A now-vivid memory for me: while sitting in the holding room for one of my first auditions since temporarily moving to New York City, I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who, after seeing the “Broadway Dance Center” sweatshirt I had tossed on over my dress, commented on the importance of casting musical theater performers with extensive dance experience. Though I smiled and nodded at his remarks, I had no idea how to tell him the truth: that, while I did work at Broadway Dance Center, I am not–and never have been–the trained dancer he assumed I was.
Trust me, my parents tried: when I was a toddler, they enrolled me in the first level of dance classes at the local studio, hoping to channel my constant excitement into a hobby they thought I would enjoy. However, I didn’t stick around for long, throwing tantrums every time they tried to take me to class–though I did not do so because I hated dancing. In fact, I loved dancing, but I hated “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, the song to which our recital piece was choreographed. Despite the number of toddler-style pirouettes and arabesques that I performed across our kitchen floor, my stubbornness overruled my potential dance career, and I stopped taking classes, turning to acting and singing instead.
Fast forward seventeen years and, excluding a season on my high school’s dance team, a few quarters of jazz and modern classes here at K College, and the dance numbers in the various shows on my resume, I’ve remained relatively untrained in my dance skills. As someone who hopes to one day make a career performing on Broadway, I knew that I had to find a way to quickly catch up to my friends who had trained in dance for years–especially in tap and ballet, two styles I had never studied, but know are fundamental disciplines for any musical theater performer. Luckily for me, I received the opportunity to study away during winter quarter through the New York Arts Program, which places students from the Midwest into a ten-week internship based on their chosen career path in the arts. When chatting with my program advisor about possible internships, I mentioned wanting a job that would allow me to take dance classes on the side–to which she responded, “I know just the place.”
I started my internship with Broadway Dance Center in mid-January, spending most of each weekday working in the Public Relations/Marketing department, where my bosses welcomed me with open arms. Additionally, I received numerous opportunities to represent BDC outside of the studio. My two favorites were BroadwayCon (I saw sneak peeks of all the new shows coming to Broadway this year) and attending Good Morning America’s Oscar Nomination Celebration (where, as a VIP audience member, I watched as they announced the 2017 Academy Award nominations live–I even got my fifteen seconds of on-camera fame!).
However, my favorite moments at BDC were those when–you guessed it–I got to put on the dance shoes I had been longing to wear and spend ninety sweaty, challenging, glorious minutes in one of BDC’s many studios. While I dabbled in as many different styles of dance as I could (ranging from hip hop and barre to street stilettos and burlesque jazz), I primarily focused on developing my ballet and tap skills. I also loved that BDC offered classes in disciplines other than dance, giving me chances to further develop my acting and voice technique on days when I wanted a brief break from dancing.
Now that my internship has ended, I can honestly say that my experience at BDC has changed my perspective on dance; not only am I a more proficient dancer, but I’ve come to appreciate and respect dance as an art form much more than I did before. Dancers make their work look so easy, but finding myself in classes with many of BDC’s program students, who take classes every day from early morning until late at night, forced me to work so much harder in order to keep up. Adjusting to the daily dance classes also motivated me to take better care of myself; for dancers, but for actors and singers as well, our bodies are our instruments–and we only get one, so if we don’t listen to it and treat it as well as we can, we can end up dangerously hurting ourselves. Though I occasionally pushed myself a little too hard, as I took more classes I felt stronger and more grounded, causing me to leave each one with a smile on my face.
As for my new and improved dancing skills–well, let’s just say that I still have a long way to go. It will take a very long time for me to catch up to dancers who have been training their entire lives, but I now feel more confident in the expertise that I do have. Toward the end of my time studying away, I attended an audition in Boston where I was asked to stay and dance and, though I still found the combinations they taught us extremely challenging, I felt that I handled them much better than I could have before my time at BDC. While my schedule this quarter doesn’t have enough room for me to continue my dance training, I’m hoping to take classes consistently throughout my senior year, especially hoping to continue with ballet. Additionally, once I graduate next year, I’m also strongly considering applying to BDC’s training program, a three-to-six-month full-time program for dancers of all levels.
While I’m happy to be back in Kalamazoo, I do miss the studio (and the city) very, very much. Thank you, BDC, for a wonderful ten weeks–and for inspiring me to dance!
-Lauren Landman ‘18