Industry Insider: Succeeding as a Professional Dancer

On Friday, April 20th, Broadway Dance Center hosted Industry Insider: Succeeding as a Professional Dancer.  The Industry Insider offers a behind-the-scenes look at “the business.”  From Broadway Shows, to Concert Dance, to Music Videos, to Film, this ongoing series covers a wide range of events and gives dancers the chance to delve deeper into the ever-expanding entertainment industry.

In conjunction with National Dance Week, Broadway Dance Center and Bloc Talent Agency have brought together a panel of experts, including Bloc NYC agents Jim Daly and Fatima Wilson as well as professional dancers Shernita Anderson (Kanye West, Jill Scott), Autavia Bailey (J. Lo, Lady Gaga, Beyonce), Tyrone Jackson (“Memphis,” “Smash”), and Alex Wong (ABT, SYTYCD, “Newsies”).

BDC students crammed into the 8th floor annex to ask questions about how to succeed as a professional dancer – not just in New York, but in LA and around the globe! Here’s what the esteemed panel had to say:

“I was primarily a musical theater dancer.  When I wanted to branch out into the commercial side, I couldn’t decide between moving to New York or Los Angeles.  My friend helped me out.  He wrote ‘NY’ on one piece of paper and ‘LA’ on another.  Then he turned off the lights and threw the papers in the air.  I had to search for one in the dark…and it was LA!” – Tyrone Jackson

“Get your ‘look’ together.  You have to look the part in order to get the part.  You are a product – you have to market yourself.” – Autavia Bailey

“If you want to be a serious dancer, you have to take ballet.” – Alex Wong

“From my performing arts high school, I got the impression that I had to be a ballerina or I was nothing – but I’ve learned that’s anything but true.” – Shernita Anderson

“Go to ALL auditions, even if you’re not the ‘type’ they’re looking for.  Casting directors will see you and call you for other jobs that you do fit.” – Tyrone Jackson

“Your word is important.  When I made it through SYTYCD, I had already signed a year-long contract with Miami City Ballet.  I honored that contract and auditioned for SYTYCD the following year.  You have to realize that the dance world is so small, and your reputation is really important.” – Alex Wong

“Back then, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Debbie Allen did it all [dancing, singing, and acting]…so they did it all!  The same goes for today.  Invest in yourself [voice lessons, dance classes, acting workshops, etc.].” – Shernita Anderson

“Own who you are.  I am an African-American male.  I could go in for hip-hop calls, but I would be acting.  I’m an all-American black male – that’s my true ‘type.’  So that’s how I market myself.” – Tyrone Jackson

“Look at Backstage Magazine, Playbill.com, and Actor’s Equity.  Read the articles, watch the videos, learn as much as you can.  Be a knowledgeable dancer and do your research.” – Jim Daly

“The dance industry is 90% business and 10% talent.  Don’t just take class.  Know the business.  Educate yourself.  Be marketable.  Network.  And girls, always have your heels!” – Fatima Wilson

How to I get an agent?

  • Go to open agency calls.
  • Through recommendations from that agency’s dancers and choreographers.
  • If an agent is coming to support his/her agency’s dancer in a show, shoot the agent an e-mail so they’ll look out for you.
  • Hustle!  If you’re consistently booking jobs and networking, agents will keep hearing your name and approach you.

Dancers Without Borders: BDC goes to Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day in the life of an ISVP

As I walk through the winding halls of Broadway Dance Center, whether its 9am or 9pm, my ears are filled with the the most beautiful languages from around the globe – Australian accents, Japanese hip hop rehearsals, and Swedish jokes that I wish I could understand.  The International Student Visa Program (ISVP) invites dancers from all over the world to experience unparalleled training at Broadway Dance Center.  ISVP students choose a program of 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year of intensive study at BDC – a schedule of 12 classes per week, closed master classes, immersion events, and performance opportunities.

Interested in becoming and ISVP?  Learn more about this incredible program, and take a look at “A Day in the Life” of some of our current ISVP students!

