Heat up your winter with these 5 BDC classes

The beanies and heavier coats have started to make an appearance on the NYC streets, which means…winter is coming.

Sure, sometimes staying at home snuggling up to a movie or a good book sounds appealing in the cold, but this winter, keep sweating with these 5 class and workshop ideas available at Broadway Dance Center!

Book Review: A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett

I would like you to say that I am a direct

descendant of Terpsichore, and I don’t have a

mother and father, and I wasn’t born in Buffalo,

and all the boring things that are really true

about where I come from.  I wish I was born in a

trunk in a basement of a Broadway theatre, and I

crawled into the pit and looked up and there was

Jule Styne conducting the overture to Gypsy, and

I heard Ethel Merman sing, and the first moment

of like was experiencing a Jerry Robbins musical.

I can’t think of anything more perfect.

-Michael Bennett, 1983

I love learning about dance (the history, culture, and people)  just as much as I love dancing itself.  When I read about dance, I feel like I become a more educated and engaged performer.  Understanding why Fosse choreography requires turned-in feet (because Bob Fosse was pigeon-toed himself) or how come female ballet dancers wear pointe shoes but men traditionally do not (because ballerinas were idealized as ethereal) helps me appreciate every nuance of a style of dance.

Ok, so now I’ll get to the point of this blog post: please read “A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett” by Ken Mandelbaum.  No matter what style of dancer you are, you’ve most likely heard of A Chorus Line , the legendary Broadway musical about life as a dancer – countless auditions, overwhelming rejection, and unmitigated determination and passion.  You can (and should!) go see the live performance or watch the movie version (which does a pretty good job of maintaining the integrity of the stage show), but knowing the story behind A Chorus Line reveals the real magic of the show and why it is the quintessential dancer musical.

I’m not going to give away all of the magical mysteries of A Chorus Line, but here’s a little overview.  Michael Bennett danced on TV’s “Hullabaloo” and as Baby John in the OBC of West Side Story before pursuing his passion for choreography (Follies, Company, Dreamgirls, etc.).  A Chorus Line was his attempt to 1) hire his out-of-work colleagues, 2) reveal the recent changes in musical theater (ie. more versatile performers but fewer and fewer jobs), and 3) “examine the fierce discipline, hard work, and devotion that is required to wind up ‘only’ in the chorus, backing a star but never becoming one.”

The process started when Bennett called a group of his dancer friends to meet up one night.  They started with a dance class to “loosen up” and then sat around in a circle eating, drinking, and talking for nearly twelve hours straight.  The dancers shared their stories – their hopes and dreams, as well as their fears and insecurities.  And long story short, those stories became A Chorus Line.

Alright, fine! I’ll give you some juicy secrets.  But you still have to read the book!

  • Even though the characters in A Chorus Line were based on the stories of Bennett’s friends, some of them didn’t get cast (as themselves!).
  • Bennett was adamant about keeping the show honest and not glamorizing the audition process.  Originally, the character of Cassie (the over-qualified former star who at one time had a little romance with Zach, the show’s director) did not get hired at the end of the show.  However, this depressing ending, however realistic, was quickly changed to win over the hearts of audiences.
  • At one rehearsal, Bennett told a dancer to “fake” falling and getting injured.  When the cast crowded him and cried out  in panic, Bennett called out, “Now, do you all remember what you just did?  Let’s work that into blocking.”
  • The characters of Connie and Richie (Asian and African-American, respectively) originally had a duet about being typed as “ethnic” dancers.  They joked that they didn’t need to be the best dancers because the directors needed them in the show.
  • The set of A Chorus Line is bare – a white line across the black stage and rotating triangular pillars upstage.  The pillars’ three sides represented “the dancer’s world:” 1) a black panel (the black box theater), 2) a mirrored panel (the rehearsal studio), and 3) a sequined panel (the glamor of the stage/lights).

Are you enthralled yet? Now go read the book yourself!

Movie Musicals

musical (noun): a stage, television or film production utilizing popular-style songs – dialogue optional – to either tell a story (book musicals) or showcase the talents of the writers and/or performers (revues).

The best musicals have three essential qualities –

Brains – intelligence and style

Heart – genuine and believable emotion

Courage – the guts to do something creative and exciting.

“What is a Musical?” by John Kenrick

The 1930s through the 1960s were considered the “Golden Age” of movie musicals.  With the advancement of film technology, Hollywood brought the thrill of the theater to the big screen complete with well-known songs, elaborate dances, lavish sets, and brilliant stars such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland. During a time of financial and political instability, movie musicals revived hope and optimism amongst the American public.

