Dancing For a Cure… Our Eighth Year!

1385972_10151968281152387_23152780_n4Join Broadway Dance Center in the annual Making Strides (or rather, saut de chats!) Against Breast Cancer.  This Sunday, October 20th, thousands of New Yorkers – including Team BDC – will walk “the loop” through Central Park to raise awareness about breast cancer and the work of the American Cancer Society.

Sign up online and then pick-up a T-shirt from the BDC retail office.  Whether or not you are able to walk with us on Sunday, you can still make a donation (either online or at the front desk at BDC) to help us reach our goal of $2,400.  Last year alone, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer raised nearly $70 million dollars through their walks across the United States.

Funds raised through Making Strides Against Breast Cancer support the American Cancer Society’s fight to end breast cancer. Specifically, these dollars are used to make a difference in the following ways:

  • Helping people take steps to reduce their risk of breast cancer or find it early when it is most treatable
  • Investing in research to find, prevent, treat, and cure the disease
  • Providing free information and services to help people facing breast cancer today – when and where they need it – including transportation, lodging, wigs, support programs, financial assistance, and more
  • Ensuring access to mammograms for women who need them, and encouraging lawmakers to pass laws to defeat breast cancer

2013 marks Team BDC’s eighth year participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.  This year we will be walking in honor of one of Broadway Dance Center’s most beloved teachers, Diane Laurenson.  Become a part of Team BDC and join us on Sunday as we walk (and dance) for a great cause.

*Meeting at 74th Street and Central Park West. We’ll walk in together at 9 a.m.

JOIN TEAM BDC!

Book Review: Our Story, The Jets and Sharks Then and Now

images1I picked up this amazing book at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Flea Market a few weeks back.  “Our Story” is a sort of “joint” memoir that was written by twelve performers from the film adaptation of “West Side Story” (1961).  Each chapter is essentially a diary entry by one of the dancers and includes “then” and “now” photographs.  The memoir includes both Jets and Sharks (the two rival gangs in the musical; Caucasian and Puerto Rican, respectively), many of whom originated the same roles on the Broadway stage.  This incredible book takes you behind the scenes of the classic movie musical and gives you an inside look at the dancers who created those characters on the big screen.

Did you know:nyv_zoe_20160203_sharks_courtesy_photofest

  • Jerome Robbins (choreographer) was “fired” from the film production because he cost the producers too much money.  Robbins was a perfectionist and would insist on many, many takes of each scene from nearly every angle. (Check out the clip of “Cool” at the bottom of this post and notice the brilliant, and obviously tedious, camera work).
  • The Jets and Sharks were required to take a full-length ballet class each morning before rehearsals/shooting.
  • Robbins encouraged actual rivalry between the dancers who played the Jets and the Sharks.  He would not let them interact during the work week in order to build camaraderie within the “gangs” and tension between them (on film, that is!).  The Jets and the Sharks even played pranks on each other!
  • Most of the film was shot in LA (at MGM studios), but the Prologue was shot on a lot in New York City where Lincoln Center now stands.
  • In the film version, Robbins included the Shark boys in, “America” to make the scene more dynamic.
  • The King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley was originally considered for the role of Tony!

I won’t give any more juicy tidbits away.  Discover them for yourself!  Order the book on Amazon and then re-watch the film to get re-inspired by the stories, choreography, and masterpiece of “West Side Story!”

Dance for a Cure!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and here at BDC, we’re dancing for a cure! Join us for our 7th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk Sunday, October 21 at 9 a.m. in Central Park.

Last October I participated in this event as a student of BDC’s Professional Semester. As part of the BDC Team, we organized a delicious bake sale, made fun posters, and choreographed a short routine to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

On the morning of the Walk, I and nearly 40 BDC students clad in our light pink T-shirts claimed our space on the grass in Central Park, about midway through the Walk. We would cheer as walkers strode by – many of them even started dancing and singing along with us! When we got to our kick-line in the routine, walkers stopped to cheer us on, took photos with their cameras, and applauded. It was such a spectacular morning of support, love, and hope.