Maria Malmstrom

Hip Hop – Sweden

8:30am – Wake up and eat my usual Swedish breakfast of crisp bread, egg and caviar.

9:30am – Hop on the subway to Broadway Dance Center.

10:30am – Voguing class with Benny Ninja!

12:00pm – Eat lunch and chill with my ISVP friends.

3:00pm – Ballet with Peter Schabel, such a great teacher.

4:30pm – World jazz with Cecilia Marta.  This class is life-changing!

6:00pm – Take some time to stretch out my sore muscles.

8:30pm – Voguing rehearsal to the Performance Project.

11:00pm – Head to Brooklyn Bowl with some friends to dance our hearts out some more!

Pasqualino Beltempo

Ballet – Italy

6:45am – Wake up and eat some cereal for breakfast.

7:15am – Get ready and pack my backpack.

7:45am – Take the Q train from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

8:30am – Hope off at 42nd Street and grab a coffee as I head to BDC.

9:00am – Theater master class with Ricky Hinds.

10:30am – Ballet with Dorit Koppel.

12:00pm – Ballet with Dorit again!

1:45pm – Yoga with Amber Paul. Om.

3:00pm – Take a shower.

3:15pm – Take the subway home to eat and relax.

7:00pm – Head to Columbia University for a workshop with Donna McKechnie (the original Cassie from “A Chorus Line”)

11:00pm – Back home after a long day!

Maria Del Rosario Aviles

Contemporary – Bolivia

8:30am – Wake up, make breakfast, and prepare lunch and snacks for the day.

10:00am-2:00pm – Pushing Progress (contemporary training program) at DANY Studios.

2:00pm – Time to have a late lunch.

3:00pm – Hip hop class with Jared Jenkins.

4:30pm – World jazz with Cecilia Marta, one of my favorite teachers and human beings!

6:00pm – Eat some snacks and take a quick nap on the BDC bleachers.

7:30pm – Wacking with Princess Lockerooo.

9:00pm – Contemporary with Dana Foglia, another of my favorite teachers and choreographers!

10:30pm – Head home, shower, make a yummy milkshake (banana, strawberry, honey, ice cream, and milk!), spend time with my roommates.

1:00am – Finally go to asleep!

Chris Stuewe

Hip Hop – Canada

7:00am – Wake up, prepare lunch, and pack bag for the day.

7:45am – Eat breakfast and leave for BDC.

8:00am – Rehearsal for the Performance Project.

11:00am – Contemporary with Tracie Stanfield.

12:30 – Cool down and stretch on my own.

1:00pm – Grab lunch and return to BDC to eat and rest.

4::30pm – Hip hop with Luam.

6:00pm – Rehearsal with Autumn Dones for the Student Showcase.

7:30pm – Contemporary with Autumn Dones, too!

9:00pm – Hip hop with Brian and Scott Nicholson.

10:30pm – Leave BDC and walk home.

11:00pm – Shower, eat, check e-mail and Facebook, watch TV, and then go to bed.

Nallely Aguirre

Jazz – Mexico

7:00am – Wakeup.  Eat a bagel with cream cheese and a glass of orange juice for breakfast.

7:15am – Take a shower and get pretty for class.

8:20am – Walk to BDC!

9:00am – Lindy Hop Master Class.

11:00am – My favorite class with Tracie Stanfield!  We danced to “Shelter” from “The XX.”

12:30pm – Head home for a nap. Zzzzz

2:30pm – Grab lunch at Whole Foods (Union Square) with my fellow ISVP, Andy Caballero.  I’ve got a mango juice, some fruit, and a sandwich.

3:30pm – Shop at Forever 21 to find a costume for the April Performance Project.

4:15pm – Walk around Union Square (Barnes and Noble, dog park, etc.).

6:00pm – Take the subway back home to eat dinner and relax.

Megumi Nakao

Jazz – Japan

9:00am – Wakeup, eat breakfast (some cereal and black tea), and chill out.

12:00pm – Stiletto Heels class with Dana Foglia.

2:30pm – Jazz class with my mentor, Michelle Barber.

4:30pm – Pilates with Joy Karley.

