‘Escape to Margaritaville’ with BDC’s Broadway Choreography Series

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 SaigonCharlie and the Chocolate Factory and more!

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.18.35 PM

Yes, that’s Bernadette Peters’ voice you hear singing “Star Tar” from the original Off-Broadway cast album of Dames at Sea. The new Broadway production’s director/choreographer Randy Skinner held a master tap class at the Broadway Dance Center, proving that classic American dance style is alive and very well.

via DAMES AT SEA’s Randy Skinner Holds Master Tap Class at Broadway Dance Center on BroadwayWorld.com

BDC to Broadway: Drew King of “On The 20th Century”

 

untitled

Former BDC Front Desk Manager, Drew King, made the “leap” (well, really just a 0.3 mile walk) from Broadway Dance Center to Broadway—starring in On the 20th Century at 42nd Street’s American Airlines Theater. While Drew didn’t grow up with extensive dance training, he still had the courage to pursue his dreams in New York City. So how did a self-proclaimed “non-dancer” find himself performing in a tap-dancing musical choreographed by Tony-winner, Warren Carlyle? Take a look at our interview with Drew and see how his time and training at BDC helped him on his journey to the “Great White Way.”

What was your dance/musical theater training like growing up?

I started out as a musician. I played saxophone for a few years, and then in middle school I joined choir. All throughout high school, I trained as a vocalist in a wonderful music program and studied with a voice teacher who was also on faculty at Boston Conservatory. I had a wonderful theater program at my high school. I grew up watching the musicals there and knew I wanted to participate when I got to high school. My freshman year, I auditioned for Grease and was cast as Doody. I was hooked on performing from that day forward.

As a dancer, I never had formal dance training back home in Massachusetts. A friend’s mother owned a dance studio, and she was kind enough to let me take jazz and tap class my senior year of high school…but other than that, I was a very late bloomer. I had always wanted to be a dancer, but I never had the opportunity or financial resources. I knew that when I moved to New York, I would have a lot of catching up to do.
untitled1

How did you come to dance and eventually work at BDC

I ended up in New York by accident, I suppose. I knew I wanted to be here, but I showed up much earlier than I anticipated. I wanted to be a musical theater major in college, but every program that I auditioned for rejected me. By the end of my senior year, I found myself with only two acceptance letters (not to musical theatre programs) to Fordham University and Marymount Manhattan. With no other options, I moved to New York in the fall of 2005 to attend Fordham University at 18 years old.

My freshman year at Fordham, a classmate who was a dancer dragged me to Broadway Dance Center on 57th Street for a basic ballet class. I was terrified and intimidated, but by the time the class had finished, I was so excited! All of sudden, I realized that all the resources I needed to supplement my training were at my fingertips. New York has some of the greatest training opportunities and classes. After I finished that class, I immediately picked up a work-study application from the front desk. I turned it in the very next day, and by Saturday, I was training for my first work-study shift. I continued training at BDC and working in the work-study program all throughout college, sticking with the program through the move from 57th Street to 45th Street. I remember working with Dawn Rumbaugh at the Actor’s Temple while the new studio was being built. By the time I got to my junior year in college, I managed to get a permanent job at the Front Desk working phones and as an assistant manager. I juggled my last two years of school with my front desk shifts as well as dance training at BDC. I continued working at BDC as a front desk manager on and off until the spring of 2013. I’ve spent roughly about 7 years working and 10 years training at Broadway Dance Center. That studio has been a second home and second family for the majority of my time in New York City.

Were/are there any classes or teachers at BDC to which you can attribute some of your success?

