Dance for a Cure!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and here at BDC, we’re dancing for a cure! Join us for our 7th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk Sunday, October 21 at 9 a.m. in Central Park.

Last October I participated in this event as a student of BDC’s Professional Semester. As part of the BDC Team, we organized a delicious bake sale, made fun posters, and choreographed a short routine to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

On the morning of the Walk, I and nearly 40 BDC students clad in our light pink T-shirts claimed our space on the grass in Central Park, about midway through the Walk. We would cheer as walkers strode by – many of them even started dancing and singing along with us! When we got to our kick-line in the routine, walkers stopped to cheer us on, took photos with their cameras, and applauded. It was such a spectacular morning of support, love, and hope.

Last year alone, nearly $60 million dollars was raised by Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks across the United States.

Funds raised through Making Strides Against Breast Cancer support the American Cancer Society’s fight to end breast cancer. Specifically, these dollars are used to make a difference in the following ways:

  • Helping people take steps to reduce their risk of breast cancer or find it early when it is most treatable
  • Investing in research to find, prevent, treat, and cure the disease
  • Providing free information and services to help people facing breast cancer today – when and where they need it – including transportation, lodging, wigs, support programs, financial assistance, and more
  • Ensuring access to mammograms for women who need them, and encouraging lawmakers to pass laws to defeat breast cancer

You can participate this year by joining our team as a walker or a dancer or by donating to our team if you don’t live in New York City. All BDC Team walkers and dancers will receive a free Making Strides Against Breast Cancer T-shirt. You can also purchase these shirts in the BDC retail store (50% of the proceeds will go to our team!).

Theater Review: Fall for Dance

The Fall for Dance Festival is an annual series of dance concerts sponsored by Mayor Bloomberg and the MetLife Foundation(tickets are only $15!). The festival consists of five different programs held at the spectacular New York City Center. Each program showcases four performing companies of contrasting styles (tap, ballet, cultural dance, etc.). This year I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Program 3 (last year the tickets sold out within an hour!).

I arrived at the City Center, which is pretty unassuming from the outside on 55th Street. But once I entered the theater I was blown away by the huge space and beautiful ornate blue and gold proscenium arch. The nearly 2,750 seat house was packed with people of all ages – dancers, cultured New Yorkers, dance teachers (I ran into BDC ballet teacher, Beth Goheen), dance writers (I recognized Dance Magazine editor, Wendy Perron) and critiques.

Program 3 included works by:

  • Ballet West – Grand Pas from Paquita – ballet
  • Tu Dance – High Heel Blues – jazz/modern duet
  • Nan Jombang – Tarian Malam (Night Dances) – Indonesian dance/martial arts
  • Moiseyev Dance Company – Moiseyev’s Classics – traditional Russian dance

Other performances in this year’s Fall for Dance Festival (9th season) included:

  • American Ballet Theatre
  • BalletBoyz
  • Circa
  • Fang-Yi Sheu & Artists
  • The Hong Kong Ballet
  • Jared Grimes (tap & hip hop teacher at BDC!)
  • Jodi Melnick
  • Juilliard Dance
  • Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La
  • LDP – Laboratory Dance Project
  • Maria Pages Compania
  • Martha Graham Dance Company
  • Nederlands Dans Theater
  • Pacific Northwest Ballet
  • Shantala Shivaalingappa
  • Shen Wei Dance Arts

This season of incredible performances (at amazingly low prices!) continues from September 27 – October 13. If you missed out on this year’s Fall for Dance, be sure to mark your calendars for next year – tickets go on sale online the first week of September.

“So bring your family, grab your friends, join us and fall in love… Fall for Dance!”

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?!

Standing Out to Stand-In

So here is an account of my series of rather crazy-amazing events:

I submitted to a post on Casting Networks calling for background extras for a new MTV commercial for the European Music Awards.  Later that evening I received a phone call from the casting agency…

“Are you really 5’10” and blonde?” asked the woman on the phone.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Would you be interested in doing stand-in for the lead?”

“Of course!”

