BDC’s Next Top Model: Amberlyn Wemmer


images1Amberlyn Wemmer
studied in Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester back in the fall of 2010.  Since moving from small town California to the Big Apple, Amberlyn has literally graced the runway thanks to her extensive ballet training. Hear how Amberlyn’s dance background helped her to break into the modeling industry:

1) How did you break into modeling? (ie. photo shoots, landing an agent, booking work, etc.)

An agency owner approached me in Union Square and asked if I was interested in modeling. I had never really seen myself as a model but was curious to see what it would be like. I said sure, and they signed me right after. Then, I started test shooting right away in order build a portfolio. Once I had a book, I started attending castings and go-sees. At first, I was doing mostly runway. Booking editorials took time and patience but once the contacts were made and my book got strong, I was able to get more work.

 

2) Do you think your dance background helps you in modeling? If so, how?

My dance background has helped immensely in modeling, and I think it is what makes my book unique. As dancers we study our bodies everyday and understand how we look and emotions we project. Instead of a mirror in front of you, it’s a camera in modeling, and it’s your job to create shapes, movement, and energy to bring you and the product to life. It is never just a picture; there is purpose behind each position. As for runway, dance core strength you have acquired in class becomes a plus. Just think of it this way, dancing in LaDuca’s is the prep work for walking in the 8 ½ heels.


images43) How is the modeling world similar/different to the dance world in terms of lifestyle, auditions, booking work, etc.?

No matter what industry you enter whether dance or modeling, it is always going to be competitive. It is important to find your own identity and how to market yourself. In both the dance and modeling world, your body is your instrument and you only get one so it’s important that you take care of it and how it looks with a balanced diet, sleep, and exercise. For most model castings, it is usually a “type cast”, which can sometimes be very frustrating. For dance, maybe your technique is not up to par so you hop in a few more dance classes; however, in modeling, it may have nothing to do with your ability but simply you are not what they are looking for. In that case, you move on to the next, and you may be perfect for that one. You never really know what a photographer might be looking for.


images54) What has been your favorite(s) shoot so far? Have you gotten to travel anywhere exciting?

I have really enjoyed shoots where I am challenged to create a different persona. It is about becoming someone who may or may not be like you. My favorite shoots are always where we are collaborating together- the makeup artist, stylist, photographer, and model. I absolutely love when I have shot for Nylon magazine. We always have so much fun that it hardly seems like work. I had the honor of traveling to Mexico City for three months, which was amazing! There is such a diverse market there that is up and coming. I cannot wait to see where I travel next. I am hoping for Europe!


images65) What advice do you have for dancers who want to break into modeling?

My advice for dancers breaking into modeling would be taking pictures takes practice. Like dance, there is technique, and it is only with practice that you can improve body language and emotion to make an aesthetically pleasing picture. More importantly, remember your dance foundation. People find dancers fascinating and that makes you stand out. Use your training to your advantage on the runway and in your pictures. It makes you unique and gives you a certain rhythm, grace, and awareness. In whatever field you choose though, don’t give up despite the criticism. Use your instrument to define you and your art.

Student Profile: Kayla Janssen – Adidas Dancers Wanted Challenge

My name is Kayla Janssen and I am the Global Winner of the Adidas Dancers Wanted Challenge 2012. I studied at the Broadway Dance Center Professional Semester back in Fall 2011 and since then decided to move back home to Antwerp, Belgium.

Through a nudge from my boyfriend and not having much on my plate, I decided to enter the competition. I had to create a video (small music video) to a song create by Adidas and show off my moves. So I did. I went crazy asking all my friends, family and people with computers to vote for my video.

And it worked! On one cold summers evening in July, I received the email from the Adidas headquarters in Germany that I had won the whole competition – the Global Winner! I screamed, jumped around, then had to read the email again just to make sure what I read was true. *

I won a free trip to LA with a friend and was able to have a dance session with Nick Florez and R.J. Durell, Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour Choreographers. I brought my boyfriend as a thank you to him for that initial nudge. I was in LA in the first week of September and it was magical. We received the full “Adidas Experience,” as they called it. Day 1 consisted of a full shopping spree in the Adidas store in Santa Monica, Day 2 was our amazing dance session with Nick and R.J. Day 3 was a full day at Universal Studios and Day 4 was a helicopter ride over Los Angeles and an evening at the Scratch Academy LA, learning how to scratch a record the right way.

