‘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!

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

ABW Theater Review on Lindance Life Blog

20150915_212311-1Absolute Beginner Workshop student, Linda Flores, took ABW Theater with Katelin Zelon last fall. Read about her experience on her blog, Lindance Life.

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!

via Absolute Beginner Theater Dance Workshop | Lindance Life.

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

Aspiring Dancers Learn to Tap Their Toes to Broadway Show Numbers | The Wall Street Journal

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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.

via Aspiring Dancers Learn to Tap Their Toes to Broadway Show Numbers – WSJ.

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

 

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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.
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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.

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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

BDC Works: Greg Zane

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If you like to get your early morning ballet fix, you’ve probably found yourself in Greg Zane’s 9am class at Broadway Dance Center. But over the past year, Greg’s been in and out of the BDC studio, serving as Associate Choreographer for the Tony Award-winning revival of The King and I at the Lincoln Center Theater. Even with the show up and running, Greg continues to play an active role in the production—in charge of maintaining the choreography, as well as hiring and coaching new cast members. We were able to chat with Greg about his long history with The King and I, his work on this revival, and winning a Tony Award. 

How did you come to be Associate Choreographer on this production?

It was a case of many elements aligning at the perfect time. Chris [Gattelli] and I have a friendship that stretches way back to when we were both dancers on Broadway: I was in The King and I and Chris was in CATS. We both moved on from our performing careers, and started working as choreographers and directors. Chris went on to great success as choreographer for Altar Boyz, Newsies, and Lincoln Center Theater’s South Pacific. I had gone on to direct and choreograph regional theatre works that included 11 productions of The King and I (K&I).

My K&I education really began during my days performing in the 1996 Broadway revival and, subsequently, the West End company and US National Tour. During this period, I learned the iconic Jerome Robbins choreography for the famous Act 2 ballet, “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” from Susan Kikuchi. Susan learned Robbins’ choreography from her mother Yuriko who originated the role of Eliza in the 1951 Broadway production. In the tradition of handing down choreography from generation to generation, Susan then passed the ballet on to me. With such a direct link back to the original K&I, I am one of a handful of people who are acknowledged as “reconstructors” of Jerome Robbins’ K&I choreography.

When the 2015 revival was announced, the president of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Ted Chapin, thought I’d be the perfect person to represent Robbins’ legacy. Ted urged me to contact Chris. And Chris—knowing my history with K&I—thought I would be a valuable asset.

What is your role as Associate Choreographer?

In the ten-day pre-production dance workshop, I taught the Act 2 ballet to the dancers. Once that basic foundation of vocabulary was there, I helped Chris reshape and adjust the choreography for the Lincoln Center stage. The challenge was that Robbins—who found inspiration in two-dimensional Thai paintings—originally choreographed the ballet for a proscenium stage, whereas the stage at Lincoln Center’s Beaumont Theater is a thrust.

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Greg working with men’s ensemble in rehearsal.

In rehearsal, my role was to help the choreographer shape the dances. I was also a sounding board. I could tell Chris what I thought was working and what was not. Considering my experience with the show, I was relied on more heavily in that I was asked to stage entire sequences. Once I did that, Chris and Bart Sher, the Director, would take a look and make adjustments and tweaks. I helped to lay the foundation on which the choreography is based.

Post-opening, I serve as Chris’s representative, not only maintaining his choreography but also the integrity of his vision. I also maintain the integrity of Jerome Robbins’ choreography. Whereas the Dance Captain is responsible for the tracking of individual parts, I am there to coach the dancers in the nuances and details of the Act 2 ballet. This 16-minute piece is not merely a big production number, but a character-driven narrative ballet. As the coach, I need to help the dancers understand the intentions that drive the steps. Each step has a meaning, and there are no empty moments. It’s not just movement for movement’s sake. I also coach “Shall We Dance”— I am now a polka expert! In addition to taking notes during performances, I also audition dancers for future replacements in the cast.

