Dancer to Dancer

Ryan Steele Writes a Letter to His Teenage Self

Photo by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Ryan Steele

Ryan Steele has become a Broadway mainstay, thanks to his powerful technique and commanding stage presence. He's been a part of the original casts of hit shows, including Newsies and Matilda, played a Lost Boy in Peter Pan Live!, and performed in the first national tour of An American in Paris. A Walled Lake, MI, native, Steele started dancing at Dance Dynamics Performing Arts Center at 6. He began studying ballet seriously at 11, and was about to sign with Ballet Austin when he was offered a role in the 2009 revival of West Side Story on Broadway. This spring, you can catch him dancing in the Great White Way revival of Carousel. —Courtney Bowers


Dear Ryan,

Hi, buddy. I'm grown-up you. I've got some good news: You're still dancing, and you love it just as much (maybe more). So, try to relax a bit. But while I've got you here, I've got a few things to say:

Stop being so afraid. It's OK to fail. It's OK to try something new and not be good at it. Actually, it's better than OK. It's fantastic. Failure and mistakes lead to beautiful lessons.

Steele at age 6 (courtesy Steele)

And speaking of lessons, how are those voice lessons coming? You don't need to answer that. I already know. Listen, your teachers aren't lying. You'll need to sing. In just a few years, you're going to go to an audition for a Broadway show. (I know. Weird, right?) If you focus during your voice lessons now, you'll save yourself a lot of time and embarrassment later. So, sing out, Louise. (You'll get that later.)

Stop being afraid to be different. It's OK that you don't feel as trendy as the cool kids at conventions. They're on their own path. Stay true to yours. All of your peers are in the same boat. You're all struggling to get to know yourselves as dancers, as people, and as artists.

Steele as a young comp kid (courtesy Steele)

Cherish this time in your life. You're incredibly lucky to be surrounded by people who love and support you. Keep an open mind. Continue working hard. Explore. Play. And most importantly, continue to love dance. It's going to take you on an amazing journey.

Ryan


A version of this story appeared in the January 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Letter to My Teenage Self: Ryan Steele."

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