Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program

Studio 10D at Ripley-Grier was abuzz with excitement – it was the final rehearsal of the 2012 Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister program.  The students from Broadway Dance Center’s Children and Teen Program were clad in color coordinated T-shirts matching their Broadway star big brother or sister.

In the center of the room, “little orange” was teaching her Big Sis a complicated handshake like the one in “The Parent Trap.”  “Big blue” was stage left, reviewing choreography with her “mini me.”

At 9:15pm sharp, Lainie Munro, founder and choreographer of the Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program, called “places” for the final run-through.

The jazzy song began, “Dancin’ Fool” from Copacabana, and the dancers began tap-dancin’ away.  The energy of the room was as bright as the dancers’ neon T-shirts.  Each pair of siblings got a chance to strut their stuff on stage before the entire cast broke into unison.  Their tapping feet and smiling faces seemed so contagious that the audience of parents found themselves clapping and cheering along with the dancers.

“I’m having a lot of fun!” said Ayonna, a Little Sister.  “Lainie pushed me further than I knew I could go as a dancer.”

Ms. Munro does challenge the young dancers with complex tap technique and character choices – but the kids step up to the plate and shine next to their Broadway siblings.

“I’m a big sister – I was always teaching my little sister and rehearsing her.  I guess I was born to be a teacher!” said Munro, who also teaches tap and theater classes at Broadway Dance Center.  “But I always longed for a big sister, or mentor, of my own to show me the ropes of becoming a Broadway performer.”

After performing in national tours and regional theaters across the country, Ms. Munro started working at Broadway Dance Center in the Children and Teen’s Program (CTP).  “It was there,” said Munro, “that I realized how talented those young dancers were and was motivated to match the kids up with professional Broadway mentors.”

Inspired by the original Big Brother/Big Sister Program, Ms. Munro founded the Broadway Big Brother/ Big Sister Program in 2001 to provide aspiring young performers ages 9-17 a unique opportunity to work with Broadway professionals one-on-one, through rehearsals and performance of a production number.

“The children gain an invaluable experience,” said Munro.  “They learn about performing/acting with a partner, staging, and professional work ethics. They learn a lot about the ‘business’ of show business and the hard work and discipline involved in making a career as a professional performer.”

“Lainie is the best – there’s truly no one like her,” said Marie, whose daughter, Mariah is in her final year at BDC’s CTP and will be heading to study pre-med at Drew University next fall.  “Lainie brings out the best in her dancers.  If you watch Lainie’s class, you think you’re watching a Broadway rehearsal.”

It is no surprise that Ms. Munro was selected as a finalist for the 2003 Woman’s Day Magazine Awards, “Women That Inspire Us”, for her work with the Broadway Big Brother/ Big Sister Program.

After an audition in the spring, children from BDC’s CTP are selected and matched with a professional dancer whose own personality, style and interests compliment the child – a true “Big Brother” or “Big Sister.”

“It’s a very personal process,” explained Munro. ” I start with picking the kids and then I go out into the theater community and try to match each kid with a performer.   I’ll call up friends or e-mail performers I’ve seen in shows or deliver a letter to the stage door.”

“Even his mom thinks Henry and I are brothers,” said Jeremy Benton, who starred in Broadway’s “42nd Street” and “The Producers” film.  “When I dance with him, I get flashbacks to when I was his age.  It’s such a gratifying experience.  And Henry’s a great little tapper – I have to work to keep up with him!”

The children meet on 4 Sunday evenings (a total of just 8 hours), rehearsing side-by-side with their Big Brother or Big Sister.  The program is entirely volunteer-based and the professionals from the Broadway and NY dance community donate their time and talent to mentor and dance with a child or teenager.

Since the Program’s inception in 2001, 115 Broadway dancers have participated as Big Brothers and Sisters. Many Little Brothers and Sisters have already gone on to professional careers in dance, such as one of this year’s Big Sisters, Gabrielle Salvatto (Dance Theatre of Harlem, Juilliard grad and Little Sister alum 2001) and Lily Balogh (New York City Ballet and Little Sister alum 2004).

