If you’re a dancer, you have a bag. And probably a big one, to fit your dancewear, dance shoes, regular clothes, water bottle, snacks, wallet, personal items… The list goes on. Whether you live in NYC and take classes at BDC around your work/audition/rehearsal schedule, or you’re visiting the Big Apple and are busy sightseeing before or after class, you probably need a lot of stuff with you every day. But why not lighten your load a bit?
There are ways to pack smart and best dress from the studio to the street without packing your entire closet. Here are some of our favorite items (available at the BDC Shop!) and tips on how to still look fashionable while also comfortable and practical.
Broadway Dance Center is always jumping…literally. But during the summer, the studio is exploding with even more classes and intensives to help you become the best dancer you can be. In the summer, BDC’s list of regular classes goes up, from about 350 to 400 each and every week, with exceptional guest teachers who you can’t always access during the year. But as a special treat, BDC brings in these artists to reach you.
Younger dancers have several special opportunities to enhance their dancing with BDC this summer at the Summer Intensive series. Dancers ages 8-11, 12-16 and 16-21 can enroll in jam-packed, four-day intensives designed exclusively for them and their peers, and open only to intensive students. Teens and seniors will also be able to sample some of BDC’s regular classes so they can dance with all the pros who come through the studio’sdoors.
During your summer dancing at Broadway Dance Center, you’ll be sweating a lot and dancing more than you maybe do normally. Here’s how to have stamina, lower injury risk and reduce muscle soreness.
Timing is everything.
Energy balance is the secret for dancing stronger, improving body composition, building muscle, having more endurance and improving performance. Backed by sound science, the concept of energy balance is all about timing healthy meals and snacks to work for you. Plus, managing your energy balance intelligently can play an important role in injury prevention. This means fueling the activity you are about to do in the next 1-3 hours. When you provide fuel for working muscles (and brain), you improve jump height, stamina and strength. You also actually keep your body from struggling to produce its own fuel from inside the body. That could mean breaking down hard earned muscle tissue to be converted to fuel.
Bones are dynamic! Even though they are hard, bones are living and continually changing parts of your body that have cells working on them that are designed specifically to either make new bone or break it down. While it may sound strange that our body would want to break down our own bones, it’s a really important process for keeping the whole entire body healthy! There are a couple of reasons for this, and one is that minerals such as calcium are stored in your bones. Of course, you’ve probably heard this a lot, and heard that calcium is really important for healthy bones. What you may not have heard is that calcium is critically important for many functions taking place in the body, including nervous system activity and muscle contractions, and when your body needs calcium for all of these important things, it is going to have to get it from somewhere. That somewhere is your bones.
“Developing peak bone mass (the most bone mineral possible) in the teenage years through the 30s is the cornerstone of optimal bone health,” says Dr. Dorothy Fink, an endocrinologist and internist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, where she often treats dancers. “There are cells in the body that build bone (osteoblasts) and cells that break it down (osteoclasts). These cells work together every day to keep your bones in the best shape possible.”
Do race car drivers have to have the best car possible and meticulously take care of it? Do tennis players have to use the best possible racquet? Do professional athletes also need the best possible trainers and medical care? Of course! Well, dancers are no different.
Unfortunately, while dancers often take good care of their body and seek the best doctors they can find, they frequently write off foot pain and chronic conditions as part of the deal. Dreadful feet have become synonymous with the job title “dancer”, especially “ballet dancer”.
In honor of National Tap Dance Day on May 25, we asked our Tap Facultyto tell us their influences, inspirations and favorite things about tap dance.
What’s your advice for tap dancers in training?
In trying to grow in tap, don’t get caught up in Broadway tap versus rhythm tap. If there’s no rhythm, there’s no tap. Tap technique is the focus and you can get exceptional technique from so many teachers. Take classes with a variety of teachers to reach your full potential.~Aaron Tolson
Who are some of your favorite tap dancers throughout history?