Last year alone, nearly $60 million dollars was raised by Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks across the United States.

Funds raised through Making Strides Against Breast Cancer support the American Cancer Society’s fight to end breast cancer. Specifically, these dollars are used to make a difference in the following ways:

  • Helping people take steps to reduce their risk of breast cancer or find it early when it is most treatable
  • Investing in research to find, prevent, treat, and cure the disease
  • Providing free information and services to help people facing breast cancer today – when and where they need it – including transportation, lodging, wigs, support programs, financial assistance, and more
  • Ensuring access to mammograms for women who need them, and encouraging lawmakers to pass laws to defeat breast cancer

You can participate this year by joining our team as a walker or a dancer or by donating to our team if you don’t live in New York City. All BDC Team walkers and dancers will receive a free Making Strides Against Breast Cancer T-shirt. You can also purchase these shirts in the BDC retail store (50% of the proceeds will go to our team!).

Dancers over 40

I met Jonathan Cerullo, membership director of Dancers over 40, at the Business Group Meeting hosted by Career Transition for Dancers.

“Well, I’m not quite ‘over 40,'” I smiled.

As I turned to walk away, Jonathan grabbed my arm, sat me down, and starting talking to me about the organization. He threw out the names of some of my dance idols: Chita Rivera, Jerry Mitchell, Bob Avian…I was hooked.

Dancers Over 40, Inc. was created as a not-for-profit organization to provide a community of support in response to the fiscal — as well as physical – needs of mature dancers, choreographers and related artists. Our goals are to seek educational opportunities, present seminars, socials and panel discussions on topics important to mature dancers concerned about their ability to continue to live and work in a creative environment and continue the legacy to those dancers about to begin their journey.

Don’t let the “age” of the organization’s title deter you – while “Members” indeed must meet the age requirement, “Friends of Dancers over 40” include all ages, dancers and non-dancers. And what better way to celebrate the legacies of older dancers than to share their stories and talents with the younger generation of up-and-coming dancers!

Jonathan and I immediately hit it off, and he invited me to the Dancers over 40 Membership Meeting in September at Characters Restaurant on 54th street. I was honored to attend the meeting, but felt like a high school freshman on my first day of school! My anxiety was quickly relieved (well, sort of!) after I met the John Sefakis, the President of DO40, and he sat me at a table between….Marge Champion and Larry Fuller. I was chatting it up with dance royalty!

The meeting marked the first of the fall season, and laid out a general framework of events and topics for the rest of the year. The evening started with a short introduction from John Sefakis, followed by a few stunning performances by Mary Lou Barber, Joyce Nolen, Patti Mariano, and Tony Sheldon. A couple DO40 members spoke about their newly published books (Christine Fournier’s Gypsy Nights and Harvey Hohnecker Evans’ Our Story – book reviews to come!!). Lastly, board members announced some of the exciting events and performances coming up for the 2012/2012 season – hopefully we’ll see you there!

Upcoming events with Dancers over 40: (All of the events are open to the public).

  • Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Flea Market
    Sunday, Sept. 23, 10am-7pm
    Shubert Alley
  • Balanchine, Broadway and Beyond (film/panel)
    Monday, Oct. 8, 8pm
    St. Luke’s Theater
  • 4th Annual DO40 Legacy Awards and Holiday Party
    Monday, Dec. 10, 6-9pm
    Lips Restaurant
  • **honorees: Carol Lawrence, Lee Roy Reams, Larry Fuller, Norma Doggett-Bezwick, and George Marcy
  • Tap! Part II: The Tapping Continues!
    February, 2013
    St. Luke’s Theater
  • DO40 Cares: The Stories of our Lives…A Song and Dance Concert
    Monday, Apr. 22, 8pm
    The Ailey CitiGroup Theater/Joan Weill Center for Dance

Dancers over 40 is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that celebrates the lives and legacies of dancers and choreographers. To learn more or to get involved with Dancers over 40, visit their website: www.dancersover40.org.