I showed up at the Broadway Stages in Brooklyn at my 9:30am call-time the next morning.  I had no idea what the project was, what exactly a stand-in does, or who I would be working with.  Turns out, I was the only stand-in, not to mention the only actor there for the day because it was more of a set-up/rehearsal for the production crew.  We were in a big gray warehouse where nearly forty crew members were building the actual set which resembled a “backstage” (ie. dressing rooms, lighting fixtures, musical instruments, etc.).

I was introduced to the director, producers, and camera crew who immediately put me to work.  I would stand in a “scene” (ie. dressing room, by piano, etc.) and walk a designated path (straight, curved, diagonal, etc.) towards the camera.  They would shoot these scenes with a small camera in order to set the camera angle(s), walking speed, frame of the picture, and where the background actors would be.  The “plot” is pretty simple – the “crew” (actually background actors) on camera start to mess up (spill coffee, drop a grand piano, etc.) because they are distracted by the star walking past them.

This took much longer than I had expected – we were pre-shooting these scenes “on set” until nearly 6pm (where I was free to leave but the crew had to continue setting up).

I overheard the director say, “We’ve got to keep working.  Heidi’s only here for five hours tomorrow and we can’t waste time working through the shots.”



Heidi Blickenstaff? No, this is MTV, not Broadway.

Heidi Montag? Blonde, yes. But not 5’10”.



The day of the shoot my call time was 7:00am.  As I walked through the Broadway Stages I passed a dressing room marked “HK.”  Yep, it was true – I would be standing-in for Heidi Klum.

At 7:30 sharp we began walking through the scenes again, now with full lighting and background extras serving as makeup artists, backup dancers, welders, and electricians.  We would shoot a scene 8-10 times, with the director, camera man, and producers each giving me feedback (sometimes conflicting feedback, even) between shots – “Walk a half-a-second slower,” “Speed up along the curve,” “Keep your eyes to camera right.”

When all was “good” the director would call in Heidi from her dressing room and I would sit off to the side of the set while Heidi ran the take once or twice, with thunderous applause thereafter.

“Mary, back in!” the director would call.  Then Heidi would head back to her dressing room and I’d start walking through the next scene.

This went on for a good four and a half hours before we broke for lunch.  As I was gobbling down my chocolate cake for dessert, a production assistant came up to me.

“We want to fit you into Heidi’s dress.”

I literally froze for a second, with a bite of cake in my mouth.  I had forgotten that Heidi Klum had to leave early – it was Fashion Night Out after all.  But I look nothing like Heidi, despite the fact that I’m tall and blonde.  Nonetheless, I threw away my last bit of lunch and headed to the dressing room.

There was the dress – a peachy gold sequined custom-made Vivienne Westwood mini dress.  I was in seventh heaven.  I reached for the hanger and turned to walk to the bathroom.  “No, no,” said the dresser.  “We need you to try it on in here.”

It was literally out of a book: I had to strip down to my skivvies and slowly pull on the teeny-tiny gown all while four “Heidi-people” were watching me, poking me, and prodding me.  I “sucked in” as much as I could while they zipped the dress from behind.  I could feel my face turn pink. It didn’t fit.  No matter how hard I tried, my ribs were too big for the bodice.  I could tell the dressers were frustrated, which only made me feel worse.  They ended up having to pin the dress with giant black paper clips…classy.

Next, a woman helped me try on Heidi’s bronze Jimmy Choo heels because I couldn’t sit down in the dress.  They fit like Cinderella’s glass slipper!

“No, no,” said the same woman as before. “You’re not going to wear the shoes.”

Darn. Instead, though, I ended up wearing my own gold, glittery pumps that I had brought just in case – 10 points for Mary! (But I must admit that I did feel pretty rebellious pairing a couture Vivienne Westwood dress with Payless Shoe Source heels!)

