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BFAs for the Great White Way
Three college programs for aspiring triple threats.
Singing. Dancing. Acting. For college-bound students hoping to become the next triple threat, it’s often hard to find a dance program that nurtures all three—and few musical theater programs offer enough challenging courses for seriously trained dancers. Choosing the right school takes some digging and creative planning. For instance, dance majors can sometimes take advantage of a musical theater minor. Or, they can look for a musical theater major with a dance emphasis, such as Roosevelt University’s newly launched program. Below are three strong schools for aspiring triple threats to consider. —Amy Brandt
OKLAHOMA CITY UNIVERSITY
Located: Oklahoma City, OK
No. of dance majors: 193
Degrees offered: BPA (bachelor of performing arts) in dance performance, BS in dance pedagogy, BS in dance management
Audition required: Yes (ballet, jazz, tap); voice presentations optional
Dance classes required: Tap, jazz, ballet, theater dance
Voice and acting classes required: Music fundamentals, class voice, private voice, acting
Performance opportunities: American Spirit Dance Company (2 main-stage shows, plus local performances and touring), 4 musicals (2 full-length), 4 operas, student choreography show
Opportunities for outside study: Students are encouraged to perform in summer stock theater/theme parks, including Music Theatre of Wichita, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma and Busch Gardens. Summer internship organizations include Broadway Dance Center and Jacob’s Pillow.
Alumni: Broadway, Las Vegas, national tours, cruise ship productions, Radio City Rockettes, television, film, music videos
Above: OCU’s American Spirit Dance Company. Photo by John Bedford, Courtesy Oklahoma City University.
Located: Chicago, IL
No. of dance majors: 18 (22 incoming freshmen expected for 2014–15)
Degrees offered: BFA in musical theater—dance emphasis
Audition required: Yes (ballet, jazz, song, monologue)
Dance classes required: Ballet, jazz, tap, modern, hip hop, partnering, navigating song and dance, anatomy and kinesiology, dance pedagogy
Voice and acting classes required: Ensemble singing, piano, music theory, private voice, acting for the musical stage
Performance opportunities: 3 main-stage musicals, 3 main-stage plays, 4 freshman showcases, 4 musical theater showcases, 3 acting showcases
Opportunities for outside study: RU has internship programs with Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lookingglass Theatre and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Juniors and seniors may audition for outside productions.
Alumni: Broadway, off-Broadway, Chicago theater, national tours, film, television
Above: Roosevelt students in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Photo by Zeke Dolezaleck, Courtesy Roosevelt University.
POINT PARK UNIVERSITY
Located: Pittsburgh, PA
No. of dance majors: 240
Degrees offered: BFA in dance, BA in dance, BA in dance pedagogy, minor in musical theater. Many musical theater dancers pursue a BFA (jazz concentration) and a musical theater minor.
Audition required: Yes (ballet, modern, jazz); audition for musical theater minor occurs sophomore year.
Dance classes required: Ballet, modern, jazz, anatomy, kinesiology, dance history, music fundamentals. Ballet concentrations take pointe/men’s class, pas de deux. Jazz and modern concentrations take contemporary partnering.
Voice and acting classes required: For musical theater minor: voice, private voice lessons, acting, musical theater techniques, piano/theory fundamentals, sight-singing fundamentals
Performance opportunities: 6 main-stage productions a year (including one full-length) plus The Nutcracker. Dancers can also audition for the theater department’s full-length musicals.
Opportunities for outside study: Dancers may pursue outside opportunities, but because of Point Park’s rigorous class and rehearsal schedule, they must be selective. Students may also study abroad for one semester.
Alumni: Broadway, national tours, Cirque du Soleil, ballet and contemporary companies, film, television
Above: Point Park University students in Oklahoma!. Photo by Jeff Swenson, Courtesy Point Park University.
I love being transgender. It's an important part of the story of why I choreograph. Although I loved dance from a very young age, I grew up never seeing a single person like me in dance. So how could I imagine a future for myself there?