The Nicholas Brothers, The Condos Brothers,The Berry Brothers, Vera Ellen, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Honi Coles ~Doug Shankman
Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller, Sammy Davis, Jr.~Lainie Munro
Lois Miller, Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates, Baby Laurence, Bill Bailey, John Bubbles, Gregory Hines, Jeni Le Gon , Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lon Chaney, Ayodele Casel, Chuck Green, Coles & Atkins, Arthur Duncan, Jimmy Slyde, Bunny Briggs, Buster Brown, and the list goes on and on!~Jason E. Bernard
MODERN DAY MASTERS & TAP DANCERS CHANGING THE GAME
Savion Glover, Jason Samuels Smith, Randy Skinner, Nicholas Young, Dormeisha Sumbry-Edwards, Derick K. Grant, Diane Walker, Curtis Holland, Michelle Dorrance, Jared Grimes
BEST TAP SEQUENCES ON FILM
“Begin the Beguine” with Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell in Broadway Melody of 1940
“Challenge Scene” in Tap featuring Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis, Jr., Arthur Duncan, Bunny Briggs, Jimmy Slyde, Steve Condos, Harold Nicholas and Howard “Sandman” Sims
“Jump N Jive” with the Nicholas Brothers in Stormy Weather
“Pick Yourself Up” with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time
“Prove Me Wrong” with Gregory Hines & Mikhail Baryshnikov in White Nights
If you like to get your early morning ballet fix, you’ve probably found yourself in Greg Zane’s 9am class at Broadway Dance Center. But over the past year, Greg’s been in and out of the BDC studio, serving as Associate Choreographer for the Tony Award-winning revival of The King and I at the Lincoln Center Theater. Even with the show up and running, Greg continues to play an active role in the production—in charge of maintaining the choreography, as well as hiring and coaching new cast members. We were able to chat with Greg about his long history with The King and I, his work on this revival, and winning a Tony Award.
How did you come to be Associate Choreographer on this production?
It was a case of many elements aligning at the perfect time. Chris [Gattelli] and I have a friendship that stretches way back to when we were both dancers on Broadway: I was in The King and I and Chris was in CATS. We both moved on from our performing careers, and started working as choreographers and directors. Chris went on to great success as choreographer for Altar Boyz, Newsies, and Lincoln Center Theater’s South Pacific. I had gone on to direct and choreograph regional theatre works that included 11 productions of The King and I (K&I).
My K&I education really began during my days performing in the 1996 Broadway revival and, subsequently, the West End company and US National Tour. During this period, I learned the iconic Jerome Robbins choreography for the famous Act 2 ballet, “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” from Susan Kikuchi. Susan learned Robbins’ choreography from her mother Yuriko who originated the role of Eliza in the 1951 Broadway production. In the tradition of handing down choreography from generation to generation, Susan then passed the ballet on to me. With such a direct link back to the original K&I, I am one of a handful of people who are acknowledged as “reconstructors” of Jerome Robbins’ K&I choreography.
When the 2015 revival was announced, the president of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Ted Chapin, thought I’d be the perfect person to represent Robbins’ legacy. Ted urged me to contact Chris. And Chris—knowing my history with K&I—thought I would be a valuable asset.
What is your role as Associate Choreographer?
In the ten-day pre-production dance workshop, I taught the Act 2 ballet to the dancers. Once that basic foundation of vocabulary was there, I helped Chris reshape and adjust the choreography for the Lincoln Center stage. The challenge was that Robbins—who found inspiration in two-dimensional Thai paintings—originally choreographed the ballet for a proscenium stage, whereas the stage at Lincoln Center’s Beaumont Theater is a thrust.
In rehearsal, my role was to help the choreographer shape the dances. I was also a sounding board. I could tell Chris what I thought was working and what was not. Considering my experience with the show, I was relied on more heavily in that I was asked to stage entire sequences. Once I did that, Chris and Bart Sher, the Director, would take a look and make adjustments and tweaks. I helped to lay the foundation on which the choreography is based.