6:00pm – Dinner with my ISVP friends from Japan at Izakaya (Japanese restaurant).

7:30pm – Rehearsal for Autumn Dones’ piece for the Student Showcase.

9:00pm – Home for bed!

On Tuesday, I wake up 9:00, eat breakfast and chill out, and go to take Dana’s heels, Michelle’s Jazz, Joy’s Pilates, rehasal of Autumn’s piece and sometimes go for dinner with JP friends afterwards

Mamma Mia! – Broadway Choreography Series with Allyson Carr

This ongoing series offers the opportunity to learn the original choreography to some of Broadway’s finest shows, presented by actual cast members straight from the stage to the studio.
On April 3rd and 5th, “Mamma Mia!” dance captain,

Allyson Carr visited Broadway Dance Center to teach the choreography from the show’s finale “Dancing Queen.”  Students couldn’t help but sing-along to the well-know ABBA classic as they learned the combination, which is taught at the Broadway auditions for “Mamma Mia!”  Though not technically intricate, the choreography challenged students to showcase their individual personalities within the movement.   Following the fun combination, BDC students joined Allyson in a Q&A about her dance career which has included professional performance in ballet, hip hop, modern, and theater!  When asked to give audition advice, Carr responded, “We are watching you the minute you walk in the room.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the best dancer in the world;  You have to be someone that we are drawn to work with.”

Upcoming workshops in BDC’s Broadway Choreography Series:

“How to Succeed…” with Chris Bailey: April 7th and 14th, 12-1:30pm
“Evita” with Chris Bailey: April 10th and 12th, 1:30-3pm
“Chicago” with David Kent: April 14th, 10:30-12pm

BDC Presents Parsons Dance in Residence

On January 4th 2012, Broadway Dance Center welcomed the new Parsons Dance in residence, an education and outreach partnership.  Company members teach weekly classes at Broadway Dance Center.  These one-of-a-kind classes focus on David Parsons’ dance vocabulary and movement technique.  The curriculum was developed by Katie Langan, a former Parsons Dance Board member and Chair of the Dance Department at Marymount Manhattan College.  The Parsons repertoire brings fresh, contemporary classes to BDC and provides students with the opportunity to learn from current company members and David Parsons himself.

Parsons Dance is an internationally renowned contemporary dance company under the artistic direction of choreographer/director David Parsons. Parsons Dance is committed to creating and performing American dance works of extraordinary artistry that are engaging and uplifting to audiences throughout the world. Parsons Dance tours nationally and internationally, including an annual season in its home community of New York City.

The Company includes nine full-time dancers and maintains a repertory of more than 80 works choreographed by David Parsons. Since 1985, Parsons Dance has toured an average of 32 weeks per year, to a total of more than 250 cities, 35 countries, six continents and millions of audience members. Many more have seen Parsons Dance on PBS, Bravo, A&E Network and the Discovery Channel.

In addition to choreography and performance, Parsons Dance is committed to audience development and arts education for participants of all ages and all levels of artistic experience. Parsons Dance regularly offers outreach opportunities including post-show discussions, master classes, open rehearsals, and studio showcases. In partnership with Marymount Manhattan College, and Broadway Dance Center, Parsons Dance offers year-round training opportunities in New York for professional and pre-professional dancers from throughout the world.

“Parsons movement is equal parts athletic and expressive . It is a unique and beautiful style that asks the dancer to both live within its technical boundaries as well as break through them.” – Lara Luzim (Professional Semester S’12)

Currently Parsons classes take place on Wednesdays from 1:30-3:00pm.  However, with the opening of our additional studio space downstairs, we are happy to announce that BDC will be able to offer 2 Parsons repertoire/technique classes per week!

Upcoming Parsons classes:

  • Now-April 4th with Eric Bourne
  • April 11th with Steven Vaughn
  • April 16th with Miguel Quinones
  • April 18th with Sarah Braverman

Interested in attending the Parsons Dance Summer Intensive? Apply here!

Zoe visits BDC!

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

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

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

Zoe comes to BDC

and 5, 6, 7, 8, SMASH!

