International students at Broadway Dance Center.

BDC allows international students to shine

Broadway Dance Center (BDC) is synonymous with the New York dance scene, an institution recognized as a place to truly experience dance to the fullest. With the motto, “Inspiring The World to Dance”, BDC welcomes students from all over the world to its studio in the heart of the Broadway Theater District, to immerse themselves in training in all styles and genres.

BDC runs an International Student Visa Program (ISVP), allowing international students to obtain an M-1 Visa to attend classes for a three-month, six-month or one-year period. Dancers from over 96 countries have graced the halls of BDC, creating a unique community that truly embodies diversity and inclusion. 

Jim Cooney: “Theater class should be a staple for every dancer.”

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.”

Hannah Molloy. Photo by Michael Mandolfo.

Meet the recipients of BDC’s Richard Ellner Scholarships 

If you don’t know the name “Richard Ellner”, you should. He is the man behind Broadway Dance Center and the reason why we’re able to enjoy dozens of fun classes with working choreographers and well-known teachers each week. Ellner was a life-long lover of the performing arts, although he didn’t take a dance class himself until the age of 52! He had visions of a home for dance in the heart of NYC, where dancers could receive diversified training from the best in the business, all under one roof. So, 35 years ago, in 1984, Ellner founded BDC. 

To honor Ellner’s legacy and contribution to the dance community, BDC has announced recipients of the Richard Ellner Scholarships, awarded to three students of BDC’s Professional Semester Program. The generous Scholarships will cover half and full tuition costs for these dancers. Here, get to know the scholarship recipients and why they’re so thrilled to be training at BDC. 

Move It.

BDC at Move It in London

There’s just something about when many dancers gather. The collaborative, creative energy can feel simply incredible. Broadway Dance Center will be part of such an atmosphere, by having a presence at Move It, a large three-day dance convention in London. 2019’s Move It dates will be March 8-10. BDC has sent teachers to the convention for three years, and this will be the second year in which BDC has hosted a panel and seminar. 

This year, April Cook will be teaching tap, and Jim Cooney will be teaching musical theater. As Director of Public Relations for BDC, Cook will also be presenting at two seminars BDC is hosting — one on differences in dancing in NYC, LA and England, and another as a Q&A-format sounding board for dance studio owners, to bring forward their concerns and ideas. Cook also attended Move It last year, and shares more about what it’s like. 

Breaking into Broadway

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.

BDC Alumni… Where are they now?

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. 

pro_sem_success_2016_campbellNow 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.


pro_sem_success_2016_rives[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.

As a newcomer to the city, the Professional Semester not only offered unparalleled dance training, but the perfect segue to living in the city. Broadway Dance Center provided me the invaluable opportunity to sign with an agent, which made being a professional less of an aspiration and more of a reality.

 pro_sem_success_2016_ohmanThe Professional Semester gives you the information most people have to learn through trial and error. It’s a safe place to make mistakes and ask questions, so that when you walk into an audition you can present the best version of yourself. By the end of the program, I developed lasting relationships with casting directors and choreographers, signed with an agency, and booked my first commercial. I loved the program and am so thankful for everything it gave me.

pro_sem_success_2016_sessomsTouring with Santigold has been such blast. I’m always on my toes, because things can change very quickly, which can make the show even more exciting. It’s helped me learn more about myself as a performer. 
I loved my time in the program. I made some lifelong friendships, and was mentored by some of the top teachers/choreographers in the world. Having that experience has helped me to this day. I would say to future Pro Sems: take advantage of all classes, even if its completely outside your genre. Give it a try regardless. You can learn something from everyone’s class. You just have to be open to the experience.

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For more information on the Professional Semester, visit our website at www.BroadwayDanceCenter.com/ProSem

BDC Students Travel to Shanghai for Live TV Dance Competition

selfie-with-judge-from-showThis 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!

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Team USA performing “Cell Block Tango” choreographed by JT Horenstein

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

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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.

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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!

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Jenna & Chloe from Team USA take a quick photo with team China

 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

 

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Team USA with Choreographers Tony Guerrero (far left), JT Horenstein (second from left) and celebrity judges after the show

Luam Keflezgy…this girl is on fire!

images1Attention! Attention!  Luam is back teaching at Broadway Dance Center! A long-time Hip-Hop teacher at BDC, Luam has danced and toured for many recording artists before choreographing for stars like Britney Spears, Beyonce, Kelly Roland, Carly Rae Jepson, Rihanna, and countless commercials and industrials. A truly inspiring teacher, Luam is also a popular mentor for BDC’s ISVP, Training Program, and Professional Semester students. She’s recently back after serving as choreographer and artistic director of Alicia Keys’ new “Set the World on Fire” tour.  In between her busy schedule, BDC blogger, Mary Callahan, sat down to interview Luam about her experience working on the Alicia Keys tour and what she looks for when hiring dancers.

What was your dance training like growing up?

I was born in East Africa and grew up in Philadelphia, Cali, and Seattle. My family lives in Seattle but I came to New York for college.  Dance was actually not a part of my life until after college.  I was planning on going to medical school.  When I graduated I had a lot of freedom to take classes…and I was hooked!  I said, “I’ll do this for now and then go back to school.”  But I never went back…I couldn’t go back!

