Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program

Studio 10D at Ripley-Grier was abuzz with excitement – it was the final rehearsal of the 2012 Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister program.  The students from Broadway Dance Center’s Children and Teen Program were clad in color coordinated T-shirts matching their Broadway star big brother or sister.

In the center of the room, “little orange” was teaching her Big Sis a complicated handshake like the one in “The Parent Trap.”  “Big blue” was stage left, reviewing choreography with her “mini me.”

At 9:15pm sharp, Lainie Munro, founder and choreographer of the Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program, called “places” for the final run-through.

The jazzy song began, “Dancin’ Fool” from Copacabana, and the dancers began tap-dancin’ away.  The energy of the room was as bright as the dancers’ neon T-shirts.  Each pair of siblings got a chance to strut their stuff on stage before the entire cast broke into unison.  Their tapping feet and smiling faces seemed so contagious that the audience of parents found themselves clapping and cheering along with the dancers.

“I’m having a lot of fun!” said Ayonna, a Little Sister.  “Lainie pushed me further than I knew I could go as a dancer.”

Ms. Munro does challenge the young dancers with complex tap technique and character choices – but the kids step up to the plate and shine next to their Broadway siblings.

“I’m a big sister – I was always teaching my little sister and rehearsing her.  I guess I was born to be a teacher!” said Munro, who also teaches tap and theater classes at Broadway Dance Center.  “But I always longed for a big sister, or mentor, of my own to show me the ropes of becoming a Broadway performer.”

After performing in national tours and regional theaters across the country, Ms. Munro started working at Broadway Dance Center in the Children and Teen’s Program (CTP).  “It was there,” said Munro, “that I realized how talented those young dancers were and was motivated to match the kids up with professional Broadway mentors.”

Inspired by the original Big Brother/Big Sister Program, Ms. Munro founded the Broadway Big Brother/ Big Sister Program in 2001 to provide aspiring young performers ages 9-17 a unique opportunity to work with Broadway professionals one-on-one, through rehearsals and performance of a production number.

“The children gain an invaluable experience,” said Munro.  “They learn about performing/acting with a partner, staging, and professional work ethics. They learn a lot about the ‘business’ of show business and the hard work and discipline involved in making a career as a professional performer.”

“Lainie is the best – there’s truly no one like her,” said Marie, whose daughter, Mariah is in her final year at BDC’s CTP and will be heading to study pre-med at Drew University next fall.  “Lainie brings out the best in her dancers.  If you watch Lainie’s class, you think you’re watching a Broadway rehearsal.”

It is no surprise that Ms. Munro was selected as a finalist for the 2003 Woman’s Day Magazine Awards, “Women That Inspire Us”, for her work with the Broadway Big Brother/ Big Sister Program.

After an audition in the spring, children from BDC’s CTP are selected and matched with a professional dancer whose own personality, style and interests compliment the child – a true “Big Brother” or “Big Sister.”

“It’s a very personal process,” explained Munro. ” I start with picking the kids and then I go out into the theater community and try to match each kid with a performer.   I’ll call up friends or e-mail performers I’ve seen in shows or deliver a letter to the stage door.”

“Even his mom thinks Henry and I are brothers,” said Jeremy Benton, who starred in Broadway’s “42nd Street” and “The Producers” film.  “When I dance with him, I get flashbacks to when I was his age.  It’s such a gratifying experience.  And Henry’s a great little tapper – I have to work to keep up with him!”

The children meet on 4 Sunday evenings (a total of just 8 hours), rehearsing side-by-side with their Big Brother or Big Sister.  The program is entirely volunteer-based and the professionals from the Broadway and NY dance community donate their time and talent to mentor and dance with a child or teenager.

Since the Program’s inception in 2001, 115 Broadway dancers have participated as Big Brothers and Sisters. Many Little Brothers and Sisters have already gone on to professional careers in dance, such as one of this year’s Big Sisters, Gabrielle Salvatto (Dance Theatre of Harlem, Juilliard grad and Little Sister alum 2001) and Lily Balogh (New York City Ballet and Little Sister alum 2004).

“I am so proud of my daughter, Amanda,” said her father, Luis.  “Amanda has dreamt of becoming a dancer ever since we relocated to New York from Puerto Rico.  Her confidence and joy have increased so much.  The Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister program is an incredible opportunity for her, a step closer to her dream to dance on Broadway.”

We are thrilled to announce the 2012 cast of the Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program!

2012 Big Brothers and Sisters:

JEREMY BENTON

SUMMER BROYHILL

DENA DIGIACINTO

KELLY JACOBS

JULIA KNITEL

LEA KOHL

MICHELLE LOUCADOUX

DANELLE MORGAN

JANELLE NEAL

GABRIELLE SALVATTO

Collectively the above performers are currently appearing in or have appeared in the following Broadway shows and dance companies:

42ND STREET (Broadway Revival and 1st National Tour)

ANYTHING GOES

MARY POPPINS (Broadway and 1st National Tour)

A CHORUS LINE (Revival)

WHITE CHRISTMAS (1st National Tour)

BYE BYE BIRDIE

HAIRSPRAY

THE LITTLE MERMAID

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1st National Tour)

THE PRODUCERS (movie)

DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM

and

THE RADIO CITY ROCKETTES

The Little Brothers and Sisters range in age from 9 years old to 17 years old, and are enrolled in BDC’s Children/Teen Program:

SOFIE ABBOUD

CHEYENNE DIXON

MARIAH EUGIENIA FERRANTE

KATARINA FRADENBURG

HENRY HECHT-FELELLA

IRELAND HORAN

ANGELICA LOPEZ

AMANDA MARRERO

AYONNA SULLIVAN

MAYA WRIGHT

Lainie Munro’s Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program in New York City will perform in the “Choreographer’s Canvas” on Thursday May 10 at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center at 8:30pm; and also in the Broadway Dance Center Student Showcase Sunday May 13th at Symphony Space at 4:30pm and 8pm.

**For tickets, visit http://www.choreographerscanvas.com and http://www.broadwaydancecenter.com.**

If you are interested in auditioning for the program, volunteering as a Big Brother or Sister, or booking this year’s cast for a performance, please contact Lainie Munro at: Lainie@LainieMunro.com

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