BDC has such an outstanding faculty. Working the front desk, you get to know all the teachers and staff of the studio. I would have to say that almost all of my success comes from the faculty at Broadway Dance Center (as well as those staff members who guided me and gave me the opportunity to train there). So many of my teachers went out of their way to get to know me, make corrections, encourage me and push me. It’s terribly intimidating starting dance training as a 19-year-old adult when you’re walking into a class with dancers who have been training since they were toddlers. It’s terrifying and can be humiliating, but BDC and the faculty there looked beyond that (even when I couldn’t see beyond it myself) and saw potential in me. Every teacher there inspired me to never settle, to always challenge myself, and to accept my own personal journey and path. Aside from dance training, so many of the teachers at BDC have unknowingly been some of my favorite life coaches. I’ve had so many wonderful teachers here, but some specific teachers who have really encouraged me and pushed me to get to where I am today include people like Beth Goheen, Natalya Stavro, Jamie Salmon, Dorit Koppel, Ray Hesselink, Matthew Powell, Germaine Salsberg, Michelle Barber, Sheila Barker, Tracie Stanfield, Brice Mousset, Josh Bergasse, Al Blackstone, Ricky Hinds, David Marquez, Ginger Cox, Slam; it might sound like a long list, but every one of these teachers have left a lasting impression on my personal life as well as my training.

untitled3

What does it feel like to make your Broadway debut?

Of course it is incredibly exciting…but honestly, a bit surreal. I’ve been dreaming of this opportunity for so long, and now that it is happening, I’m struggling to believe that it is real. Sometimes I truly have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I also am aware that I am having quite an exceptional experience for a Broadway debut. To be involved in an original Broadway cast of a show is a rare opportunity, and even more rare when the show is a hit and so well received by the New York community. So many exciting opportunities have come from this show, and every time something pops up, I can’t believe it’s happening. I feel that the whole experience has been a fairytale version of a dream come true, all neatly wrapped up with a bow. Many lifelong “bucket list” opportunities have come to fruition, such as having a first Broadway opening night, getting “the call” that you booked the job, singing (and tapping!) on a cast recording, dancing on television, performing on the Tony Awards, etc. Even more exciting, the four tap dancing porters (myself included) were nominated for an Astaire Award alongside such outstanding talents like Tony Yazbeck and Robert Fairchild.

What was your audition process like?  (How did you prepare, callbacks, etc.)

The audition process was incredibly fun but also intimidating. Warren Carlyle is so kind and gracious in the audition room, which makes auditioning for him so great, but he also sets the bar very high and demands excellence from everyone. That is one of the many reasons why his choreography sparkles in all the shows he works on.

I had attended an open ECC (Equity Chorus Call) for the show last summer, and received a callback a few weeks later. At the callback, Warren quickly taught a pretty lengthy and tricky tap combination, after which every guy in the room had to do one-at-a-time. In most audition rooms, you will dance with two or three other guys per group, but Warren had us each tap by ourselves—pretty intimidating and exposing with all eyes on you; certainly no room for error. However, it wasn’t as terrifying as it could have been because one my biggest tap mentors, Ray Hesselink, always has his students run exercises one-at-a-time in his class. This is a skill that has come in handy for many auditions these days, including the audition that got me my first Broadway show.

After dancing and singing for the callback, I got a call for a final callback a few weeks after that. For the final callback, there were about 24 guys. We all had to do the tap combination again, as well as learn the vocal harmony to a four-part harmony song from the show. I had to learn the bass line, and the music director played the other three vocal parts on the piano as I sang the bass line against it. That afternoon, only a few hours after the callback, Warren personally called me himself to tell me I had booked the show.

untitled4Working on a new musical (of a revival), what was the rehearsal and workshop process like?  Did a lot of changes occur during previews?

The rehearsal process was extremely exciting. This show is very rarely done, and this was the first revival since the original production with Madeline Kahn in 1978. Roundabout Theater Company is the master of putting on a revival, so they knew exactly what they were doing. They assembled some of the most incredible designers and creatives in the business. It was so exciting to see the show start as an idea on paper and vision boards, and then come into existence on stage at the American Airlines Theater. The sets, costumes, music, direction, choreography all blossomed and came to life over the short rehearsal period and it was truly magical having the opportunity to watch that happen.