“I am so proud of my daughter, Amanda,” said her father, Luis.  “Amanda has dreamt of becoming a dancer ever since we relocated to New York from Puerto Rico.  Her confidence and joy have increased so much.  The Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister program is an incredible opportunity for her, a step closer to her dream to dance on Broadway.”

We are thrilled to announce the 2012 cast of the Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program!

2012 Big Brothers and Sisters:

JEREMY BENTON

SUMMER BROYHILL

DENA DIGIACINTO

KELLY JACOBS

JULIA KNITEL

LEA KOHL

MICHELLE LOUCADOUX

DANELLE MORGAN

JANELLE NEAL

GABRIELLE SALVATTO

Collectively the above performers are currently appearing in or have appeared in the following Broadway shows and dance companies:

42ND STREET (Broadway Revival and 1st National Tour)

ANYTHING GOES

MARY POPPINS (Broadway and 1st National Tour)

A CHORUS LINE (Revival)

WHITE CHRISTMAS (1st National Tour)

BYE BYE BIRDIE

HAIRSPRAY

THE LITTLE MERMAID

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1st National Tour)

THE PRODUCERS (movie)

DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM

and

THE RADIO CITY ROCKETTES

The Little Brothers and Sisters range in age from 9 years old to 17 years old, and are enrolled in BDC’s Children/Teen Program:

SOFIE ABBOUD

CHEYENNE DIXON

MARIAH EUGIENIA FERRANTE

KATARINA FRADENBURG

HENRY HECHT-FELELLA

IRELAND HORAN

ANGELICA LOPEZ

AMANDA MARRERO

AYONNA SULLIVAN

MAYA WRIGHT

Lainie Munro’s Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program in New York City will perform in the “Choreographer’s Canvas” on Thursday May 10 at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center at 8:30pm; and also in the Broadway Dance Center Student Showcase Sunday May 13th at Symphony Space at 4:30pm and 8pm.

**For tickets, visit www.choreographerscanvas.com and www.broadwaydancecenter.com.**

If you are interested in auditioning for the program, volunteering as a Big Brother or Sister, or booking this year’s cast for a performance, please contact Lainie Munro at: Lainie@LainieMunro.com

I Want to Be a Rockette! – The Rockette Experience

If you’ve ever had dreams of performing in the Christmas Spectacular as one of the famous Radio City Rockettes, here’s your chance to experience the magic!

The Rockette Experience gives students an inside look into the world of The Radio City Rockettes.

The Experience starts with a  3-hour workshop taught by a Radio City Rockette where you will learn tap, jazz, and the world-famous Rockette kick line choreography.  You will also get to go through a “mock audition,” and have a Q&A session and Photo Op with a Rockette.  Then take the amazing Stage Door Tour of Radio City Music Hall and get tickets to see the Christmas Spectacular,  “#1 holiday show in America” — live, on stage**!

“The Rockette Experience provides valuable insight into the meticulous and exacting precision technique. Dancers are afforded the opportunity to learn authentic choreography from a Rockette and get to hone their audition skills in a non-judgmental environment.” – Tal Schapira, BDC Professional Semester alumni and assistant for the Rockette Experience

“The Rockette Experience provides each aspiring student an exciting opportunity to dance for a day in the heels of a Radio City Rockette and brings them one step closer to actually achieving that dream.”  – Lizz Picini, BDC Summer Intern Program alumni and assistant for the Rockette Experience

Requirements: Dancers must be ages 10 and up and have previous dance training in tap and jazz.  All dancers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

2012 Spring/Summer dates for the Rockette Experience:
Saturday, April 7
Saturday, April 14

Saturday, May 19
Saturday, May 20
Saturday, May 26
Sunday, May 27

Saturday, June 2
Sunday, June 3
Saturday, June 9
Sunday, June 10
Saturday June 16
Sunday, June 17
Saturday, June 23
Saturday, June 30

Saturday, July 7
Saturday, July 14
Saturday, July 21
Saturday, July 28

Saturday, August 4
Sunday, August 5
Saturday, August 11
Sunday, August 12

For more information on The Rockette Experience, Broadway Dance Center, registration materials, please contact Megan Shuffle at (212) 582-9304 Ext. 79 or email your questions to Rockette@bwydance.com.

