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.
We caught up with former Professional Semester students to see what they’ve been up to and how the program has impacted their dance careers.
Now a 4th year veteran, I am so excited to continue my journey as an NFL cheerleader for an amazing team. I love being a role model on and off the field. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication, but being able to perform for over 73,000 fans, inspire children, participate in community outreach and most of all knowing that I am walking in one of my God given gifts definitely makes it worth it.
I have always carried everything I learned about dance, the industry and crafting my own style. The program gave me a boost in being a well-rounded performer, knocked out any sense of doubt I had about myself and opened many doors in my career. To say the least, the program helped me be better prepared and more confident in myself.
[The Wizard of Oz Tour] has been a dream and the job is just as challenging as it is rewarding. It’s been an honor to work with individuals that are not only talented, but provide a daily example of professional standards that I strive to embody.
As a newcomer to the city, the Professional Semester not only offered unparalleled dance training, but the perfect segue to living in the city. Broadway Dance Center provided me the invaluable opportunity to sign with an agent, which made being a professional less of an aspiration and more of a reality.
The Professional Semester gives you the information most people have to learn through trial and error. It’s a safe place to make mistakes and ask questions, so that when you walk into an audition you can present the best version of yourself. By the end of the program, I developed lasting relationships with casting directors and choreographers, signed with an agency, and booked my first commercial. I loved the program and am so thankful for everything it gave me.
Touring with Santigold has been such blast. I’m always on my toes, because things can change very quickly, which can make the show even more exciting. It’s helped me learn more about myself as a performer.
I loved my time in the program. I made some lifelong friendships, and was mentored by some of the top teachers/choreographers in the world. Having that experience has helped me to this day. I would say to future Pro Sems: take advantage of all classes, even if its completely outside your genre. Give it a try regardless. You can learn something from everyone’s class. You just have to be open to the experience.
A few days after class, we would get an email from Katelin with an encouraging message, list of songs we used in class, and video links to iconic dances from the era. It was at this point that I realized Katelin is happily going above and beyond in teaching her first Absolute Beginner Workshop and I’m getting waaay more than my money’s worth!
This November, 12 Broadway Dance Center students went to China to represent Team USA and compete on a live dance show in Shanghai. We asked one of the dancers, Chloe Lafleur, to tell us about her time there. Check out what she had to say! (Above: Selfie time with Team USA and dance show judges)
Ni Hao! Or as we say, hello!
I think this was one of maybe three phrases I could even partially grasp in Chinese, but a very important one! The ten days in Shanghai was my second time traveling out of the country and first to Asia. I must say it was without a doubt an incredible trip. Not only did our group of twelve dancers get to perform on a live TV show, but we were fortunate enough to travel and tour the city – shout out to BDC and Tencent for providing this wonderful opportunity!
The exposure to such a cultural change was both humbling and eye-opening for many of us. I know for me personally, one of my most memorable takeaways was experiencing the power of dance as a universal language between groups of people from different cultures. Many of the Chinese dancers we were exposed to during our time there spoke very little English, and it was through dance that we were able to appreciate one another’s artistries and connect with each other. On the first day we came to the dance studios to meet the dancers, each group introduced themselves and shared an excerpt from their routine. We all sat in awe at the talent and applauded with excitement after each performance. All around the energy was so positive and encouraging. I could tell within five minutes that it was going to be a treat seeing all their faces every day – and they did not disappoint
Blogger Chloe posing with Chinese BBoys on set
Regardless of the language barrier, we always felt a warm welcome and this set the tone for the trip. For me it was never about the competition and more about the experience of performing and connecting with them! Even if this meant singing musical theater songs back and forth with a group of Chinese dancers in the dressing room on tech night (yes, this happened and it was awesome). Mainly, I feel fortunate to have been taken out of my comfort zone and placed somewhere fresh to share my passion and appreciate how other dancers express themselves.