My highlight of the week was definitely the session with Nick and R.J. They were so warm and welcoming and made us all feel like one big family. Their choreography was fun and funky and by the end of the session we were able to create a small little music video. Katy Perry Tour Dance Leah Adler and Adidas Dancer Tyne Stecklein were there to dance and play with us. Nick and R.J. then surprised us with a Q&A session with ALL of Katy Perry’s Tour dancers, who were rehearsing in the studio next door. We asked them everything, it was like we were speaking to rock stars. Watching them rehearse and being a fly on the wall for that 1 hour was insightful.

Back in Belgium, I am inspired and pumped. The “Adidas Experience” was everything I imagined and more. Take risks, try everything, and don’t be afraid of the word “no”. Work creates work so if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs watching TV, get that friend and that camera and start dancing in your favourite parts of town. Who knows, it might win you a trip to LA.

*There were 4 winners from Argentina who came along as well since Adidas Argentina decided to create a separate competition.

Good Afternoon America!

On Monday, July 9th 36 BDC dancers arrived at the ABC Studios Stage Door in Times Square, headed to their dressing room, and began warming up for their performance on the premiere of “Good Afternoon America,” a mid-day spin-off of “Good Morning America.”  Clad in our black leotards, fishnet tights, character heels, feather headbands, and pearl necklaces (the boys were in dapper white button-down shirts, black pants, suspenders, and bowlers), we headed down to the ground floor studio which was surrounded by windows looking out into the chaos of Times Square.  Tourists of all ages whipped out their camera phones to snap photos and children pressed their noses up to the window to watch us rehearse.  We danced to “New York, New York,” choreographed by BDC Theater teacher and the associate director of Broadway’s “Newsies,” Ricky Hinds.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that we were dancing for Liza Minnelli?!

Student Profile: Stephanie Brooks – Apassionata

Not Your Typical Tour
Apassionata, Dance Captain, Stephanie Brooks (Professional Semester Alum.)

“APASSIONATA has been Europe’s most popular live arena shows for
nearly a decade, thrilling more than five million fans across 15 countries with a breathtaking display of the beauty and the bond between horse and rider, man’s strongest and most trusted animal.” – Apassionata.com

Audition
During my final mock audition in BDC’s professional semester, I received representation from McDonalds Selsnicks and Associates (MSA). One of the benefits of having an agent is that sometimes they have closed calls with just their clients, if their choreographer was booked for the job. When MSA sent out the breakdown for a horse show audition, I didn’t know what to expect. However, I was excited when I saw that Lorin Latarro was choreographing; I loved her choreography in The Musical Theatre Performance Project last year. The audition combination had a lot of personality, was technically challenging, and stylistic. After cuts were made, she paired us up for partnering. I was overjoyed when I received the call that I booked the job and even more so when I found out a fellow colleague of mine was going to do it with me. (Go Wildcats!!!!)

Rehearsal
We rehearsed in NYC and learned a lot of material quickly, keeping in mind that a lot would change once we actually got to the arena. Our first stop was Kentucky. Technical rehearsal consisted of long days in the dark cold arena. These rehearsals involve a lot of hurry up and wait, but I found that during the waiting is when you can learn the most if you stay engaged. It was such a privilege to watch Ken Billington (96+ Broadway Shows) do the lighting design and learn from Scott Farris (dir. “Chicago” and “Walking with Dinosaurs”) as he brought together American theater and European Equestrian riders. Lorin Latarro (Currently choreographing “Scandalous” set to hit Broadway this October) pulled from her diverse performance background and allowed us to collaborate on certain parts. It was a very artistically fulfilling process.