Post-opening, I serve as Chris’s representative, not only maintaining his choreography but also the integrity of his vision. I also maintain the integrity of Jerome Robbins’ choreography. Whereas the Dance Captain is responsible for the tracking of individual parts, I am there to coach the dancers in the nuances and details of the Act 2 ballet. This 16-minute piece is not merely a big production number, but a character-driven narrative ballet. As the coach, I need to help the dancers understand the intentions that drive the steps. Each step has a meaning, and there are no empty moments. It’s not just movement for movement’s sake. I also coach “Shall We Dance”— I am now a polka expert! In addition to taking notes during performances, I also audition dancers for future replacements in the cast.
How does your experience as a ballet teacher help you in your role in this show?
As a ballet teacher, I know how the body works physically and kinetically. I also understand the classical ballet aesthetic. I can bring that knowledge with me as a coach and choreographer. With all of that knowledge, I can help a dancer if they are having trouble with a specific step or I can also stage movement and phrases that make sense kinetically and physically. As I say in my BDC classes, ballet technique is very precise—you either do it or you don’t. This has helped to sharpen my eye.
Robbins’ work is very ballet-based; consequently, the show’s dance foundation is ballet. All the dancers who are cast in the show have very strong ballet technique. When I cast dancers, I use my teaching experience to make decisions. As I said, I have a very discerning eye, and I know the style of the piece, so I can tell who is right and who is not.
What planning/research did you have to do before starting the project?
As I mentioned, we did a ten-day pre-production dance workshop. You could say my research took nineteen years of experience with the show itself!
With a revival of such a treasured musical, there are high expectations. How did the creative team and cast make this revival the same classic story with a new flair?
We maintained the essence of the story. With a piece that is as well known and loved as K&I, people are expecting certain moments. This time we can dig deeper into other elements that were not fully investigated in the past—in this case, colonialism and the education of women.
How is Gattelli’s choreography inspired by that of Jerome Robbins? How does it differ?
The foundation of the show is the vocabulary of Jerome Robbins. In this version, the dancing is much more muscular and athletic. We’ve retained the Robbins choreography but enlarged it by putting it right in your lap. Because of the Beaumont’s thrust stage, you get to see the ballet from different sides. The choreographic patterns are more three-dimensional. This “in your face” approach and the muscularity of the dancers, makes this version of K&I is what Bart likes to call, “Jerome Robbins on steroids!”
How did the choreography develop during the pre-production and rehearsal process?
The opening dance sequence in Act 1 called “The Vignettes” went through at least three or four different versions. The problem was finding a way into the sequence. It was unrealistic and out of character to have the peasants start to dance in unison on the dockside after Anna leaves. We thought it could be Anna’s journey from the dockside through the streets of Bangkok into the Royal Palace, or a dance rehearsal of the Royal Court Dancers. We had so many ideas. Chris thought of a “physical” overture that set up the theme of a male-dominated society, which led to using the palace guards in muscular choreography that was percussive and masculine. That then led to the inclusion of two Royal Court Dancers dancing as birds who mirror the story of Lun Tha/Tuptim and Anna/the King: they are attracted to each other, but are kept apart. The two vignettes morphed from one into the other, ultimately leading the audience into the Royal Palace and climaxing with the entrance of the King. Chris and I would develop a version and then tweak, refine and adjust the steps as the rehearsal process went on—even into previews.
Where were you for the Tony Awards? How did you feel before that night and what is it like having been a part of this award-winning production?
That was a wild and crazy day and night! It started for me that Sunday at 8:15am for the dress rehearsal, and didn’t end until 6:00am the next morning after the Tony Awards After-Party. Chris invited me to the Awards, so I got to sit in the orchestra section. I was a thrilled to see Ruthie and Kelli win their Tony Awards, but the best part was winning for Best Musical Revival. That meant all of us were a part of this extraordinary journey. I had to pinch myself! Being in the same room with all of these directors, choreographers and performers! How did I, a kid from Hawaii, end up meeting and conversing with people like Julie Andrews? It was crazy! I was and continue to be so grateful and honored to be a part of this amazing production.