Team USA “Showgirls” ready to take the stage in Shanghai
Another highlight of the trip was immersing ourselves in the culture. Thanks to our fabulous Tencent host Lisa, and tour guide Jenny, we ate at some of the most delicious, authentic Chinese restaurants, and saw some beautiful spots across the city. The running joke was we all turned into little dumplings because of how many we ate while we were there– good thing we were dancing so much! If you ever decide to travel to China, you must, I repeat must, eat Xiaolonbao or, Sheng Jian Bao, both “soup dumplings”, one is steamed and one is pan fried – these will change your life. Enough about food, although we enjoyed ourselves in that aspect of the trip!
Overall, community was essential in making this trip what it was. Our group not only grew closer through experiencing the trip together, but becoming friends with the Chinese dancers – even if it was a quick 10-day friendship! After the live performance, we spent the night celebrating a successful show with dinner and the most epic karaoke night. Put 12 Americans with 30 Chinese in a two story private karaoke room and what you get is a remarkable mix of Taylor Swift, Macy Gray, Adele and hilarious songs unknown to me in Chinese. It was a night I will never forget. We laughed, we sang and we danced the night away! Post-trip, I am feeling grateful for all the people I met while I was there and even more so inspired to travel with dance seeking out opportunities where it unites different parts of the world together. – BDC Guest Blogger, Chloe Lafleur
Olivia Summer Hutcherson is one of BDC’s very own. She took her first class at 16 after moving to NYC from Atlanta, GA and instantly fell in love with the music pumping from every floor, the huge variety of classes, and electric energy flowing through every studio wall. At 23, she began BDC’s Work Study Program and was able to work in the studio in exchange for additional training in Ballet, Jazz, Musical Theater, Contemporary, Hip-Hop, House, Whacking, and even Voice. She later went on to assist BDC’s Children and Teen Program’s Latin Jazz classes as well as assist Shirlene Quigley. Olivia always considered BDC a second home but now recognizes them as a second family.
Sofie is a dancer from Sweden studying at Broadway Dance Center in the city. For more information about Sofie, please check out her website.
How did you decide to come to New York?
I heard about Broadway Dance Center two years ago. In Sweden, it’s really big. It’s the only school in the whole world where people can go to and dance hip-hop and get a certification afterwards. I know that they have a lot of good ballet, contemporary, and jazz classes. I also thought about moving to Stockholm at the same time, but when I calculated the cost of the dancing studies, it was much cheaper for me to go to New York and take dance classes here in comparison to moving to Stockholm. I also had always wanted to move to New York and be a part of the American culture.
“I’ll be opening up my own dance school in India after I complete the International Student Visa Program. I hope to be more confidant and knowledgeable not only as a dancer, but also as a teacher. I want to be able to share my creativity and what I’ve learned with dancers in India.”
On Sunday night the Fall 2012 students of the Broadway Dance Center Professional Semester took the stage at the Manhattan Movement Arts Center for their closing showcase.
The breathtaking program included works by BDC choreographers (Ashle Dawson, Katherine Roarty, Neil Schwartz, and Jim Cooney), student choreographers (Danielle Burdick, Aline Bennour, Sahar Taklimi, Alex Faglie, Claudia Martinez, Makenzie Dascenzo, Brittany Metelko, and Cassidy Gerczak), and guest performances (Rhapsody En Dance, MADboots Dance Company, and Parsons Dance Company). And don’t forget the show-stopping BDC Glee routine to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” directed by Bettina Sheppard and Jason Aquirre.
The evening spanned the gamut of dance styles (Latin jazz, contemporary, hip hop, musical theater, and tap) and revealed the tremendous talent and versatility of the Professional Semester dancers.
Congratulations to the Fall 2012 class of the BDC Professional Semester. We are so proud of your hard work and dedication and cannot wait to see where your dancing will take you!
Briana Justine Harmon
Bonnie Erickson – Director of Educational Programming
Carie Jurcak – Educational Programs Student Advisor
Jim Cooney – Faculty Advisor
Bronwen Carson – Acting Coach
Bettina Sheppard – Vocal Coach