BDC alum kicking her heels in sixth season as a Radio City Rockette

Since she was a little girl, Alyssa Lemons always knew she wanted to be a dancer. Lemons excelled in her Dallas hometown ballet classes and was accepted to the University of Oklahoma as a ballet major. But when an injury sidelined Lemons the very first semester of her freshman year, she felt jolted and defeated. Over the Christmas break Lemons’ dad surprised her with a trip to New York City and tickets to see the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.” And with that, the rest is history.

Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden

Lemons loved the precision, glamour, technique, and athleticism of the Radio City Rockettes®. Suddenly, that twinkle came back to her eye. When she returned to college, Lemons switched her major to Kinesiology and began dabbling in musical theater dance classes once her injury had fully healed. She was stepping out of her comfort zone—and it was exciting!

In her heart, Lemons was ready to take the leap into the concrete jungle. But in her mind, she knew that she didn’t have all the knowledge and tools to succeed in the theatre world, having grown up a bunhead her entire life. So, upon graduation Lemons attended Broadway Dance Center’s Summer Session—an intensive eight-week program offering dancers diverse training of unparalleled distinction in addition to weekly seminars and master classes designed to introduce the tools and networking opportunities to help launch a professional career. Students take 12 technique classes per week, participate in mock auditions with esteemed panelists, and have several performance opportunities (including a final showcase) throughout the two-month session.

“Like most dancers first coming to this city, I was intimidated by the whole scene,” admits Lemons. “The BDC training programs offer more than technique classes—You’re encouraged and challenged to step outside your comfort zone, and you get incredible mentorship along your journey from the amazing faculty.” Some of Lemons’ key teachers throughout her training were Matthew Powell, Dorit Koppell, Jamie Salmon, Richard J. Hinds, Al Blackstone, Ray Hesselink, and Germaine Salsberg.

“I grew up a ballerina,” Lemons says, “and at BDC I realized I could do so much more. I felt empowered to take classes in different styles like hip-hop, tap, and musical theater.” Lemons credits her strong and versatile technique and her ability to pick up choreography to her commitment to take diverse and challenging classes.

On top of the Summer Session program, Lemons was also accepted into Invitational Week at the Rockettes Summer Intensive.  Doing double duty with the Summer Session and Rockettes Intensive made for a memorable, however exhaustive, first few months in the Big Apple. After Invitational Week, Lemons was asked to come back to Radio City as an assistant for the educational programs such as the Rockettes Experience and Summer Intensive. And, she also knew she had more training to do. So, she went back to BDC for the Professional Semester—a four-month training program that allows for an even deeper dive into all that it takes to cultivate a professional dance career.

Year after year, Lemons lined back up outside of Radio City to audition for the Rockettes. Instead of feeling defeated, Lemons learned from her college experience—choosing to use a new perspective and grow from the perceived setback. “When I would get cut, I knew what I had to work on, and I got back into class to keep getting stronger. As a dancer, you’re going to have hard days,” Lemons admits. “But if you have that passion inside you, that fire, discipline, and perseverance will get you through.” After her fifth audition, Lemons got the call she had always dreamed of—She was officially a Radio City Rockette.

Lemons, now in her sixth season with the Rockettes, emphasizes how much her training at Broadway Dance Center prepared her for the job of a lifetime. “The schedule was probably the most challenging part of Pro-Sem,” remembers Lemons. “You’re taking up to four classes a day plus a seminar in the morning and rehearsal at night.” That schedule built up Lemons’ stamina and work ethic for when she started rehearsals with the Rockettes—six hours per day, six days per week for six weeks! “Pro Sem really pushes your stamina and teaches you persistence,” Lemons adds. “It’s a skill—and a practice—to always show up and do your best even when you’re tired.”

The Rockettes rehearsal process and show schedule are undeniably brutal (we’re talking up to four shows per day!). “But it’s empowering to know you’re not alone,” Lemons says. “There are 79 other women standing with you. It’s definitely a sisterhood and we encourage each other through it all.”

“I still get chills,” Lemons admits. “To call myself a Rockettes is just mind-blowing. I’m so inspired by my fellow Rockettes, the entire cast, and production crew for the Christmas show because I know how much goes into it all. This is truly a dream come true.”

Now, Lemons is feeling the “full circle” moment—teaching the Rockettes Experience to aspiring young dancers like she was not so long ago. “You can’t train in this precision style anywhere else,” notes Lemons of the Rockettes training programs. “Whether you want to pursue the Rockettes or any other dance career, they help you in all aspects of technique and really show you all that goes into a professional job.”

When Lemons is on her “off-season” (i.e. not kicking up her heels at Radio City during the holidays), you’ll find her back taking class at BDC. You see a lot of professional dancers nowadays either hitting the gym or just taking classes they’re comfortable in. But for Lemons (and many Pro Sem alumni), why would you ever want to stop challenging, training, and growing? That’s not just a “professional,” that’s an artist.

“I would strongly encourage dancers to audition for Pro Sem,” Lemons adds. “It’s an incredible program with such a tried-and-true structure. You get technical training, mentorship, and master classes with top Broadway and commercial choreographers. And, perhaps most of all, you develop the work ethic, professionalism, and confidence to audition (and audition, and audition), work in this business, and never quit your daydream.”