Last night marked the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the premiere of NBC’s making-of-a-musical series, the “Great White Way of Hope” (LA Times) SMASH. Choreographed by Broadway Dance Center’s very own Josh Bergasse and starring many BDC dancers (did you spot Ricky Tripp in the baseball number?), the show boasts stars like Debra Messing (“Will and Grace”), Angelica Huston (“The Addams Family,” “Ever After”), Megan Hilton (“Wicked, the musical”) and Katherine McPhee(“American Idol”). The much-anticipated series which was honored in 2011 Critic’s Choice Awards as one of the “Most Exciting New Series,” accounts the making of a new Broadway musical about the life and legacy of Marilyn Monroe and shows that most of the “drama” occurs off stage, behind the scenes.

We hosted some pretty SMASH-ing events yesterday in honor of the show’s premiere. Kiira Schmidt, assistant to Josh Bergasse, taught a SMASH-inspired theater master class.

“The SMASH class was a blast; it was a privilege to not only work with someone soheavily involved in this new series, but to also get an inside look at the authentic choreography and put it on our own bodies.” – Lizz Picini (BDC student)

And at 10pm, BDC students and staff rushed to studio 4 to watch SMASH on a big-screen projector while munching on popcorn. The events were sponsored byLaDuca Shoes who gave away free dance shoe bags and even raffled off a pair of their beautiful character heels (also adorned by the dancers on SMASH)!

True story! While shopping for snacks at Food Emporium for our own SMASH premiere party, Emily Bass (Marketing/Events Coordinator @ BDC) ran into Katherine McPhee (star of SMASH) at the checkout line! McPhee obviously would have stopped by our BDC SMASH Extravaganza but she was planning for her own casual get-together with a few of her friends.

The baseball routine, “The National Pastime,” seemed to jump off the screen with its innovative choreography, clever humor, and talented performers. Keep your eye out for many other BDC-goers dancing in upcoming episodes!

“We have great dancers, very quick, very smart, very athletic. The music’s great – I saw my choreography have an entirely new life.” – Joshua Bergasse

So what are critics saying about SMASH? Take a look!

“The show seems to have a lot of promise, and the musical numbers dazzled.” –The Wall Street Journal

“Glee for grown-ups” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Quite the little sunbeam…endearing characters, an instinct for backstage meows and a firm grip on its own sense of camp control.” – The Washington Post

But we want to know what YOU thought! Share your opinion of the SMASH pilot by commenting on this post!

Audition Mission

You’ve been training hard in all of your classes at BDC and now you’re ready to start auditioning! But where do you begin?

Here we’ll help familiarize you with a few of the main casting call websites so you can get out there and audition!

  • $14.95/month (or you can purchase a weekly newspaper publication of Backstage)
  • auditions~musical theater, straight theater, cruise lines, theme parks, music video, commercials, TV/film, etc., search by field or location
  • online access to job listings, unlimited online submissions, individual profile (headshot, resume, reel, etc.), database of directors/agents/etc.
  • $8.33/month
  • auditions~music video, musical theater, cruise lines, theme parks, special events
  • online access to job listings (performer, choreographer, and teacher gigs worldwide) and agent auditions, individual profile, insider info (how-to create a resume, reel, etc.)
  • FREE!
  • auditions~musical theater, straight theater, cruise lines, etc.
  • job postings (performers, arts administrators, interns, directors, teachers, etc.)
  • $25/month (basic membership)
  • auditions~principal and extra roles
  • online access to job listings, individual profile, individual profile, database of photographers and demo reel creators, directories (agencies, casting directors, managers), online job submission
  • Free registration (but $2 per online submission)
  • auditions~straight theater, short films, feature films, music videos, “webisodes,” industrials, commercials
  • online access to job listings, individual profile, online submissions for jobs ($2 per submission)
  • FREE!
  • job postings (auditions, internships, choreography opportunities, volunteering)
  • auditions~concert dance/company auditions
  • *specific to jobs and opportunities in New York City

And All That Jazz: “Chicago” Master Class with David Kent

Our Professional Semester students were incredibly lucky to take a private master class fromDavid Kent, the dance captain for “Chicago,” the longest running American musical on Broadway.  The Pro-Sems learned the famous, timeless Fosse choreography to the opening number, “All That Jazz.”