During previews, there were slight changes in some of the music and writing, and even some of the choreography, but for the most part, what was rehearsed in the studio is still represented in the show right now.

Describe what it’s like to work with Tony-winning choreographer, Warren Carlyle.

Working with Warren is a dream. Aside from his undeniable talent, style, professionalism and grace, he is such a wonderful human being. He is incredibly attentive and sensitive to every person he works with, and has an overwhelming sense of gratitude and respect for dancers and performers. He teaches his choreography very quickly, and asks that you are paying attention and giving 110% energy along the way. Many rehearsal processes are short, so he does this for a matter of time, but ultimately, he wants you to be the best that you can be, and the cast has a great admiration for him because of this. It is no surprise to me that he won the Tony Award last year, and I have no doubts there are many more in his future. It is truly an honor and a joy to perform his choreography eight shows a week. The audiences certainly love it, but most importantly, every cast member in our show loves it.

What are some of your favorite past credits?

I would have to say that one of my favorite past credits would be My One and Only at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut. This was one of my first professional gigs working at an Equity house. The theater was built way back in 1877 and produces some of the best regional theater productions you can find in the country. The theater is beautiful—as is the location—and everyone who works at the theater is a lovely human being who absolutely loves and treasures the tradition of American musical theater. They do beautiful work, and it was an honor to perform there.

Another favorite past credit would also have to be working at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. I’ve done three contracts up there (9 to 5, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Joseph). Each experience has been delightful. The production quality of the shows is wonderful, the staff is amazing to work with, and above all, you get to spend the summer living on the beautiful coast of Maine.

untitled5What do you do when you’re not performing? 

When I’m not performing, I’m trying to res…But because I’m a busybody, I’m still training, auditioning, going to the gym, and working a part-time job that I’ve had for about three years now. The downside of this business is that there are no guarantees and rarely any security. My show will close in July, and soon enough, I’ll be back to pounding the pavement. I’m working hard now to keep my body and training in shape so that I’m ready to hit auditions again. |BDC| 


Interview by Mary Callahan for Broadway Dance Center

Kids Get Kicks Dancing Beside Broadway Performers

The 2015 Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Cast (Jessica Fallon Gordon)

From the time she was a little girl growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Lainie Munro loved every single thing about Broadway musicals. Taking dance class since she was 4, she adored her teacher Lodzia Heath, a former Rockette from the 1930s and ’40s who played Broadway soundtracks in class at her tiny Satellite Dance Studio. “She way my star and so passionate,” says Munro. “There’s a mural of a Rockettes line from this era at the Top of the Rock in New York and Mrs. Heath is the second from stage left in the picture.” Munro always got to the studio early so she could go through  albums like “The Tap Dance Kid,” “The Act” and “My Fair Lady.”

Lainie Munro (Dave Cross)

In fact, it was a really big deal to be selected for one of Mrs. Heath’s performance groups which had space-themed names. “When I was chosen to be a Starlite I was given a blue cape to wear over my costume and I never wanted to take it off. I even slept in it,” says Munro. “Satellite was the tiniest dance studio you ever saw. But inside it was magic.”

Munro’s father who was on the radio at WKTZ in Jacksonville also brought home many show albums from the station. So after dance class Munro choreographed every number on the records in her bedroom. “I made my little sister Alicia be in the numbers. My poor sister wanted to go outside and play but I’d say, ‘no, you’ve got to do that dance again, five, six, seven, eight,’” says Munro. “I was a task master dance captain even then and made her practice over and over with me until it was perfect. To this day, she’s my favorite person to dance with.” Munro even typed up programs, handed them to her parents and charged 5 cents to view the show as the young Munro sisters performed in the living room. “Yes I charged them!,” she says. “My parents loved it. I don’t know about my sister.”