Amber Paul is not only one of Broadway Dance Center’s most beloved teachers; she is also celebrated for taking everyone’s class—from ballet and tap to theatre and hip-hop! Amber (or “Paul” as she is lovingly nicknamed by many ISVPs) integrated yoga into the fabric of the dance curriculum and currently teaches yoga and meditation classes here at BDC, catering both to dancers’ bodies and minds—and their important connection through the breath. BDC blogger, Mary Callahan, had the pleasure of chatting with Amber about the importance of yoga for dancers—of all styles, levels, and ages.
What was your dance training like and how did you come to find Broadway Dance Center?
I’m an actress and one of my acting teachers told me to take dance class. I was what they would call a “talking head”—I was really good on camera but my body wasn’t as expressive as it needed to be. That was how the whole professional dance journey started for me. I walked in to Broadway Dance Center off the street looking for basic adult dance classes and was literally welcomed by Richard Ellner who, as you know, was one of the original owners of BDC. Richard was the first person I met here. I had been to other dance studios in New York and they were not as friendly towards someone looking for beginner adult classes. I basically have not left BDC since. Richard became both a friend and a business mentor to me. I was a work-study student and would take up to eighteen classes each week. So, I’m home grown—literally! And although Richard passed on and never got the chance to see me become a teacher here, I know he would be really excited about that.
And when did yoga become a part of your life?
I like to do things backwards—its just part of who I am. I was a meditator first and then turned to yoga so I could learn how to sit better in my meditation. Most people start out in yoga for stress relief and then they turn to meditation. But I learned to meditate as a child…yet, in that meditation practice I wanted to learn how to be still. And, with all my dance training at BDC, I needed to really learn how to breathe. I knew how to be in the moment as an actor but I didn’t know how to be in the moment as a dancer. I felt very intimidated in auditions and even sometimes in dance class. Yoga was a safe space to relax, to breathe, and to improve my concentration.
What is the process like to become a certified yoga instructor?
I got certified to become a yoga instructor through the Yoga Alliance. I completed the 200-hour training at Sonic Yoga, which concluded with a written exam on both human anatomy and the history and philosophy of yoga as well as a practical exam where I taught a class to prove my ability. I then completed another 300-hour training at Three Sisters Yoga where I specialized in yoga and meditation for trauma survivors. Now I help teach that same teacher training at Three Sisters Yoga—to many students from Broadway Dance Center, actually. I am so adamant about teachers being certified. Students can easily get injured if a teacher is unfamiliar with human anatomy and all of the critical modifications for different populations and individuals.
Would you encourage dancers to get certified as yoga instructors?
Definitely. I wish I had become a teacher earlier in my life. As an actor, I used to wait tables between acting gigs. I wish that I had had a more fulfilling work when I wasn’t acting. Yes, teaching yoga can be exhausting physically, but it feeds me emotionally and spiritually (not to mention literally, with a pay check!). For me, acting and yoga are symbiotic. Yoga helps me so much when I audition—I’m calm, I’m breathing, and I know that whatever I have to offer in that moment is the right thing. It’s not that I never critique myself; but instead of judging myself, I recognize where I can improve and then I work to do so. As a yogi, I’m always, always learning. I would love for dancers to experience this same freedom and empowerment in their art form through teaching yoga.
How did yoga become a part of the curriculum at Broadway Dance Center?
I mentioned earlier that Richard Ellner was a sort of business mentor to me. From him I learned how important it is to set up an ethical business practice—to not take away anything from anyone else in order to achieve my goal of weaving yoga into the BDC curriculum. My first time slot was one that no other teachers wanted. They honestly didn’t think that yoga would work here because other people had struggled to get it up and running in the past. So I started out with one student. My job is to serve my class, whether it is one student or sixty. Because I’ve stuck to that mission, my classes remain popular. About two years ago, I began teaching meditation classes at BDC on a volunteer basis. BDC provided me with studio space and students would come take class for free. The dancers really started to attach to these meditation classes. There’s no imposed spirituality, which makes everyone feel welcome—especially our significant number of international students.
How do your yoga classes at Broadway Dance Center differ from other yoga classes?