Fashion at BDC

Fall Fashion Week in New York City is well under way.  But if you ask me, the real fashion show happens everyday here at Broadway Dance Center!

Here are some of our students’ favorite dancewear lines:

BALLET:

clean and classy leotards:

Yumiko

“I personally enjoy Yumiko. They have a really good selection for men. Their unitards are always eye catching due to their interesting cut. Plus if you online you can personalize or customize your outfits.” – Tyrone Bevans (SIP ’12)

“I have gone through dozens of leotards throughout my dance career, none of which fit me as well and last as long as my Yumiko. Yumiko makes gorgeous, flattering leotards with endless customizable possibilities. The price tag may be a little steep, but like with Lululemon, Yumiko products are an investment that will deliver for years. I love wearing my Yumiko to musical theatre auditions with a skirt and character heels – the perfect classic dancer look!” – Laura Volpacchio (SIP ’08)

“My favorite line of dance wear would have to be Yumiko, Finding Men’s dance clothing is often a challenge; especially if you want anything outside of boring old black tights. Yumiko has a range of great cuts and colors for guys and they also offer some great fabric choices.” – Mitchell Dudas (FIP ’09)

Eleve Dancewear

Capezio

“I love Capezio because that have a great selction of men dance clothes no matter what you’re looking for.” – Bryan Moore (SIP ’12)

“I love capezio cause they have cute leotard for a nice prize and an enourmous store near Times Square! Dancers’ heaven!” – Theresa Sivard (ISVP ’11-’12, PS S’12)

Ainsliewear

one-of-a-kind leotards/unitards made just for you:

Class In Dance Shop

“I have to say that I love my unitard and Jazz pants that I bought at “Class In” on 72nd between Broadway and Colombus. It was custom made. I got to pick the style and color for an amazing price.  Its a great fit, great quality! Not to mention if you have a favorite leo they will copy it for an affordable price. They are a little hidden, but definitely a great find!” – Geraldine Rojas

“Class In has GREAT leotards that you can custom design. Many different fabrics, cuts, and prints!” – Jenifer Dillow (PS F’11)

JAZZ/CONTEMPORARY

fun (and funny) T’s and tops:

Sugar and Bruno

“I love Sugar and Bruno because they use creative fashion ideas from all different artists to keep their lines unique.” – Lexie Mollica (PS F’11)

bight bra-tops and booty shorts:

Oxyjen

“Oxygen has class styles, with a slight funky twist that are awesome for class or auditions!” – Molly Day (PS S’12)

“I love the OXYjEN Sweetheart top. The line is super cute and the open back flatters the one part of the body that looks good on every dancer. It’s comfortable and supportive enough for every day wear. It comes is many bright colors and prints. The new Vivian Blaine Outfit is super cute for auditions and comfortable as well.” – Natalie Wise (PS S’12)

funky, avant-garde leotards and biketards:

Jo & Jax

“I love a good Jo & Jax outfit…They’re super comfortable and always super cute too! Definitely my favorite!” – Chrissy Howard (SIP ’12)

“Jo & Jax dancewear helps my lines look longer yet it allows my sexiness to shine through. It makes me feel clean and comfortable in my own skin while allowing me to twist and jump in ridiculous ways.” – Camila de la Parra (SIP ’12)

“I am such a Jo&jax girl! Every item they sell is unique and well made. I don’t know of anyone that looks bad in a jo&jax uni!” – Alyssa Pearson (SIP ’12)

every style of booty shorts under the sun:

Katrina Activewear

“My favorite jazz pants are the Katrinawear because they’re long enough for my legs, and they come in fun colors. ” – Emily Tanner (SIP ’12)

“Katrinawear is so durable! Mine has lasted me for years!” – Samantha Sweed (PS F’11)

perfect-fit tank tops and yoga pants:

