Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester: A Transformation in the Making

You all have probably read information about various dance intensives, programs, and workshops that say you will be transformed as a dancer and a person, and after reading this kind of claim over and over again you begin to wonder if that’s even possible for one program to do. This was the promise made by the faculty of Broadway Dance Center in NYC and the directors of their Professional Semester program. In this case, the word transformation is an understatement. I have been in this program for one week, and I already feel a profound change in myself that I expect to last for the entirety of my dance career and my life. Before I get into those details, let me go back to the start.

My last post was the week before my departure, so during that time I was busy packing and preparing for my big move. If you read "I'm Back!", you already know that I was accepted into BDC’s Professional Semester and I was planning on living in the city from August-December. That last week at home was nerve-racking and anxiety filled, but I was mostly excited for such a huge change in my life. This is the start of a new chapter and I can already tell that the positive effects will be permanent. We left Maryland on Sunday morning (I can’t believe it’s only been a week!), and spent the day carrying the luggage up five flights of stairs and unpacking. Let me tell you, hauling all of those suitcases and boxes up that many stairs was not particularly a fun experience, but at least we got some great exercise! My parents, boyfriend, and I visited Times Square and had the Famous Ray’s pizza for lunch, then went to Tom’s Restaurant, which was the diner used in Seinfeld, for dinner. It happens to be in our neighborhood J As my parents left, the reality of the situation hit me. I still could not believe that I was in the greatest city in the world pursuing my dreams.

Moving to NYC was such a culture shock for a girl from a small, farm town. The expression, "time flies" or, "the New York minute" really is true here. For orientation week, I woke up at 6 a.m. and went to bed by 10 p.m., and the hours in between felt like mere minutes. There is so much to do and see, and everyone in New York is always on the go. Most people only spend time in their apartments when they go to sleep at night, so all the walking becomes exhausting very quickly. The first couple days I felt like I was going to fall asleep standing up, but just like how everything else happens fast in New York, my body quickly adjusted to all the action. I already feel like a pro at taking the subway, and I definitely feel like a New Yorker as I’m power-walking towards my destination and I see tourists pulling out their maps. Of course, I have a ton yet to learn, but so far I’m getting along just fine.

I’m trying to balance my dance training with sightseeing and leisurely activities to keep myself sane. After all, not everyone gets to live in this city and experience everything it has to offer. I know that even if I find that this is not the life for me and I don’t stay in the city after the program, I am so grateful and fortunate to be able to say that I lived and danced in NYC for 4 months. On our first day in our new hometown, my boyfriend and I visited the beautiful Central Park and explored our neighborhood. The park is going to be my escape from the hustle and bustle, and it reminds me of home. The area that we live in has so many cute places such as markets, all kinds of restaurants, and cafes to experience. I can’t wait to do it all! The next day we went to down to Tribeca and walked around downtown. Funny story about this one…At the exact time that the east coast earthquake was felt in NYC, we were underground in the subway on our way downtown. We didn’t feel a thing; I was slightly disappointed. When we came above ground, everyone was standing out on the streets and they were even wheeling babies in cribs down the sidewalk! That’s when we learned what was really going on. Luckily there was no damage to any of the buildings, just some stuff fell off the walls. Some other sights we got to see were Ground Zero, the Hudson River (with the Statue of Liberty in the distance), and The Lincoln Center where NYC Ballet performs.

