New York City—Your Way

New York City is a fabulous place to be a dancer—it’s one of the dance capitals of the world, after all! But the city’s wealth of dance offerings can also feel a bit overwhelming, especially for visitors or newcomers. Where should you take class? What performances should you check out? Which sights are worth seeing?

 

Never fear: Whether you’re into musical theater, ballet, hip hop, modern or tap, DS has got you covered. We spoke with some of the Big Apple’s biggest names in each of these dance genres and put together the ultimate style-specific guide for NYC newbies.  —Margaret Fuhrer

 

Musical Theater

By Michael Anne Bailey

 

Studios and Classes to Check Out
Take class with one of the fathers of jazz dance, Luigi, at Luigi’s Jazz Centre (luigijazz.com).

 

Cool Cultural Landmarks
You haven’t really seen NYC until you’ve visited the historic Times Square (42nd Street and Broadway), in the theater district, and the legendary Radio City Music Hall (radiocity.com).

 

Performances and Companies to See
Head over to TKTS for discounted Broadway tickets. Same-day, half-off tickets are available at the TKTS booths located in Times Square, South Street Seaport and Downtown Brooklyn. (More info at tdf.org.) And if you have a valid student ID, you may also be able to get student rush tickets. Check each show’s website for more information.

 

After Class
Grab a milkshake at Ellen’s Stardust Diner (1650 Broadway, at 51st Street; ellensstardustdiner.com), which features dancing and singing servers—most of whom are Broadway hopefuls!

 

Tips from the Pros

“Listen to the people around you and read up on what’s going on in the Broadway community. Put yourself in a position where you can be seen by meeting everyone you can and building a network.”  —Will Wingfield, a “So You Think You Can Dance” alum currently starring as Graffiti Pete in Broadway’s In the Heights

 

“Go to open dance calls. [Find them by subscribing to an online resource like stagedooraccess.com.] Attend classes and workshops taught by the choreographers you’ll be auditioning for—it’s a great place for them to see you dance and get to know you.”  —Sutton Foster, recently seen as Princess Fiona in Broadway’s Shrek The Musical

 

“The best dancers don’t get hired; smart dancers do. Keep a journal of all of the auditions you go on. When you don’t get the job, write about why you were cut and list the things you need to work on. When you book an audition, write about what you did right. Make sure you analyze your progress once a month.” —Joey Dowling, a Broadway veteran and associate choreographer for In the Heights

 

Ballet

By Margaret Fuhrer

Studios and Classes to Check Out
Take open classes with some of NYC’s best-loved ballet teachers at Manhattan Movement & Art Center (manhattanmovement.com), Ballet Academy East (balletacademyeast.com) and Steps on Broadway (stepsnyc.com).

Cool Cultural Landmarks
Lincoln Center (lincolncenter.org), of course! Take a stroll around the iconic, recently renovated plaza that New York City Ballet and (for a few months each year) American Ballet Theatre call home.

 

Performances and Companies to See
Catch the end of ABT’s spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. In July, they’re dancing the classic Romeo and Juliet, as well as repertory
programs featuring works by Frederick Ashton, Jerome Robbins and Alexei Ratmansky. For more, visit abt.org.

 

After Class
Grab a homemade scone and a cup of herbal tea at the adorable, ultra-girly Alice’s Tea Cup on West 73rd Street (alicesteacup.com).

 

Tips from the Pros

“Lincoln Center is pretty much mecca for the arts in NYC. Walking through Lincoln Center and knowing that I work there—there’s an awe factor about it. I still can’t quite believe that it’s my ‘office!’ ”  —Sterling Hyltin, a principal with New York City Ballet

 

“Ballet dancers need varied training so that contemporary choreography comes naturally. NYC is a great place to try out new styles.”  —Christina Dooling, a dancer with Complexions Contemporary Ballet

 

“Wilhelm Burmann’s 10:30 ballet class at Steps is legendary—you’ll see famous faces there. I also love Nancy Bielski’s 11:30 class. She has very refined British training, so she fine-tunes everything.”  —Cory Stearns, a soloist with American Ballet Theatre

 

Hip Hop

By Colleen Bohen

Studios and Classes to Check Out
Try out different hip-hop styles in open classes at Broadway Dance Center (broadwaydancecenter.com), The Ailey Extension (aileyextension.com) and The Blade Academy (bdanyc.com). Then boogie over to an open practice session—a place where dancers of all levels can perform for and learn from each other—like the ones held at PMT Studios (pmthouseofdance.com).

 

Cool Cultural Landmarks
To see where it all began, head up to 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx, believed to be the site of the first hip-hop dance party. For an edgy
urban photo op, visit 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc., in Long Island City, Queens, where graffiti artists from around the world have left their marks (5ptz.com).

Performances and Companies to See
Whether you’re in the subway station at Times Square or on the streets around Union Square, you’re bound to find unbelievably talented street performers getting their groove on. Looking for something a little more formal? Check out Decadancetheatre, a Brooklyn-based, all-girl hip-hop crew, performing at Joyce SoHo July 15–18 (joyce.org).

 

After Class
Don’t waste time in a restaurant—start exploring! Grab a pretzel and a hot dog from a street cart (what could be more authentically New York?)
and head out on your search for great street dancers.