Overcoming Obstacles
Dancing in sand, running with flags and fire torches was strenuous on our bodies. For body maintenance, I did some form of Pilates, Yoga, and rolled out my muscles with a tennis ball. We had to be flexible and try to figure out how to adapt the choreography in the sand, and how not to spook the horses or get spooked by them. During rehearsals you could hear Portuguese, French, German, Ukrainian, Icelandic, and English being bantered across the gigantic arena. After one of the first runs of the show, the horse choreographer called everyone together and our choreographer jokingly said it looked like a medieval conference. Picture 40+ horses and riders gathered together speaking different languages and four American dancers and a choreographer standing in a giant sand box. It was a surreal experience.

Stepping Up
As Dance Captain, my responsibilities were to run any extra rehearsals, communicate with the production team, maintain the artistic integrity of the choreography and spacing, make sure that the dancers safety and needs were met, and promote team unity. This production was a learning process for all of us. Most of our stage crew came from the rock concert world and we had to share with them certain theater protocols and vice versa. The communication between the tech crew, dancers and riders was extremely important, because the horses weren’t always predicable. We couldn’t depend on entering or exiting on a musical cue and it forced us to be quick on our feet, listen and watch each other. We developed physical and verbal cues and had to go with whatever happened in the moment.

Unique Atmosphere
Some of the perks of this job were that we had amazing caterers who traveled with us, we learned how to ride horses, picked up a little bit of French, Icelandic, and Portuguese, and got to work with and meet incredible people.

Unexpected Close
Due to the financial crisis in Europe, Apassionata’s USA tour came to an end early (It is still running in several countries in Europe). We were given less than 24 hours notice that we were going back to NYC and the rest of the tour was cancelled. Of course, we were sad and it’s always a little unnerving to be without a steady job, but nothing in this business is guaranteed. That’s why it’s important to save when you are doing a show, so that during the slow times you can continue to train and be ready for the next opportunity. I learned a lot from Apassionata and am looking forward to what the future holds.

Click! Flash! – dancers go behind the camera

I got into photography when I first went to NYU and my mother (also a photographer) gave me her DSLR camera. Attending NYU was essentially like moving to New York City as an 18-year-old, which can be VERY scary; having the camera helped to distract me from the difficulties of adjusting to a very different and tiring lifestyle.

Since then, I have taken several photography courses both at NYU and around the city. I spent the summer of 2009 studying abroad in Italy and had my camera glued to my side at all times (I kept a photo blog that summer, unabellaestate.blogspot.com). Although I have been a photographer for a while, I didn’t think to start taking headshots until recently. I would see people post their headshots on facebook (knowing that they spent HUNDREDS of dollars getting them taken) and think “Hey…I can take that shot!” So I had a few pretty friends experiment with me, taught myself portrait retouching in photoshop, and viola! I was cranking out headshots no problem.

I offer headshots for a very affordable rate of $150. I want to help my fellow dancers/actors/singers get beautiful shots without paying a month’s rent to get them. I love being behind the camera and helping people to really shine through the photographs, and post production (which some photographers groan about) is a ton of fun for me. I am so excited to be able to turn this passion of mine into a small business – if I’m not on stage dancing, I want to be taking pictures!

www.lvphotoanddesign.com

Laura is an alum of the Summer Intern Program at Broadway Dance Center (2008).  This Fall she will be heading on tour to perform in “West Side Story.”

Ahoy! BDC at Sea

Jenifer Dillow (BDC Professional Semester, Fall 2011)

Cruise: Disney Magic

Role: Belle, dancer

Travel: We are traveling to Nassau, Bahamas, Caribbean, Key West, Port Canaveral, Halifax, Nova Scotia, St. John,Canada, New Mexico, and more which I’m unsure of because we won’t start till later in the contract.

Performances: We have six shows plus two theme nights. Four of our shows are full on musicals while the other two are shorter compilations of different dances and songs. We have “Twice Charmed’, “Villian’s Tonight” which I have eight crazy quick changes in (I’m a dancer in that show), “Disney Dreams” where I am Belle, “Dream Goes On”, “Welcome Aboard Show”, and “Farewell Show”. I play many different roles in addition to Belle. I have about fifty costumes I believe. The theme nights are just short dances that we perform for the adults at night after the shows.