Next stop was hair and makeup.  Hair was surprisingly easy since my hair is the same length and color as Heidi’s- just a quick curl here and there.  Makeup was quite another story.  I must confess that I am not a glamorously tan German supermodel.  I am a pale, freckled little Irish girl.  There was no time for a spray tan, so that meant: foundation.  Foundation and bronzer all over my body – face, neck, arms, legs, you name it! And to make you laugh even harder, the woman reminded me, “This is a couture gown.  Do not get any makeup on it!”  Stress much?  The makeup “gods” completed my look with some dark red stick-on nails and voila! J’étais Heidi Klum!

For the next three hours we did much of the similar thing: walk through shots for timing and camera angles before shooting some final takes.  But these were shots that were not focused on Heidi herself (ie. camera on face of electrician, etc.).  All you really see of me is the side of my leg and hand as I brush past the camera.

Here’s the final clip (that’s ME at :13 and :14!):

I don’t know if there’s a real moral to my story, but maybe there is a little message hiding in there.  See, the week before this gig I’d been pretty down on myself; I would go to audition after audition and felt like I was often cut because of my height.  But when you just stay open and say “yes” to new experiences and opportunities, fate has a way of working out.  Heck, if I didn’t “stand out” at 5’10” I would never have been able to “stand in” as Heidi Klum!  C’est la vie!

Stand-in work is a great way to get your foot in the door if you want to pursue TV/Film work.  Plus, as dancers we’re used to taking lots of direction, which is an important skill for stand-ins.  For “stand-in” casting notices, check out  Just think, nearly every TV celebrity and movie star uses a stand-in, why can’t it be you?

Bright Lights, Shining Stars! NYCDA Gala

On Thursday, September 5th I made my way down to New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts for NYCDA’s “Bright Lights, Shining Stars” Gala.  In conjunction with the New York City Dance Alliance convention and competition, the NYCDA Foundation was founded by Joe Lanteri to provide college scholarships to young aspiring dancers.

The NYC Dance Alliance Foundation, Inc. is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) public charity, committed to broadening performing arts awareness while advocating education and high standards of excellence in dance.  NYCDAF is dedicated to investing in the next generation of professional performers by offering scholarships for secondary and college education.

The evening of breathtaking dance including performances by NYCDA scholarship winners (accompanied by singer, Kelly King, who has taught vocal master classes to BDC’s Professional Semester students), Complexions Dance Company, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Ballet Next, and Ballet Hispanico.

Though the stage was graced with some notable professional dancers, I think the night was stolen by the NYCDA scholarship winners.  The nineteen dancers performed a contemporary piece to Kelly King’s rendition of RENT’s “No Day But Today.”  It was clear why each dancer was awarded a scholarship from NYCDA – their joy and talent filled the entire theater.  Because of the NYCDA Foundation, those nineteen dancers were awarded college scholarships to extraordinary schools such as New York University, Marymount Manhattan College, Dean College, University of the Arts, and Point Park University.

The night concluded with the one-and-only Liza Minnelli who presented the prestigious “Ambassador of the Arts Award” to one of the greatest dancers of all time, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Liza was, well, Liza!  Her speech about “Misha” was passionate and funny.  When she performed in “Baryshnikov on Broadway” back in 1980, she recounted that she was so intimidated to dance with such an acclaimed professional!  Turns out, however, she had to teach Misha how to do a simple Charleston!

Here’s their show-stopping performance:

Baryshnikov’s acceptance speech was just as genuine and humorous.  “I didn’t prepare a speech,” he admitted.  “I was thinking I might bring out a chair and talk to it, but that’s been done.  Maybe I will do that – but bring a throne – when I am awarded ‘Tsar of the Arts.'”

Here is one of Baryshnikov’s most memorable performances in “Giselle:”

Check out NYCDA’s homepage to learn more about their competitions, scholarship awrads, and annual gala.

Dancers over 40

I met Jonathan Cerullo, membership director of Dancers over 40, at the Business Group Meeting hosted by Career Transition for Dancers.

“Well, I’m not quite ‘over 40,'” I smiled.

As I turned to walk away, Jonathan grabbed my arm, sat me down, and starting talking to me about the organization. He threw out the names of some of my dance idols: Chita Rivera, Jerry Mitchell, Bob Avian…I was hooked.