Now, about this amazing dance program! From day one we were taught simple, yet important tips of success in this industry and in life. 1) Always have a pen. If you have to write or sign something in an audition, agency, etc. it is instantly a bad first impression and looks very unprofessional if you are not prepared. 2) On time is late; be early for everything. It shows commitment and professionalism. 3) View everything academically. If you take corrections or rejections emotionally, you will let it get to you and not be able to move past it. Most of the time in this business, you will not book 90% of the jobs you audition for. If you don’t let go of the past, it will become your future. Just these 3 tips alone can make you much more successful. We were told that even if you are a better technical dancer than another girl in the room, the directors will most likely pick her over you if she is passionate, likeable, and professional. On the second day of orientation, the program directors talked a lot about mental health and positive thinking. This is almost as important as your physical health and your technical training because if you have a negative outlook, you will not get anywhere since you are attracting what you think about: negative outcomes. I got a lesson in this the other day because I was stressed out and rushing around in order to get my lunch before I had to be back at BDC. I only had about 20 minutes, so I kept saying how horrible and inconvenient it was. Once I got my coffee and walked outside, I spilled it all over my white shirt and had to wear my cardigan buttoned up all day. It was like a wake up call reminding me to stay positive.

During our preparation for placement class, all 40 of us had to stand in a horizontal line wearing the dance attire that would be acceptable for the placement class. The class is a chance for the faculty to get to know us as dancers and suggest which levels we should take, so we are expected to look presentable but still stand out in our own way. The program director walked down the line and critiqued all of the outfits and gave pointers about what would be the best option. She always tells us, "This is a very looksist industry, and you have to look like a million bucks every time you walk out the door". It’s a lot of pressure on us because we always have to look our best and be prepared for a last minute casting call, but it’s something you have to put effort into in order to get the job. Then, we had a lesson on body language, which is so very important. Every single one of us walked to our spots in the line slowly and self-consciously and then fidgeted once we got there because we were nervous. We are now trained to stand up tall with our arms to the side and not in front of the body because that looks closed off. Looking up and making eye contact creates an air of confidence, and when you walk to your spot with a "calm sense of urgency" (another quote from orientation), the casting directors know you mean business.

All of this information helped tremendously on Thursday when we had our placement class because it was a huge success. Normally when I’m standing in front of 15 strangers that will be determining my future, I’m about to have a nervous break down and it probably shows. This time, I used the advice we were given and I was confident, involved, and when we had to introduce ourselves I spoke loudly and clearly. The energy in the studio was so invigorating and positive, it was like all of the dancers were feeding off of each other. I had a great time seeing everyone’s personal style and expressing my own, and I’m so excited to see where this journey takes us. We are also trained to answer the teacher whenever they talk to us, so the placement class was good practice for this. Whenever the choreographer would ask, "Does this make sense?" we would all respond with a strong, "Yes!". This is giving energy back to the teacher and it makes such a difference in the class interaction.

Dance Celebrity Sitings:
On Wednesday I took ballet class next to Iveta from season 8 of SYTYCD. It’s so amazing that BDC gives dancers an opportunity to take class with such talented and successful people. I couldn’t believe my eyes when she sat down right next to me while we were waiting for class to start! I also saw Robert from season 8 in the hallways after teaching a class. He regularly teaches hip hop at BDC and he was one of my favorite guys from this season. Then, on Tuesday I went to dinner with my friend from college and I’m pretty sure I saw Ade Chike from season 7. It was most likely him because he also teaches at BDC. I plan on taking his jazz class ASAP. And of course, all of the teachers at BDC are the equivalent of celebrities in the dance world. They are so talented, successful, and influential. I feel so blessed to have an opportunity to learn from them.

So, there you have it folks. That’s my first week in a nutshell. I’ve had a blast and learned so much in this short amount of time, and I can only imagine how incredible these next couple months will be based on the level of the program’s starting point. I have felt a transformation in my mind, body, and spirit in just one short week and there is more growing and evolving to come. I will post updates about my experiences dancing in NYC as much as I can, but here is a preview of activities for the upcoming week.

Auditions for student choreographed pieces to be in the final showcase (may be rescheduled due to the hurricane)

A meeting where we get to meet international students at BDC who come from all over the world

Headshot and resume seminar

Voice and acting class- I didn’t touch on this yet, but we already had our first voice lesson this past Thursday.

Chicago master class where we will be learning original choreography from the Broadway musical!

Stay tuned :)