Audition: The audition was great! I went in to the singer call, and they gave me a callback that day for Belle. Then I came back in two days later and sang Belle’s songs and they made me do a short dance combo by myself. Then two weeks later they called me offering me the job!

Favorite part: My favorite part is performing every night and being given great opportunities. For example, I was asked to have a photo shoot taken as Belle to put photos and videos of me up on the Disney website. I also love being able to travel for free and meet a lot of people from different countries! Overall, I can’t imagine having a better senior year! I LOVE it!

Latoyia Everett (BDC Professional Semester, Fall 2011)

Cruise: Norwegian Jade

Role: dancer, dance captain

Travel: Throughout Europe – Venice, Barcelona, Santorini, Mykonos, Dubrovnik, Split, and Athens.

Performances: Two 45 minute shows, 1 “Cirque du Soleil” style show where I perform bungie from theatre ceiling. I’m also a magician’s assistant in another show. We perform everything from jazz to lyrical to Broadway to jazz funk.

Audition: I auditioned in the Fall of 2011 in NYC. The audition had over 150 people in attendance. For the first cut, they taught a strong jazz-style routine and we auditioned in groups of 10. Then they made a huge cut, down to 40. Next, they taught a small section from one of their shows, “Elements.” We auditioned about 5 at a time.  Soon they cut us down to the top 10. The audition was one of the most fun auditions I’ve ever been to. Everyone, including the panel, was incredibly supportive and friendly.

Favorite part: My favorite part of the working on the Norwegian Jade is visiting all the amazing ports and meeting people from around the world. We have such a diverse group of people on this cruise. Cruise ship workers are some of the most amazing and friendly people I have ever met.

 

Zanza Steinberg (BDC Professional Semester, Spring 2011)

Cruise: Royal Caribbean – Serenade

Role: dancer

Travel: We started off in the Caribbean and then travelled Transatlantic and are now in the Mediterranean alternating between a Greek Isles and Venice/Italy cruise.

Performances: Two shows – one Jazz and one Musical Theater.

Audition: My audition was for the Chicago show aboard the Allure of the seas, however the casting director found this a better fit for me and I am currently aboard Serenade of the Seas. The audition was extremely long. We were there for 9 hours in total, first an across the floor combo and then a cut, then another across the floor and cut. Then we learnt the original opening number from Chicago, another cut after that. Then we learnt a jazz routine and there was another cut and those of us who made it that far stayed to sing and read sides.

Favorite part: My favorite part is the work. Performing the shows with a live orchestra makes me so happy and I am a very proud member of the cast, grateful to be here. I am mostly just thankful to be a working dancer however the traveling is wonderful and learning to speak new languages has been great!

2012 Student Performance Showcase

The BDC community packed the house of the Symphony Space Theater for our annual Student Performance Showcase.  This is a tremendous opportunity for students to work closely with our esteemed faculty of teachers and choreographers.

Faculty Choreographers:

Justin Boccitto
Jacob Brent
Chio
Jim Cooney
Autumn Dones & Katherine Roarty
Jamie Jackson
Princess Lockeroo
Amira Mor
Q Pittman
Heather Rigg
Sue Samuels
Neil Schwartz
Bettina Sheppard & Diana Laurenson

The Showcase featured hip hop, contemporary, theater, tap, jazz, locking, and even singing and acting.  Princess Lockeroo choreographed a “Hunger Games” inspired waacking routine complete with waacking “battles” and fantastical costumes.  Q Pittman created a jazz funk/hip hop piece satirizing Alvin Ailey’s renowned “Revelations.”  And vocal teacher, Bettina Sheppard teamed up with theater teacher, Diana Laurenson to re-stage the original groovy Fosse choreography of Sweet Charity’s ‘The Rhythm of Life.”

Congratulations to all of the dancers and choreographers involved in this year’s Student Performance Showcase.  And a big “thank you” to April Cook for organizing the whole event.