**Tickets to the Christmas Spectacular are only available during the show’s November/December season.

Dancers Without Borders: BDC goes to Australia

Check out this article from “Dance Informa,” written by our own  Bonnie E. Erickson, Director of Educational Programming at Broadway Dance Center:

As Broadway Dance Center master theater teacher Jim Cooney and I looked around the room, we saw lovely young dancers standing in groups with other dancers in the identical leotards of their respective studios, with arms crossed, hips out, and expressions of trepidation – we looked at each other and smiled: a beautiful blank canvas for our work!

Jim and I had come to Australia for two weeks of workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast, and we were excited to bring our message of kindness between dancers, of supporting one another in the classroom, at the audition, and on the stage to Australia’s dancers, and especially to fellowship with other dance educators to bring the dance world ever closer. Jim is the Faculty Advisor for our Educational Programming and I am the Director of Educational Programming at BDC – in these roles, Jim and I teach this message to all the dancers who come through our full-time programs at BDC, creating dancers who are “Happy to be here, and ready to work!” – a quote I must properly attribute to the extraordinary Lucille DiCampli of MSA dance agency, with whom we work on our mock auditions.

At each of the eight workshops we taught, it was exhilarating to watch these dancers go around the room, shaking hands with other dancers to get acquainted and to get past their fears, and then expanding that energy as they learned Jim’s wonderful musical theater choreography to cheer for one another, to see their hearts and minds open, and to see them fully enthralled in the joy of dance.

We were fortunate enough to secure a segment on Australia’s popular television show The Circle, and at the behest of the show’s producers, Jim quickly put together a flash mob for the show, recruiting dancers we’d met at our Melbourne workshops through the lovely directors of the studios The Space and Dancescape to perform on the show. It was so gratifying to be able to immediately put into practice that which we’d taught them – life is the audition, and you never know what might lead to a gig in this industry, and quite simply being nice can get you the job.

After each of the workshops we had a talk-back with the students, answering their questions about Broadway Dance Center and New York, especially excited to announce the planned opening in April of two new studios on the first and second floors of the building, bringing us to seven state-of-the-art studios. The students were, as you can imagine, ecstatic to imagine a schedule of over 300 classes a week in ballet, contemporary, jazz, theater, hip-hop, tap, yoga, pilates, flexibility, belly-dancing, acting, Latin, partnering, and so many more. We also spoke of our new offerings, the Original Broadway Choreography Series, the Contemporary Variations Series, our Industry Insider Series, and the exciting introduction of Parsons Dance in Residence at BDC.

While BDC’s main demographic is and always has been the walk-in dancer — New Yorkers and others who come in and simply sign up for whatever classes they want to take that day — we’re also home to four full-time programs: the International Student Visa Program, the largest and eldest of the programs; the BDC Training Program, its counterpart for American dancers of varying levels; and our two professional elite training programs for US dancers, the Summer Intern Program and the Professional Semester. The students of the ISVP hail from more than 35 countries worldwide, and comprise a vibrant community of talented, multicultural dancers who take 12 classes weekly, enjoy special master classes, rehearsals, and performances, the benefit of a full-time staff, including a student advisor, as well as one-on-one faculty mentoring. They join us for three months, six months, or a year initially, and then can extend their programs for up to three years. It is quite simply a joy to watch these students progress as they study closely with our world-class faculty, many of whom are working choreographers — often they offer the students incredible performance opportunities available only through their participation in the program.

A recent graduate of the ISVP, Jess Orcsik, is herself a studio owner in Sydney, Australia, an ambitious young entrepreneur, as well as a lovely dancer indeed. Jess loved her time at BDC, as do of course virtually all our students, and upon her return to Australia felt that the training she’d received at BDC was so powerful that she wanted to find a way to share it with the dancers of her country, perhaps during shorter visits to New York. When she contacted me with her idea, we jumped at the chance to work with her to develop The Australian Intensive, a program designed by Jess through her J.O. International Productions, whereby groups of young dancers can come to BDC to study intensively in a similar structure to the rigorous ISVP course.