My classes are designed specifically for the dancer—for students who are dancing fifteen classes a week, rehearsing, auditioning, and performing. I serve the students here. That has and always will be my goal. I ask my students every class, “What do you need? What postures do you want to work on? What areas of the body do you want to focus on?” And basically what I’m asking is, “How can I help you feel better? How do we, together as a group, prepare you for the next rehearsal or dance class or performance? How do you relax after a long day of classes? How do we keep you from getting injured?” And what happens is I keep hearing the same body parts all the time from dancers: the IT band, the psoas, the lower back, the hip flexors, the feet, the neck, and the shoulders. So, I’ve designed a whole series that really focuses on these areas in order to better serve my classes.
Why do some dancers call your class the “yoga hospital?”
Dancers sometimes come to my class when they are injured or burnt out—for restorative yoga. In fact, some students I only see in my yoga class (or, yes, as many call it, “yoga hospital”) when they’re feeling sick or broken. It can be very emotional for these students who are so used to pushing themselves in dance classes to learn to relax and experience the present moment without judgment. For those dancers, my “yoga hospital” provides a safe and nurturing space to relax, rejuvenate, and heal.
As dancers, we’re always striving for perfection. Does this exist in yoga?
Not exactly…Yoga is actually quite the opposite. You might have an asana (pose) that takes you twenty years to master. You may say, “Well, I don’t have twenty years.” But you do! Yoga is about the journey; it’s about taking an asana, finding your own version, and committing to that. Don’t beat yourself up or push for “perfection” because if you’re fully committing to your version of an asana, you’re already perfect. That blows dancers’ minds! It’s a different kind of “striving.” The secret is that if you fully commit to your version that day, you will eventually reach the full expression of that asana. But if you fight and judge yourself, it will never come. I also deliberately have my students face away from the mirror. Yoga is about listening to your body and noticing yourself in the space physically.
The stillness of yoga can be very uncomfortable for dancers. How can students learn to be still and present in the moment?
Dancers are constantly in motion. But if you think about it, even in any count of eight there’s a moment of stillness. That’s what makes choreography exciting—that pause, that breath before we move again. I teach Ujjayi breath in my vinyasa classes here at BDC—flow yoga where every movement is connected to breath. And if you listen to your breath, there’s a pause between the inhale and the exhale and also a pause between the exhale and the inhale. So really, there are four parts to each breath. That’s the first meditation practice I teach—to focus on this breath cycle. If the exhale is the past and the inhale is the future…what is the space in between? The present. And as dancers, we want to live in that present moment. First, you find presence in the breath, then in the practice, and then in your classes and choreography.
How has yoga affected you and your students as dancers?
My dancing has improved dramatically since I started practicing yoga and meditation. I think about my breath in every plié! I can also see that yoga has a great influence on my students here at BDC. The biggest change comes from the students I see at least a few times each week. There will finally come a moment when they finally drop into a pose and be still—but alive. It’s magical. I also take a lot of class at the studio (I really take everybody’s class!) and it’s exciting to see my students apply the presence and awareness they’ve learned in yoga to their other dance classes. They’re breathing through the movement, they’re confident, their focus is up and out, and they have less fear. And once you have that, I believe you’re unstoppable.
Take the pirouette. Some people can whip out six turns naturally. Other people walk in and try hard to push out two or three turns. The yogic way of looking at a pirouette is to start at the simplest form of the movement: a plié into a passé rélevé. You take it back to just the balance—and fully commit to it. Then the next week you attempt a single turn, using the same technique, and you find that your shoulders are tense or your spotting is off. Going back to the basics helps you realize the little things preventing you from fulfilling the full expression of the movement. Dancers often get injured because they don’t want to back up and start at the beginning. It’s an entirely different way of thinking—but one that can really transform your dancing.
How is your class a resource for international dance students here at BDC?
Yoga class can be such a safe space for students. I think especially about our ISVPs who are far away from home, don’t have any family around them, and are speaking a second (or maybe even a third) language. And, along with BDC’s educational department that serves as an incredible support system for these students, my yoga and meditation classes are a place where students can just be. Sometimes, in my meditation classes, I suggest that students meditate in their native language. For example, I’ll have students repeat a word such as “love” or “compassion.” And translating that into your own language can make you feel that much more at peace.