At 8, she was cast as Gretl in a production of The Sound of Music at Alhambra Dinner Theater. The show’s Maria was a very young Paige O’Hara, who voiced Belle in the movie version of Beauty and the Beast. Munro idolized her. “She is a great and beautiful actress and has the voice of an angel. I thought, I want to be like her one day,” recalls Munro. And she remembers planting herself in O’Hara’s dressing room asking myriad questions about her life in New York and performing. O’Hara gave all the children in the show a silver ID bracelet engraved with their character’s names. “It’s my good luck charm,” says Munro. “It reminds me of when I started and I think of Paige all the time.”

After college Munro moved to New York, began performing and also taught at the esteemed Broadway Dance Center. “As a teacher I get to be a “Mrs. Heath” to my students and pass on my love of dancing and theater to them,” she says. She saw how talented the kids were and how they all wanted to perform. And she realized that they needed mentors. “They get their training, but they need somebody to say, “Here’s how I did it.” I remember when I was younger thinking ‘I want to do that, but how do I get into this business? “I wanted somebody to say, “Hey kid. Here’s how I did it and kind of be my friend.”

So Munro got inspired. She thought, imagine if I could give these children the opportunity to rehearse and perform side by side with a Broadway performer?

And in 2001 she created the Broadway Big Brother/Big Sister Program where kids perform with a dancer in the Broadway community. The young students who range in age from 10-16, are matched with Broadway cast members from a number of shows including On the Town, Pippin, Jersey Boys, Shrek The Musical, the Lion King, Anything Goes, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying and more. Working side by side with their Big Brother or Sister, the children rehearse a production number and get to dance before a large audience. The kids gain an invaluable life changing experience learning about the joy, hard work and discipline it takes to be a professional performer. Just last month they performed “Put on a Happy Face” at the Broadway Dance Center Student Showcase to a wildly enthusiastic crowd.

Outside the studio, the youngsters have an instant role model and mentor. The dancers invite their young siblings to their shows, give them backstage tours, and even coach them for auditions. And now the program has come full circle. Gabrielle Salvatto, once a little sister, grew up to become a professional dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and returned to the program as a Big Sister to mentor and dance with a young person. “When I started the program I thought one day they’ll grow up, become professional dancers and maybe come back and be a Big Sister or a Big Brother,” says Munro. “It really is how we pass all this on, so that the current generation of performers can train the next generation.”

For one little sister who lost her mother to cancer, her Big Sister was like a surrogate mother, attending school play performances and helping with homework. “Some children start out very shy but they completely come out of their shell,” says Munro. And the big siblings benefit from the experience too. As one Big Sister and Broadway vet shared, “You can perform in show after show, but this program made me feel as if I made a difference in someone’s life.”Jessica Fallon Gordon

via Kids Get Kicks Dancing Beside Broadway Performers by Jeryl Brunner

BDC Works: Richard Hinds

untitled8

Born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, Richard J. Hinds began dancing at his aunt’s and uncle’s studio at a young age. His mother wanted him to head to college after high school, but this small town boy had another plan in mind. Ricky packed his bags, headed to New York City, and booked his first professional job, a European tour of the musical Grease, after just three months. Since then, he has toured with national and international companies, choreographed, and most recently, became the Associate Director for Disney’s Newsies National Tour! BDC got the chance to talk with Ricky about what he looks for in a dancer and his advice for people who are trying to” make it” in this crazy business.

What was your dance training like growing up? Did you always know you wanted to dance?

My aunt and uncle own a studio in CT where I grew up. They pulled me in at a very young age, and I never looked back. We were a competitive studio so performing was a big part of our education, and I absolutely loved it. As I got older, I started realizing that I actually wanted to pursue this as a career, and began to take steps towards pushing myself even further.

I attended a summer dance program at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan, and when I heard they had a year -round program, I begged my mother to send me there. I ended up going my sophomore year and continued through the rest of my high school education. It was incredibly inspiring being surrounded by such talented people who were also as serious as I was. After I graduated, I made the move to NYC and that is where I have been ever since.