 

Tips from the Pros

“1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx is where DJ Kool Herc started it all. Take a Hush Hip Hop Tour (hushhiphoptours.com), which visits hip-hop landmarks. It’s led by hip-hop pioneers, including DJ Kool Herc himself.”  —Valerie “Ms. Vee” Ho, a dancer and teacher who has danced with The Groovaloos

 

“Even though it’s all called ‘hip hop,’ there are a bunch of different styles, so take class with many different teachers. You can learn just by watching dancers in advanced classes.” —Chio Yamada, a dancer, choreographer and teacher who has worked with the New Jersey Nets dance team“

 

"NYC is the motherland of hip hop. This is the place where you can get an idea of what hip hop is supposed to feel like, not just what it’s supposed to look like.”  —Lenaya “Tweetie” Straker, a dancer and teacher who has performed with Jay-Z, Destiny’s Child and Fergie

 

“If you want to work in hip hop in NYC, take a business course. Once you’ve made an EPK (electronic promotion kit), send it out to everyone. EPKs are especially important for hip-hop dancers because our range of work is broad—we do anything from commercials to live concerts to Broadway—so we have to show everything we can do quickly.”  —Jayson “Mighty Mouse” Vasquez, a dancer, choreographer and teacher who started dancing in the Times Square subway station

 

Modern/Downtown Dance

By Katie Rolnick

 

Studios and Classes to Check Out
Dance New Amsterdam (dnadance.org), Peridance (peridance.com) and the Martha Graham School (marthagraham.org) have open classes for students of all levels. And Movement Research boasts classes for just $13 a pop (movementresearch.org)! Feeling adventurous? Cross the river to check out the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn (markmorrisdancegroup.org).

Cool Cultural Landmarks
Visit the Judson Memorial Church (judson.org), which the Judson Dance Theater made the epicenter of NYC’s budding postmodern dance community in the ’60s. Nearly 50 years later, the church still presents dance concerts.

 

Performances and Companies to See
Check out the World Dance Alliance Global Dance Event In Time Together: Viewing and Reviewing Contemporary
Dance Practice
at Dance Theater Workshop (July 12–18, dancetheaterworkshop.org). Or catch Molly Rabinowitz/LiquidGrip’s athletic yet theatrical works at Joyce SoHo (July 8–10, joyce.org).

 

After Class

The City Bakery (thecitybakery.com) and Café Grumpy (cafegrumpy.com) are both a short walk from Dance Theater Workshop, making them the perfect places to cool down before a show.

 

Tips from the Pros

“I’ve always been motivated by investigation and exploration. Movement Research offers all kinds of personal improvisation workshops. I’m inspired and challenged by their teachers.” —Judith Sánchez Ruíz, a choreographer and performer who has worked with the Trisha Brown Company

 

“Go to the smaller venues downtown, because that’s where the work is; you’re not always going to work with a large company. You have plenty of time to worry about the money stuff. Art first.” —Jodi Melnick, a freelance dancer and choreographer who has worked with Trisha Brown and Twyla Tharp and won two Bessie Awards

 

“Find a dance artist who embodies your curiosities and interests. Engage in activities that lead you closer to that particular artist, either by taking class with them or with people who have worked with them.” —Christopher Williams, a dancer, choreographer and puppeteer who won a Bessie for his piece Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins

 

“I used to usher at The Joyce Theater, and I got to see so many shows for free. A job like that helps you familiarize yourself with different choreographers.”  —Lauren Grant, who has danced with the Mark Morris Dance Group since 1996 and also teaches at the MMDG school

 

Editor’s note: The Joyce Theater has an usher volunteer hotline (646-792-8355). Dance Theater Workshop also uses volunteer ushers; call the box office at 212-924-0077 for more info.

 

Tap

By Michael Anne Bailey and Katie Rolnick


Studios and Classes to Check Out
Whether you want to perfect your time step or work on your improvisation skills, you’ll find a wide variety of tap classes in NYC. Learn from the best hoofers in town at Steps on Broadway (stepsnyc.com) and the American Tap Dance Foundation (atdf.org).

 

Cool Cultural Landmarks
Most people are familiar with “Amateur Night” at the Apollo Theater, but many tap pros have also graced this famous Harlem stage (apollotheater.org). Some of the 20th century’s greatest tap icons, including Gregory Hines, Howard “Sandman” Sims and Charles “Honi” Coles, performed here. Take a guided tour—schedule yours through the theater website—and see the stage where these legends shuffled, flapped and hoofed their way to fame.

 

Performances and Companies to See
Founded in 2001, the American Tap Dance Foundation’s Tap City festival will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer. The festival runs July 5–10 and offers hundreds of master classes with pros like Barbara Duffy and Jason Samuels Smith. And Tap City also features all kinds of tap performances. It’s hoofer heaven!

 

After Class
Tap dancers are more than just dancers; they’re also musicians, making complicated rhythms with their feet. From the 1920s to the 1950s, hoofers often danced to live jazz, performing alongside big-name musicians like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Today, you can travel back
in time to the jazz club era at venues like Smalls Jazz Club (smallsjazzclub.com).

 

Tips from the Pros

“Steps has gone out of its way to create the right atmosphere for tap dancers. It has great floors and spaces and showcases its tap classes just as much as other genres.”  —Derick Grant, a teacher at Steps and the co-creator of Imagine Tap!

 

“Find good tap jams and workshops, which will help you meet the tappers in town. There are a lot of different groups in the NYC tap community and it’s very tight, but when you find where you click, they’ll become your family.” —Shea Sullivan, a teacher at Broadway Dance Center

 

“I carry around a wooden board that I found on the street so I can tap wherever I go. You should always take one to your jam sessions.” —Michela Marino Lerman, a dancer and choreographer who trained under Gregory Hines

 

 

Photos from top to bottom: Times Square by Michael Anne Bailey; Lincoln Center by Mark Bussell; An Ailey Extension class by Arthur Coopchick; Judson Memorial Church by Colleen Bohen; Derick Grant's tap class at Steps on Broadway by Rosalie O'Connor.

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