What dance training did you have as a kid?
None! I started in college. I was an athlete; I had Olympic aspirations and wasn’t even going to go to college. I lived in the Olympic training center for ski racing for 4 years. The Olympics didn’t happen for me, but no regrets! I went to college at the University of New Hampshire and started to dance. I was terrible – but I got hooked. I made it my minor and learned, fast – hours and hours each day. My initial background was in modern and ballet. Somehow I got sucked into musical theater and never left.
Did you study voice and acting too?
Yes. Both… But my strength is dancing.
When did you move to New York City?
I am from Cazenovia, New York but didn’t move to New York City until I finished Graduate school at Boston University. Broadway auditions were always priority, but I went to anything and everything.
When was your “Chicago” audition?
I went to a couple. There were just a bazillion people there in the beginning, and I kind of just got lost in the shuffle. But then I had two submissions from my agency and got to the end of both auditions but never heard back. So I to went to one more required call and again got all the way through … but apparently at the time, there was no job to be had! When a position opened up, they called me but I had to turn it down because I was performing in “Romeo and Juliet: the rock musical.” Later on the position opened up with the first national tour and I was available to take it. After the movie came out I did the third national tour that I dance-captained for. Then I moved into the Broadway company and I started as dance captain after my first year there.
How did you become dance captain?
The previous dance captains in New York wanted to move on to other shows and projects. Its a very time consuming job and doesn’t really avail much freedom… So I took over for them.
What are your responsibilities as dance captain?
I’m 80% psychologist, 10% telling people where to stand and 10% teaching choreography. That’s probably an exaggeration… Maybe more like 33% of each is more like it…. There are  a lot of egos to balance. You need patience. You need to get a job done while being considerate and respectful to your cast mates. I have the responsibility to teach everybody – I teach the stars, I teach the ensemble, I teach and maintain the choreography and staging. I also handle the dance aspect of the audition process. My bosses are basically Annie Reinking, Gary Christ (dance supervisor), and Walter Bobbie (director).
Why do you think “Chicago” has been so successful as the “Longest Running American Musical?”
It is so well written (it was trimmed down from the 1976 version). It’s down to its basic minimum, its just good story telling. It’s staged to be a feast for the eyes and ears too. You cannot help but laugh at some of the scenes while at the same time feeling the effect of a sensual drive that can leave you squirming in your seat. “Oh ya, and we’re not really wearing anything!”
Do you think there was resurgence after the movie came out?
Definitely! It brought in a whole new audience. Before the movie, the audience was made up of an older, regular theater crowd. All of a sudden this young, excited group of teenagers/twenty-something’s started coming to the show. We also began casting current stars – Usher, Ashlee Simpson, Kara DioGuardi, Kevin Richardson…. people like that are a huge draw.
What is your opinion of contemporary movie musicals?
In general, I would much prefer them to tape the live shows and air them on PBS. But Rob Marshall did an excellent job on the film [of “Chicago”]. It’s a huge feat. People keep trying, but have only had moderate success in comparison to what he accomplished.
What is it like to be part of “Chicago,” a show that has become such an American icon, especially in the dance world?
It’s an honor. I’ve done over 4000 performances now. With that said, I don’t care how tired I am or how broken I am, the minute that Overture music starts the adrenaline kicks in and its a whole new game. I love performing that show. I’ve had opportunities to leave and do other projects but it’s never even a question…. No thanks, I’ll stick with Chicago. Particularly with this show, if you don’t feel inspired, you should give someone else a chance. It’s too important of a piece to be lazy or uninterested.
Why do you think “Chicago” was chosen as the theater master class for BDC’s Professional Semester?
“Chicago” has become an icon. I really want to pass on all the information that I can, at least in the context of the people who created and originally performed the work…Because with every generation it is going to get diluted or changed – everyone is going to have his or her own take on it. I think it’s important to pass this choreography on in the way that it was intended. Particularly because numbers like “All That Jazz” can become over-simplified, pedestrian – and it’s not like that. Its actually hard, if you know the specifics, if you know the back-story, if you know the intent of the whole number and the number with in the context of the show. Even though you’re moving slow… There is resistance… Like moving through a thick soup… And your internal motor is still running full speed!
What is your teaching approach?
I am a really positive person and I believe in encouraging people. Particularly with this sort of material where there’s going to be improv involved, I think you have to learn to be able to look at yourself and not be judgmental.  I’ve noticed over time that it is better to encourage students than to yell, “You’re not doing this or that right!” I can get that way in the show, you know, after someone’s been doing a hundred performances and is still not doing something the choreographer has asked – a little bit more “tough love.” But my approach is basically: get them warm and then start right away with the material. I don’t do a long choreographed warm-up, because that would be more about me. I want to teach as much of the material as I can and be as specific as I can. I want to encourage students to find ways to look at themselves without being judgmental beyond the lines they are trying to create.
What advice do you have for dancers who want to audition for “Chicago?”
Good question – there is actually an audition coming up! Okay, for the women, you’ve got to dress sexy and edgy without being (forgive my language) “a whore.” You have to be intriguing. I like hair down. But we all have our own opinions behind the table. Also, you know you’re going to improv in this audition – LESS IS MORE! Do your three or four eights of improv in your apartment and take the best eight count out of whatever that was and make that last the whole time – you will stand out. Also learn to check your dynamics. You can move really quickly for four counts and then super slow for twelve. Know where you’re looking and what you’re looking at. Lack of focus is a big deal. I talked at a cocktail party with one of Bob’s former dance captains from “Sweet Charity” and she said, “Nobody teaches focus anymore.” Good reminder for me to mention it all the time. Men – be men…. Be fluid with out being light and soft… You can even make up the character – you are the guy that every other guy wants to be and every girl wants to be with – but you’re not trying, you are thoroughly comfortable with yourself.
Be sure to “rouge your knees and roll your stockings down” for the “Chicago” audition!
March 19th at Ripley Grier
10:00am Women
2:00pm Men