Victorias Secret

“I wear a lot of Victoria Secrets yoga collection because there pants come in tall length and there tops are the most supportive while still being super cute.” Allyson Tolbert

Bloch

“Bloch has a wide range of fashion foward and comfortable dancewear items. The peices are affordable and I love how the employees are all dancers, they always know how to help.” – Bianca Argyros (ISVP ’11)


HIP HOP

eye-catching leggings:

American Apparel

“I love American Apparel for its duality to wear in and out of class.” – Lara Luzim (PS S’12)

swag-a-licious sweatpants:

Urban Empire

“My favorite dancewear line is Urban Empire because their prices are fair and their swag is off the richter!” – Alex Isenberg (SIP ’12)

“Urban empire has a very unique style of sweatpants. Their sweatpants comes in various colors and thickness of the fabric. I old several light weight sweatpants which is great in keeping me cool and giving me flexibility to dance.” – Kelvin Kim (SIP ’12, PS F’12)

“Urban is a very consistent sweatpants line. Designed to reach the hip-hop and street jazz demographic, Urban has proven to be very comfortable and fashionable.” – Pierce Cady-Penny

Nappy Tabs

“My absolute favorite gear is the nappy tabs harem zipper tux pants!” – Cat Cogliandro (BDC faculty and retail store director)

“Nappy Tabs has clothing for any style of dancer you are. They have shorts, shirts, harem pants and sweats that never go out of style. I still wear my first pair of Nappy Tabs from 7 years ago!” – Chrissy Palczewski (SIP ’11, retail store manager)

Oh, and did we mention Nappy Tabs is sold at the BDC retail store?! Check it out!

THEATER/TAP

leg-lengthening dance pants:

Lanteri

“The “Lanteri Pant” are a dancer’s best friend. They are universally flattering, and come many colors to suit any audition!” – Jessica Seavor (PS S’11)

“Lanteri pants are a theater dancer’s saving grace.  The pants truly elongate and lengthen the body while tightly forming to the cut of one’s leg.  They are extra long folding over the LaDuca, giving the illusion that the leg never ends!” – Lizz Picini (SIP ’11)

“You have got to love Lanteri jazz pants! The sleek, smooth, lines it gives you don’t compare to others, and the long length is perfect for us tall girls.” – Melanie Walode (PS F’11)

“I would say that Lanteri wear is my favorite brand of dance wear lines because the fit is really nice and their pieces are long lasting. I’ve had some of mine for more than five years!” – Laura Ksobiech (SIP ’12)

short, black tap skirts:

Lululemon Athletica

“I absolutely love Lululemon. Their clothes are so comfortable, cute, and actually breathe a little bit which is great when you are sweaty! It may be expensive, but I think its definitely worth it because everything lasts forever! – Julia Udine (PS S’12)
“I’m a Lululemon girl all the way! I lovee their sports bras, shorts, and fun workout tops.  I’m from canada, so I’ve been wearing Lulu for a while and we have them everywhere here in Montreal.” – Jenny Dailey (SIP ’12)
“I love the luluemon brand because it is built specifically in mind for us dancers. Its great in class wear because the clothes are flattering on any body type and you are able to see your lines and alignment. I know when I feel good I dance that much better and lululemon helps me do just that.” – Victoria Fowler (SIP ’12)
“Lulu tops fit great and provide great support and I love all colors and styles they come in!” – Nikki Croker (PS F’11)

Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen

I meandered around the Capezio flagship store for about thirty minutes, simultaneously imagining my dream dance-wear closet and anxiously eyeing the clock above the elevator.  It was almost noon, and in just a few minutes Ben Vereen would be walking into the store for his “Meet and Greet” event.  I sat down on a bench and began fiddling with my phone to pass the time.  After a few minutes I looked up and saw Mr. Vereen enter the store.  I think he spotted me smiling from ear to ear because he walked straight to me and began to introduce himself.  “Oh my goodness,” I began, “You don’t have to introduce yourself. I’m here to see you!”