When did you start teaching and auditioning?

My mother wanted me to go to college after I graduated high school, but I was ready to take on NYC. We made a pact that I had one year in NYC, and if I didn’t get a performing job I would go to college. Lucky for me, I booked my first professional job after only 3 months, a European tour of the musical Grease. I shipped off to Europe, and continued with the show for 10 months where I was a dancer in the ensemble and understudied Eugene. After I returned from Europe, my mother had accepted that college was not in the cards for me.

Throughout my professional career I developed an interest in choreography and teaching. I started reaching out to different studios and teaching some master classes while I was traveling the country with the tours of Cats and Fosse. Some of those studios asked me to do choreography for their competition programs, and I began flexing those muscles as well. I reached out to my mentor, Andy Blankenbuehler, and asked him about transitioning to being a choreographer. He told me to really make sure it was a path I wanted to take. He said it had its own challenges, and because I was so young I needed to go at it full force so people would take me seriously. I thought long and hard about it and went back and told him it was what I wanted to do. Shortly thereafter, he offered me my first Associate Choreographer job working with him on A Wonderful Life at Paper Mill Playhouse. The experience was incredible and within two years, I had completely stopped performing.

untitled9What is it like being the Associate Director for Disney’s Newsies National Tour? How did you land that job?

I have been working with the Director Jeff Calhoun for several years now. Some projects I had been his associate on include High School Musical, Jekyll and Hyde, 9 to 5 and Pippin with Deaf West. After he was approached by Disney to direct Newsies for the stage, he asked me to be a part of his team. It was truly a dream come true. I grew up watching the movie, and it taught me that it was OK to be a male dancer. Jeff and I approached the show from two very different perspectives. He had never seen the movie before, and I had seen it so many times I could sing every song by heart. It was the perfect balance of old and new. Together with our amazing team, we began the journey of transforming Newsies to a stage show. I couldn’t be prouder of what our entire team created.

We saw you on the Bethenny show teaching a dance to Coco Austin. What was that like?

I got the call the night before the filming, so it was fast and furious! They weren’t exactly clear on what they needed, but knew I would be teaching a dance to Coco and Bethenny. When I arrived on set, I met the creative team who were incredibly warm and friendly. They quickly ushered me to my dressing room. I soon discovered that Coco had no idea I was there or that she was going to be taught a dance. I had a camera blocking rehearsal with 2 stand-ins on the set, and then I went back to my dressing room and waited. Once the show began filming, they snuck me down behind the set and had me get into place behind a door that opened onto the set. Once Bethenny revealed to Coco that she was about to get a dance lesson, the door swung open and off we went! Once it was over, I really couldn’t remember a thing that happened. It all went by so fast.

You’ve choreographed for commercials, theater, television, and live events. Which do you prefer?

I would definitely say theater. I love the process and collaboration that comes with directing and choreographing for theater. I have found in the commercials, television, and live events I have worked on, the process can sometimes feel rushed. Also, it happens once and that is it. With theater, you can continue learning and discovering throughout the journey. Nothing is more exciting than having a live audience experience your work, and then know you still have time to go back and make it better.

What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on?untitled10

There have been so many that have changed my life, but if I had to pick one, it would be Newsies. I grew up watching the movie and being a part of the team who helped it come to the stage was a dream come true. Throughout our years on Broadway, we have discovered so many young performers who have launched a professional career in theater. The response we have received with the show was more than any of us thought could happen. I am so happy that we will continue telling our story with the National Tour that is about to launch. We have an incredible new cast that will be carrying the banner across the country.

Where do you feel most comfortable: on stage performing or behind the scenes choreographing and directing?

I feel most comfortable behind the scenes choreographing and directing. It has been so long since I have been on stage that it has given me a bit of stage fright. I just directed and choreographed a production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe. They asked me to go on stage opening night and give a quick speech before the show. I thought it was going to be easy. It certainly was not! My mouth was so dry and I was sweating uncontrollably. Once it was finished, I couldn’t help but laugh. I had performed for years and now this quick two minute speech almost caused me to pass out.  