It’s kind of funny – I initially began taking dance exercise classes at the local gyms.  Soon after, I quickly found Broadway Dance Center and Djoniba Dance center.  I then realized I needed a better dance foundation if I wanted to pursue this.  I could do African dance and hip hop, but I needed to understand dance as a whole to be a versatile dancer.  So I started taking classes at Ailey and Steps in addition to jazz and ballet classes at BDC.

When did you begin auditioning and teaching?

I was training, training, training, and then started performing in different showcases and eventually danced for artists.  The music industry was totally different back then – there was a lot of work for dancers in New York, big and small.  And this was before any dance agencies were around.  You just went out and did your thing.  It was a small but tight dance community and everything was word of mouth.

At the same time, I was also teaching and developing my classes.  Having trained in African dance in college, I started teaching hip hop at New York Sports Club, Djoniba Dance Center, and then at BDC which was a big honor.  As I developed my choreography while teaching I also began getting small choreography gigs that built my repertoire, experience, and credibility.

How did you get choreography jobs without an agent?

People would see my work and seek me out.  Nowadays I get work through my agency as well, but as choreographers we still shoulder a lot of the responsibility.  You have to become visible by getting your work out there and marketing your “brand.”  You really have to “build your own buzz.”

You’ve really choreographed everything: music videos, tours, commercials, and live events.  Is one type more challenging or more enjoyable as a choreographer? 

It’s not the type that determines difficulty but rather the situation – the conditions that you’re working in.  For example, you may have to change everything on the spot due any number of reasons, or the song arrangement may change last minute, or you artist may not even be able to attend rehearsals…but you still make the artist and performance look flawless.  Situational challenges come up with any type of job whether it’s for the stage, TV, or a commercial.  For me, I love being diverse and working on different projects.  I welcome that challenge.  But I especially love choreographing to music that I enjoy.  If I get to work with music that inspires me, that’s icing on the cake!

What is it like to work with vocal artist who are not necessarily trained dancers?

You have to understand what their goal is, who their market is, and how you can push them to be fresh and new (but still true to their “brand”).  Most vocal artists are not dancers, but they are performers.  It’s about creating a visual around them.  While the artist is telling the story through their music, the story is actually unfolding around them.  But the singer is participating!  Even if they cannot dance a single step, they can walk to the right, walk to the left, look at somebody, look over there, and then they become involved.  You have to be clever about the choices you give them.

I walk in to rehearsals and I get to know how the artist moves.  My goal is to push the artist to be the best at what they do rather than imposing something totally different upon them (unless they are a dancer and then they might want to explore or challenge themselves through new styles of movement).  It’s not about the steps, ever.  It’s about the visual, the feeling, and the total performance.  And you have to be ready to sacrifice.  You can choreograph an entire routine and you have to be ready to say, “Let’s cut it all” because it’s just not working.  You have to put the artist’s agenda over your own.  You have to match the artist.


images2You just finished directing and choreographing for Alicia Keys’ new tour, “Set the World on Fire.”  What is it like being a choreographer for a tour?  Who do you “report” to?

It really depends.  Usually if you’re a choreographer you report to the creative director and show director (though the overall boss of any artists’ project is the artist!).  On this last tour [Alicia Keys] I was both the choreographer and show director and worked alongside the creative director so it was a little more complicated. Also I worked pretty closely with Alicia to make sure the heart and message of the show was on point as she’s such an organic musician and artist. Choreographing eventually became the last thing I did.  I was more concerned with the movement of the stage, changing musical arrangements, the timing of the LEDs, the way the piano was coming in, shooting the content for the back screen, etc etc. I also had an assistant choreographer/artistic director, Jemel McWilliams, who was brilliant and talented and together we kept each other positive enough to handle all creative challenges.

It’s both beautiful and daunting when the artist looks to you for guidance and her team trusts you with the vision. If something doesn’t work, it’s on you!  That’s what directing or choreographing is about really, being able to make the vision come alive no matter what is happening around it. I’m a planner so I was super prepared but that went out the window! The show was a living, organic thing, and evolved as such… So you have to stay flexible when logistical and technical elements change and people look to you for next steps. It’s about being able to manage the changing elements and people and keeping the vision alive. By the way, there’s no time to vet anything, you have to trust your instincts and go! It works out as long as you stay positive, inspired and keep the people around you the same, and I’m very lucky to have worked with such a positive & talented team.  Alicia herself is such a phenomenal spirit, her continued grace always kept me wanting to give my best, my all.

Do you get to go on the tour, too?

I did go for the first few cities, I pretty much stayed with the show until I felt we found our final stage movement, choreography, and lighting.  Jemel is still there to make sure everything’s running smoothly, and is dancing as well.  At this point I’ll check in for maintenance, tweaks, and to keep things fresh.

What do you look for when hiring dancers?

My advice for dancers? Be a very consistent and confident dancer who can represent the choreography as it is taught but still have a great style in the execution.  Performing with your own style is great, but just be careful not to overdo it, you have to add to the vision, not distract from it.