He shook my hand as I stood up beside him.  He was shorter than me, shorter than I’d imagined (though I’m rather tall).  I remember watching the PBS performance of “Fosse” on a VHS my dad helped me record  (and I decorated with golden star stickers and bubble letters).  I wasn’t obsessed with the Backstreet Boys or N’Sync when I was 10.  No, I was obsessed with all things Fosse.  I would watch the VHS (that’s “video home system” for all you youngin’s) over and over, trying to memorize and replicate the silky smooth choreography of Ben Vereen, Rachelle Rak, and Dana Moore.  My dad gave memy grandfather’s old English bowler hat so that I could practice flipping and twirling the cap with ease.  My dad even helped me build a dance cane (we took a wooden pole from Home Depot, painted it black, and nailed two chair-leg protectors to either end).  Long story short, meeting Ben Vereen was a dream come true!

Broadway legend and Tony Award winner Ben Vereen brings his hit show, Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen, to 54 Below, July 10 – 21! A high energy tribute to the music of Broadway, along with musical selections made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., audiences can expect to hear classics such as “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, “Mr. Bojangles” and even “Defying Gravity”. Well known to theatre audiences for his Tony and Drama Desk winning performance in Pippin, Vereen has also appeared on Broadway in Wicked, Chicago, Fosse and Jelly’s Last Jam. Television audiences will remember him from his celebrated portrayal of Chicken George in Roots, along with recent appearances on How I Met Your Mother, Grey’s Anatomy (Prism Award) and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In January, 2012, Mr. Vereen was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. 54 Below (254 W. 54th St. cellar)

Book Review: A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett

I would like you to say that I am a direct

descendant of Terpsichore, and I don’t have a

mother and father, and I wasn’t born in Buffalo,

and all the boring things that are really true

about where I come from.  I wish I was born in a

trunk in a basement of a Broadway theatre, and I

crawled into the pit and looked up and there was

Jule Styne conducting the overture to Gypsy, and

I heard Ethel Merman sing, and the first moment

of like was experiencing a Jerry Robbins musical.

I can’t think of anything more perfect.

-Michael Bennett, 1983

I love learning about dance (the history, culture, and people)  just as much as I love dancing itself.  When I read about dance, I feel like I become a more educated and engaged performer.  Understanding why Fosse choreography requires turned-in feet (because Bob Fosse was pigeon-toed himself) or how come female ballet dancers wear pointe shoes but men traditionally do not (because ballerinas were idealized as ethereal) helps me appreciate every nuance of a style of dance.

Ok, so now I’ll get to the point of this blog post: please read “A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett” by Ken Mandelbaum.  No matter what style of dancer you are, you’ve most likely heard of A Chorus Line , the legendary Broadway musical about life as a dancer – countless auditions, overwhelming rejection, and unmitigated determination and passion.  You can (and should!) go see the live performance or watch the movie version (which does a pretty good job of maintaining the integrity of the stage show), but knowing the story behind A Chorus Line reveals the real magic of the show and why it is the quintessential dancer musical.

I’m not going to give away all of the magical mysteries of A Chorus Line, but here’s a little overview.  Michael Bennett danced on TV’s “Hullabaloo” and as Baby John in the OBC of West Side Story before pursuing his passion for choreography (Follies, Company, Dreamgirls, etc.).  A Chorus Line was his attempt to 1) hire his out-of-work colleagues, 2) reveal the recent changes in musical theater (ie. more versatile performers but fewer and fewer jobs), and 3) “examine the fierce discipline, hard work, and devotion that is required to wind up ‘only’ in the chorus, backing a star but never becoming one.”

The process started when Bennett called a group of his dancer friends to meet up one night.  They started with a dance class to “loosen up” and then sat around in a circle eating, drinking, and talking for nearly twelve hours straight.  The dancers shared their stories – their hopes and dreams, as well as their fears and insecurities.  And long story short, those stories became A Chorus Line.