Because of the great success of the Student Performance Showcase in the Spring, BDC is thrilled to announce the launch of a second Student Performance Showcase to take place in the Fall!  Stay tuned for more information!

Student Profile: Kelsey Stenta – Philadanco D2 Apprentice Company

Check out our newest blog entry by guest writer, Kelsey Stenta.  Kelsey graduated from BDC’s Professional Semester last December and was just cast in Philadanco’s apprentice company, D2.  Read all about her exciting audition experience and learn more on Kelsey’s own blog: www.straight2thepointe.blogspot.com!
Congratulations, Kelsey!

I have wonderful news…I got a contract for an apprenticeship with Philadanco! The apprentice company is called D2, and they take class, rehearse, and perform on a regular basis. D2 performs over 25 times a year and the dancers are sometimes included in Philadanco performances. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve seen many Philadanco performances and I always rant and rave about them. Now I get the chance to work and perform with them!One of the differences between Philadanco and D2 is that Philadanco dancers receive a salary and benefits, while D2 members get paid for performances. Even though I won’t be getting a salary, this is my first ever dance job, and I could not be more ecstatic! Dancer’s spend their entire lives dedicating themselves to training and practicing for this moment. Every experience up until now has been about paying to train so that eventually you can get paid to dance. I’ve finally reached that point where it’s the start of a career, and it feels so good. It’s like spending your whole life in school, and then finally getting a real job. I will not make a living by being in D2, but many dancers in apprentice companies work their way up to the professional company, which is the ultimate goal.I’m glad that I auditioned for the apprentice company first because I get to continue to enhance my technique, gain more performance experience, and work with professionals, all without paying a tuition. Also, the Philadanco dancers (including D2 and the youth program) are like a tight-knit family. It’s almost like the directors and company members are mentors to the other dancers, so they get to know each other very well. If you are already well-known and work hard in D2, you are more likely to get picked for the professional company. They have auditions in January and June, so I plan on auditioning for the professional company after I’ve had some experience in D2.

The audition experience seemed a lot tougher this year. Mrs. Brown (founder of the company) told us before the audition that they have had some funding cuts and therefore, did not have as many spots available. Despite having less openings, there were just as many dancers in the audition as there were last year. Last year, they never made any cuts, so all of the dancers were included in the entire audition, then at the end they called the numbers that they wanted to keep. There were at least a dozen dancers picked for D2, including myself. This year, they made a large cut after about 40 minutes, then another cut later on. The number of dancers picked for D2 this time was at least half compared to last year, if not less. I feel very fortunate and honored to have a second chance at being a part of this dynamic company.

 Friends Dann, Emily, and I before the audition!

Philadanco is a very traditional and strict company. It is mostly modern based with some ballet. In the auditions, Milton Myers always teaches a Horton class. If you don’t know the Horton style, I would describe it as extremely disciplined with linear movements that require a lot of strength. Although that is not the only style that the company does, I would say that it’s the foundation. This is a big change from the type of dancing I was doing in New York. I took a lot of jazz, contemporary, and lyrical, since that is what I concentrated in. Those genres are more new and less strict, whereas Philadanco and their style of dance has been around for decades. I believe that every dancer who wants to succeed should train in multiple styles so they become more versatile, so I am excited to see where my work with this company takes me.

Philadanco has a six week summer skills enhancement series for all of the companies. I start on July 9th, and each week focuses on different styles of dance. We have Graham, Ballet, African, Horton, Contemporary/Modern, and Dunham. We will be taking these classes Monday-Friday from 5:30-7. Then D2 and company members stay until 10:30 on Monday-Thursday for rehearsals. Our first show featuring the D2 dancers is in the beginning of September. After the 6 week intensive, we have our fall schedule, which is class Monday-Wednesday from 5:30-7, then rehearsals on Monday night, Wednesday night, and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. So, with D2 we are dancing four days a week, but we still have time to fit in a work schedule.