  • 42nd Street
  • Swing Time
  • Babes In Arms
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Babes In Toyland
  • Singin’ In The Rain
My favorite movie musical is definitely “Singing in the Rain.” It’s the all time classic musical with fantastic dance routines, costumes and songs. With a mix of comedy and amour, it is the perfect date film. Gene Kelly’s masculine perfection and Debbie Reyonlds’ tough femininity work in perfect sync. You can sing along, cry along and laugh along! – Kayla Janssen (Professional Semester F’11)
  • Annie Get Your Gun
  • The Band Wagon
  • Brigadoon
  • Meet Me In St. Louis
  • The King And I
  • Stormy Weather
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Easter Parade
  • Anything Goes
  • White Christmas
  • Gigi
  • Carousel
  • Pal Joey
  • Oklahoma!
  • South Pacific
  • Damn Yankees
  • The Pajama Game
  • Show Boat
  • An American In Paris
I have many favorites – but I love “An American in Paris!”  – Megan Shuffle (BDC Groups Director)
  • Porgy and Bess
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • Top Hat
  • On the Town
  • Guys and Dolls

The 1960s witnessed more direct restagings of Broadway musicals from stage to screen.

  • Mary Poppins
  • Oklahoma!
  • Sweet Charity
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown
  • Kismet
  • Camelot
  • West Side Story
West Side Story… it was one of the first move musicals I ever saw and I remember saying to myself “It is okay to be a guy and dance. They are doing it.” I remember being a kid and anytime I was in a parking garage, I would start doing my version of COOL. I would get some interesting looks. – Ricky Hinds (BDC Theater teacher, Associate Director of “Newsies” on Broadway)
  • The Sound of Music
  • My Fair Lady
  • Funny Girl
  • The Music Man
  • Gypsy
  • Hello Dolly
  • Bye Bye Birdie
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie
I love “Thoroughly Modern Millie!”  It is the most unappreciated, underrated movie musical of all time!  It’s hilarious, quirky, and inspiring with a dynamite cast of Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Channing, and James Fox. – Becky Stout (BDC student)
  • Oliver
  • How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

The 1970s movie musicals, however, were not the joyous and idyllic films of the Golden Age.  Rather, filmmakers focused on rock n’ roll and stark realism that was influenced by the hippie movement, the Vietnam and Cold Wars, and American individualism.

  • Jesus Christ Superstar
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Grease
Grease! I’ve watched that movie so many times! The music is catchy, and stays in your head. The dancing is energetic and vibrant! Just a great movie! – Nikki Croker (Professional Semester F’11)
  • Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory
  • Godspell
  • Fiddler On The Roof
  • Hair
  • Cabaret
  • All That Jazz
I love “All That Jazz.”  It’s essentially a sort of autobiography of Bob Fosse and the dancing just can’t be beat.  The story is so raw and real – it really illustrates the up’s and down’s of “showbusiness.” – Mary Callahan (Professional Semester F’11)
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Mame
  • Tommy
  • The Wiz

The 1980s/1990s attempted to boost the movie musical genre with the generous help of financial backers.

  • Xanadu
  • Annie
  • Victor, Victoria
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
  • Fame
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Evita
  • Flashdance
  • Dirty Dancing
  • A Chorus Line

The Disney animated-musicals also thrived during the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Pocahontas
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Aladdin
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Lion King
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

Since 2000, movie musicals have continued to rise in popularity, with stage to screen adaptations, remakes, animated films, and brand new shows busting out all over.

  • Rock of Ages
“Rock of Ages!” – because I am obsessed with their styling/outfits and the music… I love the 80s and that was my all time favorite musical to watch!  Plus Russell Brand is in it…which basically sells it! – Kimberly Hamilton (Professional Semester F’11)
  • Hairspray
“Hairspray” was first a movie, then a musical, then a movie again!  It’s the quintessential movie musical! I love the magnetic energy of the film.  The story line is fun with such a wonderful underlying theme.  I want to jump up and “pony” every time I watch the movie…and I do!- Lizz Picini (BDC Assistant Groups Director)
  • Footloose
  • Les Miserables
  • RENT
  • Fame
  • Dreamgirls
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Chicago
“Chicago!”  Everything about the movie is just brilliant.  It is so different from the stage version, yet so good in its own way.  The lighting, costumes, camera movement, and cast are amazing! – Molly Day (Professional Semester S’12)
  • Moulin Rouge

“Moulin Rouge” is my all-time favorite movie musical. The combination of genius cinematography, a fatally twisted love story with demonic undertones, and a new spin on songs we know and love make it a “Spectacular, Spectacular” film. – Carie Jurcak (BDC Educational Programs Student Advisor)

  • Enchanted
  • Phantom of the Opera
My favorite modern musical is “Phantom” because it really communicates the depth behind each of the characters’ emotions and motives.  And the cinematography is gorgeous! – Lily Lewis (Summer Intern ’12)
  • Fame
  • The Producers
  • Sweeney Todd
I liked Sweeney Todd! Music was incredible. I could tell they really took it seriously. Orchestrations are PRICELESS. – Michael Petrowski (ISVP ’11)
  • Across the Universe
  • Burlesque
  • Sparkle
  • High School Musical

While Broadway will always remain the pinnacle of live musical theater, film has brought the joy of the theater to audiences all over the world.

Here are the TOP 10 movie musicals of all time!

  1. Singin’ in the Rain
  2. The Wizard of Oz
  3. The Sound of Music
  4. The Music Man
  5. West Side Story
  6. My Fair Lady
  7. Cabaret
  8. Meet Me in St. Louis
  9. The King and I
  10. An American in Paris