Honoring the Doctor of Jazz, Frank Hatchett

In honor of black history month, we’re throwing it back to the “Doctor of Jazz,” Frank Hatchett.

In 1984, Hatchett was an original faculty member of Broadway Dance Center. Located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, BDC quickly became the premier training ground for professional performers in ballet, on Broadway, and beyond. The studio was known for its roster of master teachers including Luigi, Jamie Rogers, Henry LeTang, Phil Black, David Howard, and, of course, Frank Hatchett.

Hatchett exemplified what it meant—and still means—to be a teacher at Broadway Dance Center. He had an impressive performance resume, having danced for the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Pearl Bailey. He had an insatiable passion for teaching dance that went beyond just teaching steps. Hatchett instilled in his students an inner confidence, encouraging them to express emotion and overcome challenges through movement and performance. Hatchett was not just a teacher; he was also a mentor, a father figure, and a friend. He saw greatness in each of his students and challenged them to explore their true potential.

Hatchett’s signature style, VOP, was a blend of strength, funk, and individual interpretation, with an emphasis on selling your performance. VOP was a marriage of movement and music where dancers matched their technical training with their own artistic flavor and expressive soul. Hatchett’s classes, especially his famous “3:30pm Advanced class,” were always packed with high-energy choreography, celebrity clientele (Madonna, Brooke Shields, Naomi Campbell, Olivia Newton-John, etc.), and a dash of tough love. Hatchett gave attention to every dancer and would publicly call you out—for better or worse—in order to help you grow as a performer.

In 2013, Hatchett passed away at the age of 78. Broadway Dance Center hosted a tribute performance at Symphony Space in his honor. The three-hour event included heartwarming speeches, spiritual songs, and dance performances showing off Hatchett’s legendary VOP style. Many of us never had the opportunity to take an actual class from Frank Hatchett. But dancing at BDC is inspired by him thanks to the generation of his students-turned-teachers who are keeping his legacy alive…Sheila Barker, Lane Napper, Robin Dunn, Michelle Barber, Heather Rigg, Ginger Cox, Derek Mitchell, and Debbie Wilson. Like so many teachers here at BDC, Hatchett emphasized the importance of foundational dance technique, artistry and individuality, and passion for the art of dance. We are forever honored to keep the VOP legacy alive.

Click here to watch our video honoring the late, great Frank Hatchett.

BDC alum lands role in new WEST SIDE STORY film

Daniel Patrick Russell had the performer’s gene in his blood from the day he was born. His mother was a ballerina and his father a performer as well. “I grew up in Australia surrounded by art. I don’t remember a time where dance wasn’t part of my life.” When he was twelve, he was cast as Billy in the Melbourne production of the Broadway musical, Billy Elliot. He then got the chance to perform the role in the North American national tour. “My dad is from the United States and, years ago, performed West Side Story at the State Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio,” says Russell. “I got to perform on that same stage when I was on tour. That was really special.” Little did Russell know that West Side Story would become a significant part of his performing career, as well. 

BILLY ELLIOT National Tour – Kyle Froman photography

After tour, Russell returned back to Australia and continued his training. Upon graduating high school, he received a prestigious dance scholarship to study anywhere in the world. Russell applied and was accepted to Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester in the summer of 2015. “Just prior to coming to NYC, I was working as a contemporary dancer. When I came to BDC, I wanted to eat it all up and take from every teacher I could—in every style of dance. I couldn’t get enough!”

That intense and diverse training has since served him well throughout his career. After Professional Semester, he performed in West Side Story at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida. “I had the opportunity to perform the original Jerome Robbins choreography and it was incredible,” he remembers. That was just the start of Russell’s journey with WEST SIDE STORY. He went on to join the world tour as Baby John for 15 months. “Touring was a neat experience to see how the musical connected with different audiences from so many different countries. In Dublin, it felt like we were part of a rock concert! This show resonates with people all over the planet, regardless of language or cultural differences,” he explains.  “It’s an immense piece of art and a huge honor to share that on stage every night.”

WEST SIDE STORY International Tour – Zheng Tianran photography

More recently, Russell wrapped yet another production of West Side Story…this time, the highly anticipated film remake, set to come out in theaters in December 2020. “I can’t give too much away,” admits Russell, who just finished filming in September. “Justin Peck’s choreography is reimagined and genius. The director, Steven Spielberg, is incredibly gifted, generous, and giving. The entire creative team cultivated such an incredible energy on set that allowed the cast and crew to do our best work.” 

“The entire project was a dream,” Russell says smiling. “But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t challenging or exhausting at times.” Hours on a film set can start early in the morning and go long into the night. “When you do a show on stage, everything is chronological,” explains Russell. “But in film, you jump around the story a lot and have to make sure your character is present and truthful in each moment.”

“The cast was incredibly close and inclusive,” adds Russell. “You wouldn’t know that when the cameras came on because we had to be true to the story – the two opposing gangs: the Jets versus the Sharks. But when the crew yelled ‘cut,’ we were like a big family.”

The original production of West Side Story opened on Broadway in 1957. The Oscar-winning movie premiered four years later in 1961. The show had four Broadway revivals (soon to be five) and countless tours and regional productions produced around the world. The new film will be released over sixty years after the show’s original inception. Clearly, West Side Story is a story that continues to resonate with audiences. “The themes are still so relevant,” explains Russell. “It’s a masterpiece. At heart, it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The story of love, conflict, family, betrayal, unity, and hope is universal.

Filming wrapped in September 2019 and now we anxiously await what will no doubt be a spectacular film. So, what’s next for Russell in the meantime? “I’m going on vacation to Italy!” he tells us. “I’d like to take a moment to show my gratitude for BDC. Since I moved to NYC, many opportunities have come my way thanks to BDC, and for that I am very thankful.” 

Marnya Rothe photography

Premier 2017

Broadway Dance Center (BDC) hosted the 2nd annual presentation of Premier October 17 at Symphony Space in New York City. Premier is a carefully curated evening of dance choreographed by BDC’s renowned faculty and guest artists. This year, the net proceeds from Premier were donated to Unidos por Puerto Rico, an organization that provides aid and support to those affected by Hurricanes Irma and María.
According to their website, “Unidos por Puerto Rico is an initiative brought forth by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, in collaboration with the private sector, with the purpose of providing aid and support to those affected in Puerto Rico by the passage of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane María. 100% of the proceeds will go to helping the victims affected by these natural disasters in Puerto Rico.”

Ahoy! BDC at Sea

Jenifer Dillow (BDC Professional Semester, Fall 2011)

Cruise: Disney Magic

Role: Belle, dancer

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

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

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

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

Latoyia Everett (BDC Professional Semester, Fall 2011)

Cruise: Norwegian Jade

Role: dancer, dance captain

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

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

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

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

 

Zanza Steinberg (BDC Professional Semester, Spring 2011)

Cruise: Royal Caribbean – Serenade

Role: dancer

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

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

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

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