What are the other benefits of yoga?
The true secret is that practicing yoga allows you to dance much, much longer. You learn how to breathe through movement, how to recognize areas of the body that dancing demands extra from, how to stretch properly, and how to prevent injury. And a study has shown that meditation also reduces aging.
What goals do you have as a teacher here at BDC?
In each of my classes I hope to 1) provide a safe space, 2) help dancers’ bodies, and 3) encourage a mindset that says we’re a community and we can be supportive of each other.
I’ve actually realized my largest goal: that yoga and meditation are part of the fabric here at Broadway Dance Center. We have started to bring in other certified yoga instructors (such as Traci Copeland who teaches a wonderful power yoga class). I would love for there to one day be a yoga teacher certification program through BDC or through a partnership with another yoga teacher training program.
What kinds of yoga classes would you recommend to dancers who can’t visit Broadway Dance Center?
Look for vinyasa yoga from a teacher certified through the Yoga Alliance. This will be a flow-style class where the movement and breath are connected. Don’t be embarrassed to start with a basic or beginner class. Yoga is not at all about the ego—it is about the process, the journey, and the practice.
Photos courtesy of Betty Bastidas for Omala Yoga, Sekou Luke,Andy Eisner and Austin Hogan.
Born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, Richard J. Hinds began dancing at his aunt’s and uncle’s studio at a young age. His mother wanted him to head to college after high school, but this small town boy had another plan in mind. Ricky packed his bags, headed to New York City, and booked his first professional job, a European tour of the musical Grease, after just three months. Since then, he has toured with national and international companies, choreographed, and most recently, became the Associate Director for Disney’s NewsiesNational Tour! BDC got the chance to talk with Ricky about what he looks for in a dancer and his advice for people who are trying to” make it” in this crazy business.
What was your dance training like growing up? Did you always know you wanted to dance?
My aunt and uncle own a studio in CT where I grew up. They pulled me in at a very young age, and I never looked back. We were a competitive studio so performing was a big part of our education, and I absolutely loved it. As I got older, I started realizing that I actually wanted to pursue this as a career, and began to take steps towards pushing myself even further.
I attended a summer dance program at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan, and when I heard they had a year -round program, I begged my mother to send me there. I ended up going my sophomore year and continued through the rest of my high school education. It was incredibly inspiring being surrounded by such talented people who were also as serious as I was. After I graduated, I made the move to NYC and that is where I have been ever since.
When did you start teaching and auditioning?
My mother wanted me to go to college after I graduated high school, but I was ready to take on NYC. We made a pact that I had one year in NYC, and if I didn’t get a performing job I would go to college. Lucky for me, I booked my first professional job after only 3 months, a European tour of the musical Grease. I shipped off to Europe, and continued with the show for 10 months where I was a dancer in the ensemble and understudied Eugene. After I returned from Europe, my mother had accepted that college was not in the cards for me.
Throughout my professional career I developed an interest in choreography and teaching. I started reaching out to different studios and teaching some master classes while I was traveling the country with the tours of Cats and Fosse. Some of those studios asked me to do choreography for their competition programs, and I began flexing those muscles as well. I reached out to my mentor, Andy Blankenbuehler, and asked him about transitioning to being a choreographer. He told me to really make sure it was a path I wanted to take. He said it had its own challenges, and because I was so young I needed to go at it full force so people would take me seriously. I thought long and hard about it and went back and told him it was what I wanted to do. Shortly thereafter, he offered me my first Associate Choreographer job working with him on A Wonderful Life at Paper Mill Playhouse. The experience was incredible and within two years, I had completely stopped performing.
What is it like being the Associate Director for Disney’s Newsies National Tour? How did you land that job?
I have been working with the Director Jeff Calhoun for several years now. Some projects I had been his associate on include High School Musical, Jekyll and Hyde, 9 to 5 and Pippin with Deaf West. After he was approached by Disney to direct Newsies for the stage, he asked me to be a part of his team. It was truly a dream come true. I grew up watching the movie, and it taught me that it was OK to be a male dancer. Jeff and I approached the show from two very different perspectives. He had never seen the movie before, and I had seen it so many times I could sing every song by heart. It was the perfect balance of old and new. Together with our amazing team, we began the journey of transforming Newsies to a stage show. I couldn’t be prouder of what our entire team created.