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

Jeff Calhoun. He took me under his wing as I began my journey choreographing, and was instrumental in my shift into the directing world. What I love about our collaboration together is he always wants to hear my opinions and ideas. I have worked with some people in my life who prefer their Associates to sit next to them, take notes, and be more of an observer. From day one, Jeff has let me be very hands- on with any projects we have done together. He brings such history and knowledge with him, and nothing is more intriguing than story time with Jeff. 

What is your advice for dancers who are trying to make it in this career?

I think one of the toughest things for dancers to learn is how to handle rejection. No one likes being cut from an audition, but at the end of the day, if you’re not right for something, you are simply not right. We don’t want to waste anyone’s time. People forget sometimes that everyone in the room wants you to book the job. It is so exciting for us to see who shows up to our auditions. None of us enjoy cutting people; however, it is all part of the process. Sometimes getting cut can be based on technical needs, sometimes it’s your look, and sometimes it’s your height. You will never know, and it is simply not worth trying to figure out. As long as you can walk out of the room and feel that you have done the best job you can, that is the most important thing.

 What qualities do you look for when hiring dancers?

Of course the technical elements are very important but more than that, I look at the energy and demeanor of the individual. I really study people as they are learning material in an audition room. I watch how they interact with other people in the room, and their behavior on the sidelines. It’s someone who is a true team player, not just someone who can do four pirouettes. If I am going to hire someone, it has to be someone that I am excited to be working alongside and someone that brings a great energy to the room.

 If you hadn’t chosen dance where would you be right now?

 I honestly can’t imagine my life without theater. I have always had an interest in set design, and think I would have looked into that if I didn’t go the route I went.

untitled11

BDC Works: Jared Grimes

Broadway Dance Center’s Jared Grimes is not only a triple threat; he’s also a producer, director and choreographer! His unique style of blending tap, jazz, and hip-hop within his performances leaves audiences speechless. Jared has showcased his talent through nearly every facet of the entertainment world, from appearing on television shows such as FOX’s Fringe, touring with stars like Mariah Carey, and recently debuted on Broadway.

He lent his imaginative choreography to commercials for Macy’s and Chili’s, as well as appeared in commercials for Coca-Cola and Subway. He danced alongside legends like Gregory Hines and Wynton Marsalis, and even performed for President Barack Obama. Grimes gives us the chance to take a closer look into his world, and tells us more about choreographing for Cirque Du Soleil and the production of his project Broadway Underground.

What was your dance training like growing up?

My mom was actually my first teacher. I would watch her dance and think, “I want to be just like her!” So, I started off taking tap, and then I tried different styles at other dance studios.

Where did you get the idea for Broadway Underground? Can you tell us a little about it?

When I first moved to the city no one would let me perform, and it was just because no one knew who I was. It was the first couple of months that I had moved here, and I was new. I was like, damn! I called this person and he said no, or this person said that she didn’t have any space. I always wanted to create an outlet for people that gave them an opportunity to showcase their talents, whether they just moved to the city or they recently started dancing. I hoped that one day I would be able to do something like that, and the vehicle that I came up with was Broadway Underground. The whole idea was to mix my Broadway friends with people who are not on Broadway; passionate people who are just looking for a chance.

How can artists become a part of Broadway Underground?

Broadway Underground the remix is kind of like an open mic. In a way, we revolutionized the whole thing. Everybody can bring their own CDs, choreography, and costumes, and showcase their talents. I always have agents, producers, directors, and casting agents there to pick up people that are looking for an opportunity. The acts should be under three minutes each, and the first thirty numbers that sign up get to perform. Then there’s the element of putting together a show on the spot with these acts, five minutes before the show starts. I look at the list, craft the whole show and make sure that it’s all balanced. There can’t be too much of one style of dance back-to-back.