For the past eight months I found myself hiring dancers quite frequently. With not a lot of time for auditions, I preferred to pull dancers that I knew would do well and matched the physical requirements for the artists. Luckily, being a teacher and choreographer in the community allowed me to be familiar with the dance community. When I do hold auditions, I have to be very efficient.  For Alicia I was constantly looking for tall, strong, masculine male dancers because she’s a mature woman with a family and not a young pop star.  I posted a height and body-type specification on the casting notice.  At times dancers would come who were not we asked for and it sometimes became frustrating. I tell dancers to be mindful of that. You may leave a bad impression if you “crash” an audition where you know you’re not the right type. It complicates things for the choreographer a lot of times. But if you fall in the category that works well for the artist, do your best!

Above all, exude confidence (even if you’re nervous), know your body, dress presentable and fashionable, be consistent and solid, and be respectful.  Give them everything you’ve got!  We can tell if you really care about an audition.  Your energy and spirit that you bring into the room can tell a lot about how you will be on the job.  I am excited to hire you and I want to see that you’re excited to do what you love too!

You said that you often don’t have time to audition dancers because gigs pop up so quickly.  Do you ever hire dancers directly from your classes?

The thing is, I want my class environment to be primarily a learning environment.  But I have students who have trained with me for years and if I need a dancer and they’re the right type, of course I’ll recommend them. I think hard work should be rewarded.  But those students weren’t just coming to my class to “get seen,” I’ve watched them grow and train for a long time in my class and in the dance community in New York.  Coming to a class to “audition” isn’t the right attitude for me (come to learn!)…but at the same time, it is good to be “seen” in the dance community.  My class is a part of the greater New York dance community and I want New York dancers to work.  And it’s not just in class. I am always looking for dancers, for talent, for students to mentor.  People should just be giving it their all in class and leaving the rest to the universe. Give freely of yourself to your dance classes, dance teachers, and the dance community.  You’ll be surprised at what will come back to you…

What is it like to be a New York-based commercial choreographer?

I feel very grounded here.  It’s my home.  No matter what’s happening in the music industry, I know I’ll always have myself, my home, here in New York.  It’s very easy to get caught up in the desires of chasing things in the industry, and I try to keep myself from that.  I want my home to be a place where I can reconnect with myself.  I really enjoy LA, but if I travel to LA, it’s for work or pleasure, not to live.  If I lose a few jobs because I’m not there quick enough, so be it. I have me!

“When you have a passion, there is no choice but to follow it, fight for it.  Make it your life’s work…because when you love what you do, you live your destiny.” – Luam

Check out this video from behind the scenes with Luam and Alicia Keys!

Luam’s class schedule:

Advanced Beginner Hip-Hop – Tuesdays 4:30-6:00pm

Intermediate Hip-Hop – Fridays 4:30-6:00pm

Intermediate Advanced Hip-Hop – Tues./Thurs. 9:00-10:30pm and Saturdays 6:00-7:30pm

A lover of music of all genres, Luam adores teaching and choreography and brings to her Hip-Hop classes a fusion of Hip-Hop, street jazz, African, and dancehall. She pushes her students to pair their inner grooves with precision and emotion while exploring the rhythms and lyrics of the music. In her classes ‘the music drives the movement’.

Pro Sems Shine in Closing Showcase

images1On Sunday night the Fall 2012 students of the Broadway Dance Center Professional Semester took the stage at the Manhattan Movement Arts Center for their closing showcase.

The breathtaking program included works by BDC choreographers (Ashle Dawson, Katherine Roarty, Neil Schwartz, and Jim Cooney), student choreographers (Danielle Burdick, Aline Bennour, Sahar Taklimi, Alex Faglie, Claudia Martinez, Makenzie Dascenzo, Brittany Metelko, and Cassidy Gerczak), and guest performances (Rhapsody En Dance, MADboots Dance Company, and Parsons Dance Company).  And don’t forget the show-stopping BDC Glee routine to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” directed by Bettina Sheppard and Jason Aquirre.

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The evening spanned the gamut of dance styles (Latin jazz, contemporary, hip hop, musical theater, and tap) and revealed the tremendous talent and versatility of the Professional Semester dancers.

Congratulations to the Fall 2012 class of the BDC Professional Semester.  We are so proud of your hard work and dedication and cannot wait to see where your dancing will take you!images3

  • Alex Faglie
  • Alyssa Lemons
  • Asher Walker
  • Briana Justine Harmon
  • Brittany Metelko
  • Camille Moten
  • Carmela Girdlestone
  • Cassidy Gerczak
  • Claire Page
  • Danielle Burdick
  • Erica Misenti
  • Katie Homer
  • Kat Brooks
  • Kelvin Kim
  • Makenzie Dascenzo
  • Meghan Robertson
  • Monica Coulis
  • Nicole Butler
  • Nicole D’Arienzo
  • Sadie Jones
  • Shadae Jenkins

Bonnie Erickson – Director of Educational Programming
Carie Jurcak – Educational Programs Student Advisor
Jim Cooney – Faculty Advisor
Bronwen Carson – Acting Coach
Bettina Sheppard – Vocal Coach

Learn more about Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester Program.