn’t been in creating the story, but which parts to include and which to leave out. As with anything I direct or choreograph, my primary desire is to have the audience forget the performers are not speaking because what they are watching…the characters, relationships, individual moments…all start to fill in what literally isnt’ being said so as to unconsciously create dialogue and conversations in their minds. As for the show’s future, all I have is an unrelenting drive to see it produced. I head into a final workshop early this summer for some interested backers, after I’m done choreographing a new musical called “Jack’s Back.” I’m pursuing all sorts of creative financial backing options, from grants to individual backers to corporate sponsors. The piece lends itself to a large scale production to fully experience the whole “mind’s eye of one woman’s New York” quality. I’m batting ideas around with some truly exciting and visionary set and costume designers right now. I want it to be exceptionally appealing both artistically as well as commercially. I want to pay my dancers, pay them well. With what I’m asking of them, they deserve it!

Drop-in classes for “Acting for Dancers” with Bronwen Carson will take place Tuesdays from 10:30-noon.

Read more about why acting is important for dancers:

Backstage

Dance Magazine

Dance Teacher Magazine