How did you get the opportunity to choreograph for Cirque Du Soleil? What has that experience been like?

They actually saw me at Broadway Underground! A long time ago we used to do it more like a choreographer showcase. It was a production of people that I would see around the city and ask to perform. They happened to come one night, and I guess that some of my material was exactly what they were thinking for their show. I want to say just two or three weeks later I was having auditions for the show. I was one of six choreographers at the time, and I ended up being the only one. Cirque Du Soleil was tough! You know when you envision such an entity, and you have so many thoughts about what it will be like before you get into it? For me, none of those were accurate. It was a lot of mountains to climb daily, in terms of what they expected and how they expected it to be. I didn’t enjoy it at times, but did enjoy at other times. So it ended up being a challenge and one of the toughest and greatest experiences at the same time. I always say if I can make it through that, I can do anything!

Do you prefer appearing in commercials or choreographing for them? What’s the difference for you?

I am a performer first and foremost. I’m really not sure how all of the choreography stuff even started. I began doing choreography in college and then through Broadway Underground, and I didn’t mind doing it for my own projects. Then my career kind of took off, and I started doing everything at the same time. In a way, I was killing many birds with one stone. It was easier to hire me to perform, choreograph, direct, produce, and even compose for one project. To me, appearing in commercials and choreographing for commercials are each their own form of freedom. When you are actually performing, you get to indulge in freedom in the moment. When you choreograph you feel that freedom for a second and then you have to live vicariously through the people that get to do it every night. It’s very bitter sweet.

What would your advice be for any artist trying to pursue a career in entertainment?

My advice would be to do as much as possible. I came to the city and thought that I was just going to be a tap dancer. Then thanks to all of the training that I had done growing up, I broke down all of the doors. The fact that I could do more than one discipline was a huge plus. So, take as many classes as possible and train as much as possible. You need to eat, sleep, breathe your dreams, and you need to be constantly thinking about how you are going to achieve them. There is no down time or time to relax. As soon as you relax, somebody passes you by. So, always keep busy and constantly work. I always say that you should practice as if you are not good; as if you suck! You should be afraid of becoming complacent. The entertainment world is one of those worlds where people become comfortable with their names or their resumes and they sometimes feel that they can relax. I think that’s unacceptable for people that are up-and-coming, and even for people that have already made it. To me, it’s about the heart and it’s about propelling the genres and taking them somewhere. Then maybe one day people will be saying your name. Duke Ellington for example; people will know who he is forever because of how hard he worked.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

My two idols are Fred Astaire and Sammy Davis Jr., for very obvious reasons! My whole goal was to be a different, updated version of those two.

Can you tell us about The Jared Grimes feel?

That’s my band! It’s like Pop and R&B Jazz. We are kind of like the Dave Matthews Band. Well, we don’t play that type of music, but when you hear DMB you know that they have a signature sound. I thought it would be cool to do something where everybody kind of connected to tap and music. I always wanted to be in a band. I am one of those people who set a goal in my mind and the goal was to breakthrough into the music industry, and to change the whole landscape. Jared Grimes Feel is the name of the band because we are probably the only band where the front man can sing, write, compose, and dance as if my tap shoes were a guitar or piano. So we came up with the idea to throw a party at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill where we open up for choreographers that I admire. We do a 45-minute set, and after that we clear the table and open up the floor for the dance performances. It’s kind of like a new version of a speak easy. It’s a Vegas type of feel with a little twist, but in New York. 

Can you talk a little about your experience with After Midnight?

