What does theater dance mean today? On Broadway, we’ve recently seen everything from hip-hop in Hamilton to pointe work in Anastasia. As a result, theater dance class can truly run the gamut when it comes to genre and even music. “A jazz, tap, or modern class will focus on specific codified technical training,” explains Jim Cooney, who teaches theater dance and serves as the educational department’s resident faculty advisor here at Broadway Dance Center. “In theater class, we work on storytelling, style, and musicality. You focus on communicating the story–what you’re thinking and feeling—through dance. It’s like an acting class, but instead of text we’re using movement.”
Did you catch the premiere of FX’s new limited series, Fosse/Verdon, on Tuesday night? The eight-part series chronicles the creative and complicated relationship of renowned Broadway power couple, Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon. Fosse was a Hollywood hoofer turned award-winning director and choreographer, known for such shows as Chicago, Sweet Charity and Pippin, and films including All that Jazz, Star 80 and Lenny.
His wife, muse and artistic partner, Verdon, began as a dancer and assistant to Jack Cole. She went on to star in a host of Broadway shows (many of them directed and choreographed by Fosse) and kept her late husband’s legacy alive through the 1999 Broadway revue, Fosse.
The lights are bright, the buzz and energy is so full of life. It’s full of song, dance, storytelling, exciting choreography, extravagant costumes and sets. It’s Broadway. It’s lovingly called The Great White Way – one of the first streets in the U.S. to be lit with electric lights. Its history and reputation and potential for amazing things make it a “bucket list” item for many dancers. But when so many dancers are vying for the same goal, how can you turn this dream into a reality? How can you break into Broadway?
Here, we turn to Stephanie Bissonnette, a 2010 graduate of Broadway Dance Center’s Summer Intern Program (now called the BDC Professional Semester), who made her Broadway debut in the musical Mean Girls last April. She knows all there is to know about what kinds of classes aspiring Broadway dancers should be taking, how to prepare for that singing audition and how you, too, can make it on The Great White Way, doing what you love.
It’s not too late to sign up for BDC’s Musical Theater Weekend Intensive (June 23-24). This jam-packed two-day intensive is geared toward aspiring Broadway triple-threats and pre-professional performers. The workshop includes dance classes with industry-leading choreographers such as Josh Bergasse (On the Town, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Smash), Rachelle Rak (Dance Moms, Fosse), Randy Skinner (White Christmas, 42ndStreet), Sarah O’Gleby (Frozen) and Ricky Hinds (Newsies, Come From Away).
Participants will also partake in a professional seminar with a music director, mock audition with a casting director, and Q&A session with lead agent Lucille diCampli. Dancers will leave the intensive with an understanding of how to craft a professional resume, what it’s like to attend a Broadway open call, how to land an agent, and the styles and choreography of current Broadway shows.
Broadway Dance Center is proud to continue hosting its acclaimed Broadway Choreography Series. This ongoing master class series offers the opportunity to learn the original choreography to some of Broadway’s finest shows, presented by actual cast members and/or creative team straight from the stage to the studio.
Past classes have featured choreography from award-winning musicals like Holiday Inn, Bandstand, Anastasia, On Your Feet, Miss Saigon, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and more!
We caught up with former Professional Semester students to see what they’ve been up to and how the program has impacted their dance careers.
Now a 4th year veteran, I am so excited to continue my journey as an NFL cheerleader for an amazing team. I love being a role model on and off the field. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication, but being able to perform for over 73,000 fans, inspire children, participate in community outreach and most of all knowing that I am walking in one of my God given gifts definitely makes it worth it.
I have always carried everything I learned about dance, the industry and crafting my own style. The program gave me a boost in being a well-rounded performer, knocked out any sense of doubt I had about myself and opened many doors in my career. To say the least, the program helped me be better prepared and more confident in myself.
[The Wizard of Oz Tour] has been a dream and the job is just as challenging as it is rewarding. It’s been an honor to work with individuals that are not only talented, but provide a daily example of professional standards that I strive to embody.
A few days after class, we would get an email from Katelin with an encouraging message, list of songs we used in class, and video links to iconic dances from the era. It was at this point that I realized Katelin is happily going above and beyond in teaching her first Absolute Beginner Workshop and I’m getting waaay more than my money’s worth!
This November, 12 Broadway Dance Center students went to China to represent Team USA and compete on a live dance show in Shanghai. We asked one of the dancers, Chloe Lafleur, to tell us about her time there. Check out what she had to say! (Above: Selfie time with Team USA and dance show judges)
Ni Hao! Or as we say, hello!
I think this was one of maybe three phrases I could even partially grasp in Chinese, but a very important one! The ten days in Shanghai was my second time traveling out of the country and first to Asia. I must say it was without a doubt an incredible trip. Not only did our group of twelve dancers get to perform on a live TV show, but we were fortunate enough to travel and tour the city – shout out to BDC and Tencent for providing this wonderful opportunity!
The exposure to such a cultural change was both humbling and eye-opening for many of us. I know for me personally, one of my most memorable takeaways was experiencing the power of dance as a universal language between groups of people from different cultures. Many of the Chinese dancers we were exposed to during our time there spoke very little English, and it was through dance that we were able to appreciate one another’s artistries and connect with each other. On the first day we came to the dance studios to meet the dancers, each group introduced themselves and shared an excerpt from their routine. We all sat in awe at the talent and applauded with excitement after each performance. All around the energy was so positive and encouraging. I could tell within five minutes that it was going to be a treat seeing all their faces every day – and they did not disappoint
Blogger Chloe posing with Chinese BBoys on set
Regardless of the language barrier, we always felt a warm welcome and this set the tone for the trip. For me it was never about the competition and more about the experience of performing and connecting with them! Even if this meant singing musical theater songs back and forth with a group of Chinese dancers in the dressing room on tech night (yes, this happened and it was awesome). Mainly, I feel fortunate to have been taken out of my comfort zone and placed somewhere fresh to share my passion and appreciate how other dancers express themselves.
Team USA “Showgirls” ready to take the stage in Shanghai
Another highlight of the trip was immersing ourselves in the culture. Thanks to our fabulous Tencent host Lisa, and tour guide Jenny, we ate at some of the most delicious, authentic Chinese restaurants, and saw some beautiful spots across the city. The running joke was we all turned into little dumplings because of how many we ate while we were there– good thing we were dancing so much! If you ever decide to travel to China, you must, I repeat must, eat Xiaolonbao or, Sheng Jian Bao, both “soup dumplings”, one is steamed and one is pan fried – these will change your life. Enough about food, although we enjoyed ourselves in that aspect of the trip!
Overall, community was essential in making this trip what it was. Our group not only grew closer through experiencing the trip together, but becoming friends with the Chinese dancers – even if it was a quick 10-day friendship! After the live performance, we spent the night celebrating a successful show with dinner and the most epic karaoke night. Put 12 Americans with 30 Chinese in a two story private karaoke room and what you get is a remarkable mix of Taylor Swift, Macy Gray, Adele and hilarious songs unknown to me in Chinese. It was a night I will never forget. We laughed, we sang and we danced the night away! Post-trip, I am feeling grateful for all the people I met while I was there and even more so inspired to travel with dance seeking out opportunities where it unites different parts of the world together. – BDC Guest Blogger, Chloe Lafleur
Watching a Broadway musical and then trying out the choreography is probably something best attempted in private.
But dancers with skill and courage are shuffling off to Broadway Dance Center, a studio in the heart of the Theater District, to learn choreography from musicals currently onstage.