Dancers Over 40, Inc. was created as a not-for-profit organization to provide a community of support in response to the fiscal — as well as physical – needs of mature dancers, choreographers and related artists. Our goals are to seek educational opportunities, present seminars, socials and panel discussions on topics important to mature dancers concerned about their ability to continue to live and work in a creative environment and continue the legacy to those dancers about to begin their journey.

Don’t let the “age” of the organization’s title deter you – while “Members” indeed must meet the age requirement, “Friends of Dancers over 40” include all ages, dancers and non-dancers. And what better way to celebrate the legacies of older dancers than to share their stories and talents with the younger generation of up-and-coming dancers!

Jonathan and I immediately hit it off, and he invited me to the Dancers over 40 Membership Meeting in September at Characters Restaurant on 54th street. I was honored to attend the meeting, but felt like a high school freshman on my first day of school! My anxiety was quickly relieved (well, sort of!) after I met the John Sefakis, the President of DO40, and he sat me at a table between….Marge Champion and Larry Fuller. I was chatting it up with dance royalty!

The meeting marked the first of the fall season, and laid out a general framework of events and topics for the rest of the year. The evening started with a short introduction from John Sefakis, followed by a few stunning performances by Mary Lou Barber, Joyce Nolen, Patti Mariano, and Tony Sheldon. A couple DO40 members spoke about their newly published books (Christine Fournier’s Gypsy Nights and Harvey Hohnecker Evans’ Our Story – book reviews to come!!). Lastly, board members announced some of the exciting events and performances coming up for the 2012/2012 season – hopefully we’ll see you there!

Upcoming events with Dancers over 40: (All of the events are open to the public).

  • Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Flea Market
    Sunday, Sept. 23, 10am-7pm
    Shubert Alley
  • Balanchine, Broadway and Beyond (film/panel)
    Monday, Oct. 8, 8pm
    St. Luke’s Theater
  • 4th Annual DO40 Legacy Awards and Holiday Party
    Monday, Dec. 10, 6-9pm
    Lips Restaurant
  • **honorees: Carol Lawrence, Lee Roy Reams, Larry Fuller, Norma Doggett-Bezwick, and George Marcy
  • Tap! Part II: The Tapping Continues!
    February, 2013
    St. Luke’s Theater
  • DO40 Cares: The Stories of our Lives…A Song and Dance Concert
    Monday, Apr. 22, 8pm
    The Ailey CitiGroup Theater/Joan Weill Center for Dance

Dancers over 40 is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that celebrates the lives and legacies of dancers and choreographers. To learn more or to get involved with Dancers over 40, visit their website:

Justin Bieber “Believe Tour” Auditions

Unless you live under a rock, your Facebook Timeline has probably been abuzz with dancer-friends uploading their submission videos for Justin Bieber’s #believetourauditions.  That’s right – “the Biebs” is looking for one more (lucky!) dancer to join his “Believe Tour” which will hit the road this September.

Hundreds of hopeful fans have uploaded clips of their best moves, hoping to win the ultimate prize: a live audition for Justin Bieber and (hopefully) a back-up dancing gig!  Submissions began August 3rd and included live auditions in Los Angeles.  But Jon M. Chu, Bieber’s tour director, notes the importance of online auditions: “Justin also has such a huge online component, that’s where he was discovered.”

“We’re only looking for the best dancers in the world…[W]e want to take it to a whole other level,” choreographer Nick DeMoura added in a video posted with Chu on D-Studio about the tour. “It’s gonna be like an epic journey.”

Bieber’s director and choreographer suggested that aspiring dancers look to Michael Jackson for some inspiration, since Justin has been looking to incorporate “the King of Pop’s” movement, magic, and even pyro into the tour.  Look for Michael Jackson influences as you check out these incredible #believetourauditions submissions from our extremely talented BDC students.

[Quotes excerpted from Jocelyn Vena’s article 8/3/12]

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.” –

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!!!!)

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.