 It’s cool! It’s actually my first Broadway show! I’ve done a lot of regional theater shows and I am really kind of tired of doing regional. I love it, but the whole goal of regional is to hopefully do a show that comes to Broadway. I have done so many shows that haven’t, so it was kind of cool to do something that was Off Broadway but kind of seen as Regional Theater. I always thought it would be cool if it went to Broadway, but in the back of my mind I thought it probably wouldn’t. So, when the buzz started about it might go on Broadway, my good friend, who is one of the producers, brought me on as one of the choreographers. It’s been a blessing, but it’s also still kind of surreal. It really hasn’t hit me yet, because this world is so new to me. It’s a show where I can do whatever I want on stage. I almost feel guilty about that. I have hustled so much until I got to that point, so that was kind of a big payoff. I am blessed an honored and excited to see where that takes me after.

You have been a part of so many amazing projects. Is there one you’re most proud of?

I don’t think that there’s one in particular. Everything is school, and everything is a lesson. With Cirque Du Soleil, I learned how to be a crazy choreographer, with After Midnight I get the opportunity to grow every night in the show. I never look at it like I have a project; I just think about what choreographer I get to work with or how I can’t wait to work with a certain director. I see all of my projects as an opportunity to enlighten myself and those around me, and see what I can add to the pot.

What has been your most memorable TV/FILM moment?

I think it’s the movie I did, The Marc Pease Experience, with Anna Kendrick and Ben Stiller. I got to improvise with Ben Stiller for two scenes. Everyone thought that I was pretty funny, and I don’t think they expected that. Ben and I dug doing improve scenes outside of the stuff we were given to see if we could find anything. I thought he was going to be this really light, fun, loving guy on set but he’s really not. He’s funny but he’s all about the scene and devoting as much energy to the take. So, here I was all smiles ready to do a scene with him. There was a balance between his professionalism and my ambitious personality. I saw it as a challenge to not get blown out of the water, but yet add comically to the scene. The other projects that I have done are more dramatic. Its fun to do more dramatic roles because its challenging, but I enjoy comedy the most because being silly is more my true personality.

It’s Showtime Folks: Fosse Week @ BDC

Mimi Quillin teaching “Big Spender”

Last week Broadway Dance Center was honored to host our first Fosse Week, a full five days of theatre master classes taught by veteran Fosse dancers who have been sanctioned by the Verdon Fosse Estate. The prestigious faculty included Mimi Quillin, Dana Moore, Lloyd Culbreath, BDC’s own Diana Laurenson, as well as a special appearance by Nicole Fosse. The lucky participants who signed-in early (the classes maxed out every day) learned some of Bob Fosse’s legendary technique, style, and repertoire in pieces such as “Big Spender” (Sweet Charity), “Dancin’ Man” (Dancin’), “I Love a Piano” (The Ed Sullivan Show), “Cool Hand Luke” (The Ed Sullivan Show), and “Tijuana Breakfast” (The Ed Sullivan Show).

Bob Fosse’s signature style is everywhere – from Broadway shows to MTV.  Fosse’s is probably the most imitated choreography…ever.  Have you seen Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” music video?  Many say that Fosse’s “Tijuana Breakfast” inspired her stylized choreo.  Not to mention Bey’s “Get Me Bodied” music video which was obviously taking from Fosse’s “Rich Man’s Frug.”  And how about the King of Pop?  Watch a clip of Fosse’s “Snake in the Grass” followed by Michael Jackson’s performance of “Billy Jean.”  If Beyonce’s the “Queen” and Michael Jackson’s the “King,” what does that make their inspiration, Bob Fosse?

Given Fosse’s legendary influence on the world of dance, it was truly incredible to learn some of his original choreography from his own dancers.  Mimi, Diana, Dana, and Lloyd each told tips and anecdotes from their experience working with Bob.  Even though Bob Fosse is no longer with us, his aura lives on.

Bonnie Erickson, Director of Educational Programming at BDC, said,“We’re so honored to present this work and so happy that it was such a rousing success. At BDC we’re so dedicated to preserving this epic work and making sure to pass it along to younger dancers. Can’t wait for the next set of workshops!”

Yes, you read that right. Stay tuned for another magical Fosse Week at Broadway Dance Center in the new year!