The enormous barriers I had to overcome weren't internal: I didn't struggle with feelings of dysphoria, and I wasn't locked down by shame.
The dance community is heartbroken to learn that 14-year-olds Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran were among the 17 people killed during the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
Guttenberg was a talented competition dancer at Dance Theatre in Coconut Creek, FL, according to a report from Sun Sentinel. Dance Theatre owner Michelle McGrath Gerlick shared the below message on her Facebook page, encouraging dancers across the country to wear orange ribbons this weekend in honor of Guttenberg, whose favorite color was orange.
In today's dance world, it seems to go without saying: The more varied the training, the better. But is that always the case? Rhonda Malkin, a New York City–based dance coach who performed with the Radio City Rockettes, thinks trendy contemporary techniques that emphasize improvisation and organic movement quality are detrimental to the precision and strength needed to be a Rockette, in a traditional Broadway show or on a professional dance team. Her view is controversial: "If you really want to work, making $40,000 in three months for the Rockettes or $25,000 in one day filming a commercial, you need ballet, Broadway jazz, tap, hip hop—not contemporary," she says.
On the flip side, techniques that allow dancers more freedom may help them connect more deeply with their body and artistry, while providing release for overused muscles. We broke down the argument for both sides:
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
A statement released yesterday by New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet reported that an independent investigation was unable to corroborate allegations of harassment and abuse against former ballet master in chief Peter Martins, according to The New York Times. This marks the end of a two-month inquiry jointly launched by the two organizations in December following an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment and violence.
The statement also included new policies for both the company and school to create safer, more respectful environments for the dancers, including hiring an independent vendor to handle employee complaints anonymously. These changes are being made despite the independent investigation, handled by outside counsel Barbara Hoey, purportedly finding no evidence of abuse.
Not all ballet dancers cling to their youth. At 26, Lauren Lovette, the New York City Ballet principal, has surpassed the quarter-century mark. And she's relieved.
"I've never felt young," she says. "I can't wait until I'm 30. Every woman I've ever talked to says that at 30 you just don't care. You're free. Maybe I'll start early?"
When Beatlemania swept through the U.S. in the 1960s, Mark Morris was one of millions of young Americans who fell head over heels for the revolutionary group. "I was not immune," the choreographer says. "My sisters were mad about The Beatles and so was I. At age 12 I had a crush on Paul, of course."
Flash forward 50 years and he is still rocking to the British band, but this time with a new Beatles-inspired dance work his company is touring across North America, starting this month with scheduled stops in Seattle, Toronto, Portland, Oregon, and another 25 cities before the end of 2019.
You could call it island-hopping, but it's not exactly a vacation. After choreographing last season's Come From Away, and winning a Tony nomination, Kelly Devine zipped from frosty Newfoundland to the Caribbean beach resort that is the setting for Escape to Margaritaville.
In the fall, she was shuttling between them, before they start this month: flying to Toronto to prepare a new Canadian production of Come From Away, then jetting back to Chicago for the final stop of Margaritaville's four-city pre-Broadway tryout.
"These two shows could not be more different from each other," Devine says with a dash of understatement. Come From Away is about the small Newfoundland town where airliners grounded by the 9/11 attacks dumped thousands of unexpected visitors; Escape to Margaritaville, at the Marquis Theatre, is a comic island romance concocted from the beachcomber songbook of Jimmy Buffett.
How does someone go from being a New York City Ballet corps member to training Hollywood A-listers like Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara and Jennifer Lawrence? By getting injured, says Kurt Froman.
When an ankle sprain left him sidelined a few years back, Froman was "sitting at home, depressed" when he sent his friend Benjamin Millepied an email asking what he was up to. It turned out that Millepied had just been hired to choreograph some scenes for a movie, but had to be in Paris during pre-production. "He needed someone to teach two actors choreography and get them in shape," says Froman. With nothing else on his plate, he said yes, and started prepping Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis for Black Swan.