We saw you on the Bethenny show teaching a dance to Coco Austin. What was that like?
I got the call the night before the filming, so it was fast and furious! They weren’t exactly clear on what they needed, but knew I would be teaching a dance to Coco and Bethenny. When I arrived on set, I met the creative team who were incredibly warm and friendly. They quickly ushered me to my dressing room. I soon discovered that Coco had no idea I was there or that she was going to be taught a dance. I had a camera blocking rehearsal with 2 stand-ins on the set, and then I went back to my dressing room and waited. Once the show began filming, they snuck me down behind the set and had me get into place behind a door that opened onto the set. Once Bethenny revealed to Coco that she was about to get a dance lesson, the door swung open and off we went! Once it was over, I really couldn’t remember a thing that happened. It all went by so fast.
You’ve choreographed for commercials, theater, television, and live events. Which do you prefer?
I would definitely say theater. I love the process and collaboration that comes with directing and choreographing for theater. I have found in the commercials, television, and live events I have worked on, the process can sometimes feel rushed. Also, it happens once and that is it. With theater, you can continue learning and discovering throughout the journey. Nothing is more exciting than having a live audience experience your work, and then know you still have time to go back and make it better.
What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
There have been so many that have changed my life, but if I had to pick one, it would be Newsies. I grew up watching the movie and being a part of the team who helped it come to the stage was a dream come true. Throughout our years on Broadway, we have discovered so many young performers who have launched a professional career in theater. The response we have received with the show was more than any of us thought could happen. I am so happy that we will continue telling our story with the National Tour that is about to launch. We have an incredible new cast that will be carrying the banner across the country.
Where do you feel most comfortable: on stage performing or behind the scenes choreographing and directing?
I feel most comfortable behind the scenes choreographing and directing. It has been so long since I have been on stage that it has given me a bit of stage fright. I just directed and choreographed a production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe. They asked me to go on stage opening night and give a quick speech before the show. I thought it was going to be easy. It certainly was not! My mouth was so dry and I was sweating uncontrollably. Once it was finished, I couldn’t help but laugh. I had performed for years and now this quick two minute speech almost caused me to pass out.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Jeff Calhoun. He took me under his wing as I began my journey choreographing, and was instrumental in my shift into the directing world. What I love about our collaboration together is he always wants to hear my opinions and ideas. I have worked with some people in my life who prefer their Associates to sit next to them, take notes, and be more of an observer. From day one, Jeff has let me be very hands- on with any projects we have done together. He brings such history and knowledge with him, and nothing is more intriguing than story time with Jeff.
What is your advice for dancers who are trying to make it in this career?
I think one of the toughest things for dancers to learn is how to handle rejection. No one likes being cut from an audition, but at the end of the day, if you’re not right for something, you are simply not right. We don’t want to waste anyone’s time. People forget sometimes that everyone in the room wants you to book the job. It is so exciting for us to see who shows up to our auditions. None of us enjoy cutting people; however, it is all part of the process. Sometimes getting cut can be based on technical needs, sometimes it’s your look, and sometimes it’s your height. You will never know, and it is simply not worth trying to figure out. As long as you can walk out of the room and feel that you have done the best job you can, that is the most important thing.
What qualities do you look for when hiring dancers?
Of course the technical elements are very important but more than that, I look at the energy and demeanor of the individual. I really study people as they are learning material in an audition room. I watch how they interact with other people in the room, and their behavior on the sidelines. It’s someone who is a true team player, not just someone who can do four pirouettes. If I am going to hire someone, it has to be someone that I am excited to be working alongside and someone that brings a great energy to the room.
If you hadn’t chosen dance where would you be right now?
I honestly can’t imagine my life without theater. I have always had an interest in set design, and think I would have looked into that if I didn’t go the route I went.