BDC alum lands role in new WEST SIDE STORY film

Daniel Patrick Russell had the performer’s gene in his blood from the day he was born. His mother was a ballerina and his father a performer as well. “I grew up in Australia surrounded by art. I don’t remember a time where dance wasn’t part of my life.” When he was twelve, he was cast as Billy in the Melbourne production of the Broadway musical, Billy Elliot. He then got the chance to perform the role in the North American national tour. “My dad is from the United States and, years ago, performed West Side Story at the State Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio,” says Russell. “I got to perform on that same stage when I was on tour. That was really special.” Little did Russell know that West Side Story would become a significant part of his performing career, as well. 

BILLY ELLIOT National Tour – Kyle Froman photography

After tour, Russell returned back to Australia and continued his training. Upon graduating high school, he received a prestigious dance scholarship to study anywhere in the world. Russell applied and was accepted to Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester in the summer of 2015. “Just prior to coming to NYC, I was working as a contemporary dancer. When I came to BDC, I wanted to eat it all up and take from every teacher I could—in every style of dance. I couldn’t get enough!”

That intense and diverse training has since served him well throughout his career. After Professional Semester, he performed in West Side Story at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida. “I had the opportunity to perform the original Jerome Robbins choreography and it was incredible,” he remembers. That was just the start of Russell’s journey with WEST SIDE STORY. He went on to join the world tour as Baby John for 15 months. “Touring was a neat experience to see how the musical connected with different audiences from so many different countries. In Dublin, it felt like we were part of a rock concert! This show resonates with people all over the planet, regardless of language or cultural differences,” he explains.  “It’s an immense piece of art and a huge honor to share that on stage every night.”

WEST SIDE STORY International Tour – Zheng Tianran photography

More recently, Russell wrapped yet another production of West Side Story…this time, the highly anticipated film remake, set to come out in theaters in December 2020. “I can’t give too much away,” admits Russell, who just finished filming in September. “Justin Peck’s choreography is reimagined and genius. The director, Steven Spielberg, is incredibly gifted, generous, and giving. The entire creative team cultivated such an incredible energy on set that allowed the cast and crew to do our best work.” 

“The entire project was a dream,” Russell says smiling. “But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t challenging or exhausting at times.” Hours on a film set can start early in the morning and go long into the night. “When you do a show on stage, everything is chronological,” explains Russell. “But in film, you jump around the story a lot and have to make sure your character is present and truthful in each moment.”

“The cast was incredibly close and inclusive,” adds Russell. “You wouldn’t know that when the cameras came on because we had to be true to the story – the two opposing gangs: the Jets versus the Sharks. But when the crew yelled ‘cut,’ we were like a big family.”

The original production of West Side Story opened on Broadway in 1957. The Oscar-winning movie premiered four years later in 1961. The show had four Broadway revivals (soon to be five) and countless tours and regional productions produced around the world. The new film will be released over sixty years after the show’s original inception. Clearly, West Side Story is a story that continues to resonate with audiences. “The themes are still so relevant,” explains Russell. “It’s a masterpiece. At heart, it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The story of love, conflict, family, betrayal, unity, and hope is universal.

Filming wrapped in September 2019 and now we anxiously await what will no doubt be a spectacular film. So, what’s next for Russell in the meantime? “I’m going on vacation to Italy!” he tells us. “I’d like to take a moment to show my gratitude for BDC. Since I moved to NYC, many opportunities have come my way thanks to BDC, and for that I am very thankful.” 

Marnya Rothe photography

International students at Broadway Dance Center.

BDC allows international students to shine

Broadway Dance Center (BDC) is synonymous with the New York dance scene, an institution recognized as a place to truly experience dance to the fullest. With the motto, “Inspiring The World to Dance”, BDC welcomes students from all over the world to its studio in the heart of the Broadway Theater District, to immerse themselves in training in all styles and genres.

BDC runs an International Student Visa Program (ISVP), allowing international students to obtain an M-1 Visa to attend classes for a three-month, six-month or one-year period. Dancers from over 96 countries have graced the halls of BDC, creating a unique community that truly embodies diversity and inclusion. 

Hannah Molloy. Photo by Michael Mandolfo.

Meet the recipients of BDC’s Richard Ellner Scholarships 

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. 

BDC Alumni… Where are they now?

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. 

pro_sem_success_2016_campbellNow 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.


pro_sem_success_2016_rives[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.

 pro_sem_success_2016_ohmanThe 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.

pro_sem_success_2016_sessomsTouring 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.

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For more information on the Professional Semester, visit our website at www.BroadwayDanceCenter.com/ProSem

ABW Theater Review on Lindance Life Blog

20150915_212311-1Absolute Beginner Workshop student, Linda Flores, took ABW Theater with Katelin Zelon last fall. Read about her experience on her blog, Lindance Life.

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!

via Absolute Beginner Theater Dance Workshop | Lindance Life.

BDC Students Travel to Shanghai for Live TV Dance Competition

selfie-with-judge-from-showThis 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!

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Team USA performing “Cell Block Tango” choreographed by JT Horenstein

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

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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.

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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!

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Jenna & Chloe from Team USA take a quick photo with team China

 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

 

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Team USA with Choreographers Tony Guerrero (far left), JT Horenstein (second from left) and celebrity judges after the show

Dancing For A Cure: BDC’s Olivia Hutcherson Shares Her Personal Journey

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 Eriksson — Dancers of New York

ISVP Student Sofie Eriksson featured on Dancers of New York Blog

Sofie is a dancer from Sweden studying at Broadway Dance Center in the city. For more information about Sofie, please check out her website.

Sofie2How 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.

via Sofie Eriksson, Chambers Street, A-C — Dancers of New York.