Alright, fine! I’ll give you some juicy secrets.  But you still have to read the book!

  • Even though the characters in A Chorus Line were based on the stories of Bennett’s friends, some of them didn’t get cast (as themselves!).
  • Bennett was adamant about keeping the show honest and not glamorizing the audition process.  Originally, the character of Cassie (the over-qualified former star who at one time had a little romance with Zach, the show’s director) did not get hired at the end of the show.  However, this depressing ending, however realistic, was quickly changed to win over the hearts of audiences.
  • At one rehearsal, Bennett told a dancer to “fake” falling and getting injured.  When the cast crowded him and cried out  in panic, Bennett called out, “Now, do you all remember what you just did?  Let’s work that into blocking.”
  • The characters of Connie and Richie (Asian and African-American, respectively) originally had a duet about being typed as “ethnic” dancers.  They joked that they didn’t need to be the best dancers because the directors needed them in the show.
  • The set of A Chorus Line is bare – a white line across the black stage and rotating triangular pillars upstage.  The pillars’ three sides represented “the dancer’s world:” 1) a black panel (the black box theater), 2) a mirrored panel (the rehearsal studio), and 3) a sequined panel (the glamor of the stage/lights).

Are you enthralled yet? Now go read the book yourself!

“She said YES!”

Saturday, June 9th seemed like just your typical summer day in New York City.  After a short, warm summer rain, the Bryant Park lawn was soon crowded with people: a young couple on a picnic date, an acrobatic yoga class, curious toddlers with their mommies and daddies, and tourists from all across the world.  But this was no ordinary Saturday in the park – here’s why:

You cried, didn’t you?

This real-life fairy tale was choreographed by Broadway Dance Center’s own Derek Mitchell, assisted by Emily Greenwell, and performed by BDC’s Educational Program students and alumni. The amazing spectacle was even featured on Piers Morgan’s talk show!

Really, who needs Disneyland when Broadway Dance Center can make all your dreams come true?!

“Dancing for them was an amazing experience, I love to make people smile. Being part of one of the happiest days of that couple’s life made my entire life.” Andy Caballero (BDC ISVP ’11-12)

“It makes me happy to make someone happy.” Nallely Aquirre (BDC  ISVP ’11-’12)

“It meant a lot to me to be a part of that special day. It was such an amazing feeling knowing that all of us together made that day an unforgettable one in those two peoples’ lives. Love and dance is all we need!” Bella Takkunen

“It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of something so special. Seeing the Bride to be so happy and surprised was such a touching feeling. It makes me happy to know I was a part of the next chapter of 2 people’s lives.” Alex Vari (BDC PS ’12)

Patriotic Performances

Most Americans celebrate the 4th of July with hot dogs, apple pie, and fireworks…But really, what better way is there to celebrate America’s birthday than with dance?  Here are a few famous patriotic performances:

“Stars and Stripes” was choreographed by George Balancine on the New York City Ballet in 1958.  The piece, which lasts around 28 minutes and is divided into four sections, is set to the music of John Philip Sousa.  “Stars and Stripes” illustrates all things “4th of July” with the dancers baton-twirling, marching, and even bearing rifles!  This video is part of the 4th act, or campaign, which was also featured in the film, “Center Stage.”

Known as “America’s Sweethearts,” the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders often perform for American troops stationed overseas.  Here is a clip from their visit to US Army soldiers in Korea.

“The Will Rogers Follies” was a 1991 Tony award-winning musical (Best Musical, Score, Choreography, Direction, Costumes, and Lighting!) highlighting the life of the legendary American performer, Will Rogers (American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor).  This number, “Our Favorite Son,” incorporates some pretty complex precision dance!

Hines Ward and Kym Johnson performed a rumba routine to “Proud to be an American” during the 2011 season of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Besides the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the Rockettes perform throughout the year at various events and celebrations.  In 2001 they performed “Parade,” an all-American tap dance,  at George W. Bush’s Presidential Inauguration.