As a longtime Australiophile — I have a sister who lives in Yeerongpilly, Brisbane — I had a trip planned to take a respite from New York’s winter months to the lovely Aussie summer, and so in chatting to Jess about my trip, it became obvious to both of us straightaway that we ought to combine pleasure with business and offer some workshops and do some outreach into the burgeoning dance community of Australia. We’ve had many Aussie dancers in the ISVP through the years, and have been delighted to watch them getting better and better — the training in Australia is clearly on the rise; we’ve had gorgeous dancers like Amy Campbell from So You Think You Can Dance and Dena Kaplan from Dance Academy come through the program, and we’re seeing more and more dancers of their caliber apply to the program.

I like to think that the founder of BDC, the late Richard Ellner, would feel that his dream of one all-encompassing studio, with the best dance faculty in the world, offering the finest dance instruction at all levels for all people who want to dance, a veritable “home away from home” for dancers, is indeed thriving here in the heart of the Broadway theater district. Even more, I hope he’d feel proud to see that rather than resting on our laurels, we’re all working hard to further this dream and welcome ever more dancers from around the world into the BDC-red hallways of our studios. It is now ever more important to all of us at BDC that we be inspiring the world to dance!

Zoe visits BDC!

Dressed to the nines in bright tutu skirts, pigtail braids, and multicolor tights, students from Leggz Ltd. Dance in Rockville, NY anxiously awaited the arrival of their special guest teacher for a master class at Broadway Dance Center.  That special teacher was Zoe, Elmo’s ballet-dancing buddy from Sesame Street.

As the tiny toddlers sat with their legs dangling off the bleachers, one girl tugged on my shirt and asked where Zoe was.  I quickly responded, “She’s on her way!”  “Parking her car?” Replied the curious child.  “She just got off the subway.” I answered.  Before I could get myself in any real trouble from the girl’s questions, a bright orange fluffy ballerina turned the corner.  “ZOE!” screamed all the little girls as they jumped up to give Zoe a huge hug.

And the cuteness commenced!  After a quick warm-up, the dancers practiced their model walks across the studio and learned a sassy jazz combination.  Watch these adorable videos of the Leggz Ltd. dancers (and Zoe) showing off their best moves!

Zoe comes to BDC

The State of NYC Dance

Dance/NYC held the “State of NYC Dance” Symposium on Sunday, February 26th at Gibney Dance Center.  Our PR Director, April Cook, and our Marketing Director, Emily Bass, were two of the nearly two hundred industry attendees.  Several BDC students also volunteered at the event by checking-in guests and speakers, monitoring the panel discussions, and directing attendees to the various breakout sessions.

The jam-packed day investigated the current state of dance in New York City and provided panel discussions and networking opportunities for artists, advocates, funders, policymakers, managers, scholars, and audiences.  One of the six beautiful studios at the Gibney Dance Center housed Dance/NYC’s SmART Bars, 30-minute individual consultations with arts consultants regarding topics of business administration, technology, advertising, and fundraising.  The symposium also included movement classes with Andrea Miller, Sarah Donneley, Patrick Corbin, and Doug Elkins.

Dance NYC’s recent Symposium on the state of NYC dance was incredibly enlightening. It is so important for us to continue our efforts in the growth of our community and I am thankful to Dance NYC for providing the platform for related discussions and the building of relationships. Thank you to all who were involved!” – Emily Bass (BDC Marketing/Events Coordinator)”I greatly appreciated Dance NYC’s efforts and Gibney Dance Studio’s hospitality in bringing the dance community together to discuss current topics in our field. The “Meet the Press” panel was one of the highlights of the day for me. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to hear from dance critics and their views on what their roles and responsibilities are to the choreographer, the dancer and the audience member.” – April Cook (BDC Public Relations)

Visit Dance/NYC’s website to learn more about this year’s symposium and sign-up to volunteer or attend next year’s incredible event!

Read All About It!

You’re sitting in the holding room for three hours at an Equity call waiting to (hopefully) get the chance to audition. Here’s a list of some great dance-related books to help you pass the time:

The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron) is a self-help book to help artists cultivate self-confidence and harness their creative talents. The chapters correlate to a 12-week course which provide resources and techniques that foster artistic inspiration.

All His Jazz: The Life and Death of Bob Fosse (Martin Gottfried) is a thorough biography of Tony, Emmy, and Oscar-winning choreographer, Bob Fosse. Gottfried artfully accounts Fosse’s life experiences which later served to inspire his innovative style.