How does your experience as a ballet teacher help you in your role in this show?

As a ballet teacher, I know how the body works physically and kinetically. I also understand the classical ballet aesthetic. I can bring that knowledge with me as a coach and choreographer. With all of that knowledge, I can help a dancer if they are having trouble with a specific step or I can also stage movement and phrases that make sense kinetically and physically. As I say in my BDC classes, ballet technique is very precise—you either do it or you don’t. This has helped to sharpen my eye.

Robbins’ work is very ballet-based; consequently, the show’s dance foundation is ballet. All the dancers who are cast in the show have very strong ballet technique. When I cast dancers, I use my teaching experience to make decisions. As I said, I have a very discerning eye, and I know the style of the piece, so I can tell who is right and who is not.

What planning/research did you have to do before starting the project? 

As I mentioned, we did a ten-day pre-production dance workshop. You could say my research took nineteen years of experience with the show itself!

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The King and I Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe Bartlett Sher: Director Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik studio@paulkolnik.com nyc 212-362-7778

 

With a revival of such a treasured musical, there are high expectations. How did the creative team and cast make this revival the same classic story with a new flair?  

We maintained the essence of the story. With a piece that is as well known and loved as K&I, people are expecting certain moments. This time we can dig deeper into other elements that were not fully investigated in the past—in this case, colonialism and the education of women.

How is Gattelli’s choreography inspired by that of Jerome Robbins?  How does it differ?

The foundation of the show is the vocabulary of Jerome Robbins. In this version, the dancing is much more muscular and athletic. We’ve retained the Robbins choreography but enlarged it by putting it right in your lap. Because of the Beaumont’s thrust stage, you get to see the ballet from different sides. The choreographic patterns are more three-dimensional. This “in your face” approach and the muscularity of the dancers, makes this version of K&I is what Bart likes to call, “Jerome Robbins on steroids!”

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Greg at Tony Awards rehearsal with Ken Watanabe, Kelli O’Hara and Chris Gattell

How did the choreography develop during the pre-production and rehearsal process?

The opening dance sequence in Act 1 called “The Vignettes” went through at least three or four different versions. The problem was finding a way into the sequence. It was unrealistic and out of character to have the peasants start to dance in unison on the dockside after Anna leaves. We thought it could be Anna’s journey from the dockside through the streets of Bangkok into the Royal Palace, or a dance rehearsal of the Royal Court Dancers. We had so many ideas. Chris thought of a “physical” overture that set up the theme of a male-dominated society, which led to using the palace guards in muscular choreography that was percussive and masculine. That then led to the inclusion of two Royal Court Dancers dancing as birds who mirror the story of Lun Tha/Tuptim and Anna/the King: they are attracted to each other, but are kept apart. The two vignettes morphed from one into the other, ultimately leading the audience into the Royal Palace and climaxing with the entrance of the King. Chris and I would develop a version and then tweak, refine and adjust the steps as the rehearsal process went on—even into previews.

Where were you for the Tony Awards?  How did you feel before that night and what is it like having been a part of this award-winning production?

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At Tony Awards After-Party with Chris Gattelli, Ruthie Ann Miles, Laine Sakakura, Kelli O’Hara (and her Tony Award

That was a wild and crazy day and night! It started for me that Sunday at 8:15am for the dress rehearsal, and didn’t end until 6:00am the next morning after the Tony Awards After-Party. Chris invited me to the Awards, so I got to sit in the orchestra section. I was a thrilled to see Ruthie and Kelli win their Tony Awards, but the best part was winning for Best Musical Revival. That meant all of us were a part of this extraordinary journey. I had to pinch myself! Being in the same room with all of these directors, choreographers and performers! How did I, a kid from Hawaii, end up meeting and conversing with people like Julie Andrews? It was crazy! I was and continue to be so grateful and honored to be a part of this amazing production.