What does theater dance mean today? On Broadway, we’ve recently seen everything from hip-hop in Hamilton to pointe work in Anastasia. As a result, theater dance class can truly run the gamut when it comes to genre and even music. “A jazz, tap, or modern class will focus on specific codified technical training,” explains Jim Cooney, who teaches theater dance and serves as the educational department’s resident faculty advisor here at Broadway Dance Center. “In theater class, we work on storytelling, style, and musicality. You focus on communicating the story–what you’re thinking and feeling—through dance. It’s like an acting class, but instead of text we’re using movement.”
When Joseph Pilates immigrated to the United States and founded his signature strength training technique in the 1920s, he emphasized a holistic, interconnected approach to physical well-being. Pilates focuses on core strength, proper alignment, and full range of motion. The exercise form has experienced several renaissances in the last century, but has remained a tried-and-true method in more recent decades as people have come to recognize and respect the science-backed technique that personifies the song, “Dem Bones” (“The hip bone’s connected to the leg bone!”). All of our body parts are connected and any imbalance in one area can impact everything else (#everythinghurts).
“Gah, gah, reach–ball change. Now, one-two-three hundred turns!” If you haven’t already guessed, today we’re featuring the woman, the myth, the legend: the one-and-only Sheila Barker. Whether she’s teaching her weekly drop-in jazz classes, mentoring training program students, hosting classes for BDC’s annual Dance Teacher Workshop, leading her sought-after Summer Workshop, or just greeting everyone (by name!) as she roams the halls of BDC, Sheila seems to inspire every dancer she meets.
Broadway Dance Center has always been Al Blackstone’s home away from home. His teachers, mentors, and experience as a student helped shape him into the educator he is today. Since his first class in 2011 with just a few students, Al now packs the room no matter when he’s teaching. Beyond that, his courage to share his talent, vulnerability, charm, and lovable goofiness has created an undeniable ripple effect throughout the industry, challenging our preconceived notions about what ‘musical theater’ means, and how we can cultivate the energy of a dance class. Being a teacher or performer doesn’t mean masking who you are to portray someone or something else–quite the opposite, actually. It requires tapping even deeper into who you are in order to create a more meaningful connection with others, whether it’s your audience, dance partner, students, or fellow peers in class.
It’s Pride month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. New York City–especially Broadway Dance Center–is celebrating love loud and proud by walking in the Pride March again and hosting special Pride March fundraiser classes. Amidst all this joy, pride, and celebration, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come (and also how far we still have to go) in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights and respect.
The arts reflect life, and the dance world has often ignited social change (Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey are but two choreographic changemakers that come to mind). It’s not quite a surprise, then, to know that the dance community had a huge influence on making “gay” visible, accepted, and mainstream.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we sat down with some of our faculty and staff to find out what they love about being mothers.
Sue Samuels, Jazz Faculty
Mother’s Day is an important day to me because of my children Elka and Jason! My children were “studio children”, and were in my class sitting on the floor doing their homework after school every day. I didn’t even think they were watching the dancing. They never danced in my class at that time. Then, one day, Frank Hatchett invited me to teach in his children’s program, and for Elka and Jason to take classes. They haven’t stopped dancing since! Now my grandchildren are in my dance classes and in the BDC CTP! I love Broadway Dance Center for always supporting me and my family.
Allie Beach, Director of Youth Programming
Being a mom is the one of the greatest privileges on this earth. And I am SO grateful that my son has the opportunity to grow up in the studio around wonderfully diverse friends, and people who are artistic and creative and who care about him. There’s a lot of love for my son within those BDC walls, and I’m grateful that we can call our dance community family!
Nicole Falabella, Scheduling Director
The best part about being a mom is the moment your baby cracks their first smile, and all your sleepless nights and months of planning are forgotten!
Dawn Rumbaugh, Director of Operations
The best part of my life is my two beautiful amazing loving kids! Christy and Ryan — you have taught me so much about life and given me so much love and happiness!! I love you both more than words can express!
Ginger Cox, Jazz Faculty
I love being a mom! Jack and I have such a great time together. I’ve learned so much from my fellow moms (and dads) at BDC! I’m so thankful that I can bring him with me to the studio. Jack loves dance, loud music, and being at BDC. Except once, when he was 3 years old, he started having a tantrum, freaking out and taking off all his clothes! Thankfully Danielle (a past manager) rescued me, and took him for a walk to cool down!
Jill Kenney, Tap Faculty
I’ve only been a mom for 8 weeks, but there is nothing more amazing than holding my little bundle of joy and seeing him smile each day. Even his little pout is the cutest thing in the world to me! Sometimes I can’t handle how much I adore him. As a new mom, I’ve been bombarded with so many life changes, but he is well worth the challenges that each day brings. I love him to pieces and I think he’s starting to like me a little too.
Jessica Epting, Ballet Faculty
“Life is not only meant to be appreciated in retrospect . . . There is something each day to embrace and cherish.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I find motherhood an exhausting, thrilling, challenging and rewarding honor! I love living alongside these little people!
Shelly Hutchinson, Jazz Faculty
I used to be able to dedicate time each day to a creation station in the studio… and then I had 2 babies. So I make it work. Now we improv everyday wherever we can. Toddlers have the coolest, most rare movements and moments. Bringing the best of both of my worlds together — can’t go wrong with that!
Diane King, Executive Director
I love being a mom as it puts your own life in perspective and you have to shift your priorities. There’s nothing like the cuddles and love from my daughter!
We wish all of our BDC moms a HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.
Michelle Dorrance is a tap dancer and choreographer breathing new life into a uniquely American art form in works that combine the musicality of tap with the choreographic intricacies of contemporary dance. Dorrance uses her deep understanding of the technique and history of tap dancing to deconstruct and reimagine its artistic possibilities.
Read and see more at: MacArthur Foundation
“And one and two and three and four!” Tracie Stanfield accents each count with a staccato clap. Dancers whip through double-time chaînés, changing their spot each time to travel in a tight square. It is the culmination of a demanding across-the-floor combination in Stanfield’s contemporary/lyrical class at New York City’s Broadway Dance Center. “I usually try to do style, a turn and a jump across the floor,” she explains. Today’s turns are challenging enough, however, to keep dancers busy for the entire class segment.
This push to get students moving through space with technical precision points to Stanfield’s core philosophy: Dancers should learn technique as movement, not a separate concept. “I feel like they always think technique is this mountain in China, and they’re going to climb it one day,” she says. “But it’s just how you move the body.” Through exercises that focus on deliberate placement, spatial awareness and body control, she trains versatile, marketable dancers who can perform nontraditional choreography with technical integrity.
Dance studios across the city have added vogueing to their schedules in response to student demand. Javier Ninja, whose real name is Javier Madrid, teaches a class at the Broadway Dance Center, which is frequently filled with women. “There have always been women in the scene, but not a surplus of women as it is now,” said Kia Labeija, who won in the popular and competitive women’s vogueing category at last year’s Latex Ball.