The Dancer’s Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body and Nutrition (Linda H. Hamilton) describes the wellness program at NYCB that was created to support the physically healthy, emotionally balanced, and mentally prepared dancer in achieving his or her goals and aspirations.

Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life (Donna McKechnie) is the autobiography of Donna McKechnie who inspired and performed the role of “Cassie” in “A Chorus Line.” Her book recounts the roller-coaster career filled with unbelievable successes and disappointments that shaped her as an artist.

Steps in Time (Fred Astaire) is an autobiography of the legendary Fred Astaire (with a great little forward by his dancing partner, Ginger Rogers).  The memoir is honest and full of personal anecdotes (and nearly 50 amazing black and white photographs!).

Dance with Demons: The Life of Jerome Robbins (Greg Lawrence) tells the tale of the “nightmare genius” (Tony Walton).  While Robbins is remembered for his legendary works including West Side Story, Gypsy, and Fiddler on the Roof, his life was plagued with religious, political, and personal conflict.

Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History (Jack Anderson) describes the role of dance in history from the time of the Ancient Greeks and French royal courts all the way to contemporary modern and jazz styles.

Diet for Dancers: A Complete Guide to Nutrition and Weight Control (Robin D. Chmelar) was the first published nutritional guide based on research and outlining topics specific to dancers.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation (Jeff Chang) provides an extensive overview of the evolution of Hip Hop and its influence as a social and cultural movement.

That’s the Joint: The Hip Hop Studies Reader (Mark Anthony Neal) discusses the gender, racial, social, and political impact of Hip Hop in the United States.

Books on my reading list:
I Was a Dancer (Jacques d’Amboise)
Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology (Karen Clippinger)
TAP! The Greatest Tap Stars and Their Stories 1900-1955 (Rusty Frank)
On the Line: The Creation of A Chorus Line (Robert Viagas)
Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance (Jennifer Dunning)
Gene Kelly: A Life of Dance and Dreams (Alvin Yudkoff)
Buzz: The Life of Busby Berkeley (Jeffrey Spivak)

Feel free to comment with your reading suggestions!

The Flash Mob Phenomenon

Today, flash mobs seem (ironically) common, especially in New York City. One of the first flash mobs recorded actually occurred here in NYC back in 2003 when over 100 people organized a secret gathering at Macy’s using social media. The participants met on the 9th floor at a specific time, began dancing spontaneously, and then went on to their individual shopping as if nothing had happened. The term “flash mob” was added to the dictionary shortly after in 2004, defining it as an organization demonstration that is “unusual” or “pointless.” That definition definitely seems to have expanded because contemporary flash mobs are often anything but “pointless.”

Since 2003, flash mobs have been organized for specific purposes of entertainment, artistic expression, political advocacy, commercial advertisement, social protest, and satire.  Some recorded flash mobs have even turned violent, literally taking on the mob mentality of a riot.  For the most part, however, flash mobs are known for their peaceful and creative approach by incorporating artistic elements such as song and dance.

Check out these “famous” flash mobs:

Flash mobs aren’t just exciting because of their element of surprise.  There is something thrilling about the synergy of the whole event: the planning and organization, the communal participation, and the final social performance.  And what’s more, flash mobs seem to unite people, especially through dance.  You can search flash mobs on YouTube and find hundreds of events from all over the world.  Flash mobs are proof that dance really is the universal language.

But what is it like to be part of a flash mob?  Well, here’s what some BDC students had to say:

“Watching flash mobs is great, but to be a dancer in one is truly such a great experience.  The crowd reaction is so unique and special.  It’s such a great way to share my passion for dance with un-expecting crowds.  What a way to put a smile on someone’s face!” – Latoyia Everett

“Being part of a flash mob is one of the greatest experiences because you get an opportunity to come together as one and be part of something that is bigger than anything you could do one your own.” – Olivia Conlin

“Being in a flash mob is an amazing thing to see what dancers love to do and how people everywhere love to dance.” – Jessica de la Cruz

“Dancing in a flash mob is like a tornado of energy!  It’s an incredible experience!” – Matt Tremblay

Flash Mobs starring BDC students & faculty choreographers: