Kick-starting a Career
Brittany Metelko (by Dirty Sugar Photography)
Imagine having the chance to live in NYC, take classes from top choreographers and get audition tips from casting agents. Young dancers from across the country do just that during Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester, a program designed to help them launch their careers. When 23-year-old Brittany Metelko was chosen to participate last fall, the Ohio native and recent University of Akron grad packed her tap shoes and moved to a studio apartment on the Upper West Side. She documented her four-month adventure for Dance Spirit. —Rachel Zar
Today was orientation for the Professional Semester (ProSem) at BDC—a big step toward making my Broadway dreams a reality. There was a welcome reception where the staff explained what would be in store for us. We’ll take 12 classes per week, including three ballet classes, five in our concentration style (mine’s theater) and a ProSem master class. Afterward, I mingled with the rest of the dancers. They’re so diverse, and we all clicked right away.
Even though we had to audition to get into the program, today we took a placement class so the faculty could suggest our class levels. We learned theater, contemporary ballet, hip-hop and tap combos. Then we performed in small groups for the panel. I’m most familiar with theater, tap and ballet, but I tried to embrace hip hop as well, and it was a blast.
Our first master class was this morning with David Kent, dance captain for Chicago on Broadway. We learned “Hot Honey Rag.” I love Chicago, so I was extra excited. Afterward, we had a Q&A session with him where he gave insider feedback on all our industry questions.
Dancing to “Gangnam Style” on “Good Morning America” (courtesy Brittany Metelko)
This morning I got to dance on “Good Morning America,” doing “Gangnam Style” with Psy! The show called BDC saying they needed extra dancers. The day started at 3:30 am, but I was too excited to be tired. A producer positioned me on a roof overlooking Times Square. There were cameras everywhere—including one in a helicopter flying overhead! I got to dance in the teaser footage leading into the commercial and then again during the segment.
Tonight I danced an improvised tap solo at BDC’s Performance Project, which is a series of informal shows all BDC students can be part of. I was the only ProSem to participate, and I’m so glad I did. Everyone was supportive, cheering me on and congratulating me on my solo.
The ProSem students had a promotional photo shoot today atop an apartment building with crystal-clear views of the Empire State Building. I mixed it up, wearing my tap shoes for some shots and jumping around barefoot for others. The surprise of the day was when I was asked to model in ads for The PULSE On Tour.
Today, BDC arranged for an exclusive tour of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Our guide was former New York City Ballet dancer Jennifer Tinsley-Williams, who gave us the inside scoop on the company. Plus, we got to watch a working rehearsal onstage. I dreamed of being a ballerina when I was younger, so this experience was a treat.
We’ve officially started working on three dances for the final ProSem showcase: hip hop by Neil “Dradle” Schwartz, Latin fusion by Ashlé Dawson and theater by Jim Cooney, which we started learning today. It’s based on “Bend and Snap” from Legally Blonde, and it’s going to be great!
An image from Brittany's rooftop photo shoot (by Dirty Sugar Photography)
We had a mock audition today with Steve Vaughn from Parsons Dance. We brought headshots and resumés and performed in small groups as if it were a real audition. As we learned the combination, we’d occasionally stop for feedback from BDC faculty along with a casting director. I’m excited we’ll have more of these throughout the semester, including one with Emmy Award–winning “Smash” choreographer Joshua Bergasse.
Over the past few days, Hurricane Sandy came through NYC, closing down much of the city. I’m lucky and grateful there was no damage to my apartment, and my heart goes out to all who were affected by the storm. BDC reopened today, and it’s holding a series of benefit classes to raise money for the American Red Cross.
During my time here, I’ve been choreographing a tap piece, which I presented at the second Performance Project tonight. The show acted as an audition for the final ProSem showcase in December. Out of the 38 pieces, only five were chosen, and I’m ecstatic my piece was one of them! I can’t wait to show my choreography to friends, family, agents and casting directors.
Today started with another mock audition, this time with Rhapsody James and Clear Talent Group agent Julianna Lichtman. We were asked to dress as if we were auditioning for a Rihanna music video but could only wear black. I wore high-waisted shiny leggings, a sequined crop top and combat boots. Rhapsody and Julianna said they especially liked my look.
After a few classes, 10 of us went to Times Square to film a flash mob for a BDC sizzle reel. We definitely attracted a crowd. Then we moved to Lenny’s deli to film more. Tapping in a deli was a first for me!
(Front) Performing Ashlé Dawson’s "Pasado El Control" (courtesy Broadway Dance Center)
I can’t believe we just had our final mock audition. Choreographer John Carrafa taught us a theater combo, which we danced to two completely different songs. It allowed us to play around with our character choices. This time, “cuts” were made, and those who made it through were asked to sing and act. Coming into the program, I was always nervous about singing, but practicing this semester has made me much more confident.
We did it! We delivered two amazing showcase performances. The day started with tech rehearsal at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center theater. Then, we had a two-hour break, which I spent with my parents, who came in from Ohio.
During the second show, some of us were given special awards. I received an award for perfect attendance as well as one for professionalism. I was surprised and honored.
Performing and then saying goodbye was bittersweet. I feel lucky to have met such wonderful, talented people during my time in the program. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.