Here’s what our Professional Semester students had to say about their master class with David Kent:

“I had not done a lot of broadway work and was feeling a bit insecure. After taking the Chicago Master Class I felt inspired and confident . The class gave me the insight that I could be any type of dancer/performer I choose to be . And dressing up was a blast!” – Lara Luzim

“Learning the “All that Jazz” choreography from David Kent was a dream come true! I can remember countless times when I would dance around my living room as a kid to “All That Jazz!” Being able to learn the original choreography with such a warm and positive person like David was very comforting. Before the master class I would of never had the confidence to go and audition for the show, but now I feel like I am Velma Kelly! The master class will forever be one of my favorite dance memories!” – Molly Day

This was the best experience I have had so far while being in the city. David Kent was so inspiring and helpful, and he gave me the confidence to really let go. I had learned this choreography once before, when my high school did a production of Chicago, but this was so awesome to learn the little details and tricks to transform the dance into “more than just movements”. I am so happy that I was given the opportunity to be a part of his class!” – Julia Udine

Having the opportunity to have a master class with David Kent, and learn the choreography to “All that Jazz” was phenomenal, and by far one of my favorite experiences living in the city. I took a master class from him this summer at BDC, but this particular class was so helpful because we had more time to learn about the character, quality of movement, and  audition process. It has been a life-long dream of mine to be in Chicago on Broadway, so being able to meet David Kent, and learn actual choreography from the show left me a little star struck. Now I feel confident that I can go out and make that dream come true!” – Lara Scott

I am not a musical theater dancer, but this class made me wish I was! I have always been a huge fan of Chicago so I was very excited when I found out we had the opportunity to work with David Kent. He definitely helped boost my confidence in the performance aspect of my dancing. I also really liked how we all dressed up for the class; I thought that was a lot of fun, and it really helped me get into character. This was definitely my favorite master class so far!” – Mollie Kuhn