Stay tuned to hear more about my experience with this amazing company. I will be posting updates as often as I can! I truly appreciate everyone’s genuine excitement and support; it really means a lot to me. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else 🙂

Mock It Out: ProSem Students Practice Audition Techniques

On Friday, March 16th the students of BDC’s Professional Semester woke up and arrived at the studio bright and early for their first mock audition of the program.  The series of four mock auditions (theater, company work, hip hop/commercial, and decade-themed) allow the students to experience a typical dance casting and also receive constructive feedback from a panel of experts including BDC faculty, talent agents, and casting directors.  Like a normal audition, the Professional Semester students are evaluated not only on their dance technique and style, but also on their headshots and resumes, physical appearance, attention to detail, and self-confidence.

Each audition begins with “slating,” a process in which each dancer steps forward to introduce his or her name and a memorable fact.  “Slating is the first opportunity for us to get to know you,” says Lakey Wolff, an agent from CESD Talent Agency.  “This is your chance to show your personality, energy, and enthusiasm.”

Natalie: “I can hula hoop with fire.”

Holly: “I have dual citizenship in the United States and Canada.”

Marleen: “My favorite toe is the big toe!”

The slating process also allows casting directors and choreographers to look at you.  Dance is a visual art, and how you present yourself physically is extremely important.  “I like clean lines and neat hair,” says Lakey, “Stand out with color or a unique leotard cut.  Oh! And no costume mishaps, please!”

Next up? Warm up!  “But don’t forget,” notes Eric Bourne of Parsons Dance Company, “even though we’re warming up, you’re still auditioning!”  Be sure to stay present and engaged throughout the organized warm-up because the panel is likely still watching you.  In the words of Bonnie Erickson, Educational Programs Director at the BDC, “Are you happy to be here and ready to work? Show us that you love dancing.”

Following warm-up, certain auditions will start with typing (early elimination based on looks, height, hair color, etc.) or a ballet cut.  The combination is often across the floor and fairly straightforward so that the choreographer can get a sense of your technical background.  Even when you’re learning the combination, always perform your arms full out.  Ask politely to switch lines; Even if you can pick up the combination from the back corner of the room, the panel probably isn’t able to see you.

Next, students learn a short combination in the style of the show.  Bonnie Erickson and Jim Cooney, who lead the Professional Semester program, highly encourage dancers to research the show and/or choreographer ahead of time to gain familiarity with the movement and style.  When learning the combination, be sure to focus in on the details of the movement.  Often, the choreographer will teach the movement without performing it full out.  In that case, the choreographer will usually have an assistant to demonstrate the movement alongside him or her.  Watch the assistant!  The choreographer, in an audition setting, will rarely give corrections (but if they do, you’d better apply it ASAP, even if the correction was made to another dancer).  The panel wants to know how much you are able to bring to the table without them having to pull it out of you – an approachable personality, strong dance technique, an eye for details, ability to pick up choreography, a respectful attitude, and professional demeanor.  

Before you know it, you will be split up into small groups to perform the combination (but this is not the “start” of the audition, as you are being watched from the moment you enter the room!).  “Pay attention to your spacing,” says Mishay Petronelli (BDC teacher and Assistant to the Director).  “If the audition coordinator tells you, ‘#1 downstage, #2 upstage, etc.,” you need to follow directions when you take the floor and hold that spacing throughout the combination.”  You’ll often get the opportunity to perform the choreography twice.  Dana Foglia (BDC teacher and choreographer for the Professional Semester commercial mock audition) remarked, “Sometimes you’ll be the best in your group and sometimes you’ll be in a group of beasts and have to fight for your life.”

Nowadays, freestyle is a huge part of the audition process, be it “Chicago” the musical or a Madonna international tour.  Sometimes you’ll just be asked to freestyle for the first cut – before you even learn a combination!  “For your freestyle, I appreciate when you move the way you are rather than simply conforming to the style,” says Dana Foglia.  Explore different levels, dynamics, and styles in your freestyle.  The best way to gain confidence and versatility in your freestyle, says Foglia, is to take diverse and challenging classes from a variety of teachers.

Today is the final dance of the Spring Professional Semester 2012 – “Merde!” to all of the dancers for their final mock audition today!