(Clockwise from left: Peshkova/Thinkstock; Fotofermer/Thinkstock; Comstock/Thinkstock)
It’s the City That Never Sleeps, the Concrete Jungle—and a total dance mecca. While there’s no place quite like it, NYC is also overwhelming and expensive, two qualities that can make visiting or moving here pretty intimidating. Check out tips from four pro dancers—Kristine Covillo, Tamisha Guy, Daniel Harder and Kristen Segin—for living like a true New Yorker.
(Clockwise from left: Tamisha Guy in Kyle Abraham's The Watershed, photo by Steven Schreiber, courtesy Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion; Daniel Harder, photo by Richard Calmes, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Kristien Covillo in On the Town with Stephen Hanna, photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy On the Town; Kristen Segin in Christopher Wheeldon's Soiree Musicale, photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet)
Your NYC Experts
Kristine Covillo: A former member of Ballet Hispanico and the Radio City Rockettes, Covillo has also performed on Broadway in West Side Story, Evita and On the Town.
Tamisha Guy: After moving to NYC from Trinidad and Tobago, Guy graduated from SUNY Purchase and performed with the Martha Graham Dance Company. She currently dances with Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion.
Daniel Harder: After graduating from NYC’s Ailey/Fordham BFA program, Harder joined Ailey II in 2009. He was promoted to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater a year later.
Kristen Segin: A New York City Ballet corps member since 2009, Segin moved to NYC in 2005 to study at the School of American Ballet.
1. Download the HopStop app. “It helps you figure out which subways are closest to particular locations,” Harder says. “I tend to use it when I’m going to an unfamiliar area of Brooklyn.”
2. Visit the MTA website (mta.info), Segin advises, to make sure the trains you need are running without delays or service changes.
NYC subway (photo by Starflamedia/Thinkstock)
3. Leave early. It takes Guy roughly 45 minutes to get from her Brooklyn apartment to class in downtown Manhattan, “though I’ll always leave about two hours early,” she says. “The rains are reliable, but it’s good to leave some wiggle room. You never know if there’ll be a delay.”
4. Know where to stand in the station. If it’s crowded, head to either end of the platform. “That’s where the emptiest subway cars will likely be,” Segin says.
5. Be a considerate passenger. Move to the middle of the subway car—away from the doors—and be mindful of your bags. “Dancers always have so much gear,” Covillo says. “If you have a big bag, take it off and keep it at your feet or hold it in your lap. You’ll stand out as a tourist if your stuff is all over the place, hitting other people.”
6. Take a bus to go across town. “When I first moved here, I used to be terrified by the bus system,” Covillo says. “But the crosstown buses stop at every major avenue. Just ask the driver if you’re worried about missing your stop.”
7. Save taxi rides for when you’re in a pinch. Fares start at $2.50 and add up quickly.
8. Set up an Uber account for late-night trips or if you have too many grocery bags to carry on the subway. “You don’t have to exchange money since it’s all done through the app,” Covillo says. “That really came in handy one morning when I grabbed the wrong bag and didn’t have my wallet—or my subway card. Luckily, though, I had my phone, so I hailed an Uber.”
9. Remember that it’s OK to ask for directions. “There’s definitely a misconception that because NYC is so fast-paced, you can’t stop someone and ask for help,” Harder says. “But New Yorkers are very friendly, and I’ve learned to speak up.”
Finding A Place To Stay
10. If you’re staying for a week or less, ask friends if you can couch surf. Not an option? Harder, Covillo and Segin recommend checking out Airbnb for short-term rentals. It tends to be much cheaper than a hotel, and you can view pictures of the space and read reviews beforehand.
11. Do some research before subletting (renting a room from another renter, who may be out of town for a short time). “Subletting is great since you move into a space that’s already furnished,” Guy says. “But try to visit the space, so you know what you’re getting into.” And ask if it’s been cleared with the landlord.
Brownstones in Brooklyn Heights, NYC (photo by StockSnapper/Thinkstock)
12. Check dance-studio bulletin boards for apartment listings. “In the student lounge at The Ailey School, there are always fliers from people looking to sublet their apartments for the summer or even the full year,” Harder says.
13. If you’re moving, watch out for realtor/broker fees, which can often be several times more than a month’s rent. Both Covillo and Segin recommend StreetEasy (streeteasy.com)—not Craigslist, which is full of false advertising—to hunt for apartments. “You can search by location, amenities and number of bedrooms,” Covillo says.
14. Avoid prime real estate areas. Apartments on the Upper West Side (home to Steps on Broadway) and in midtown (home to Broadway Dance Center) tend to have higher rents, which is frustrating since those neighborhoods are major dance hubs. “A lot of artists live in Astoria, Queens, which has an easy commute to midtown,” Covillo says. Segin lives in East Harlem. “It’s definitely an up-and-coming area,” she says. “Lots of NYCB dancers have been moving up here. The rent is reasonable, and there are a ton of restaurants.”
Dancing For Less
15. Find out how much open classes cost before signing up. At some of the major studios, classes can run upwards of $20 a pop. Consider mixing up your training schedule by adding a few classes at smaller studios (like Ballet Arts or The Playground at Gibney Dance Center) that charge less. And if you’re in NYC for the long haul, apply for work-study programs at studios like BDC, Steps or Peridance Capezio Center. “They’re great for dancers new to the city,” Guy says. “You’ll get to know teachers and choreographers, and you’ll meet other dancers, too.”
Kristine Covillo (center) teaching at Broadway Dance Center (photo courtesy Covillo)
16. Purchase class cards. Not only can they save you money per class, they can also help you stick to a budget. “If you buy a class card, you’re setting aside a certain amount of money for classes you can’t spend anywhere else,” Guy says.
17. Make your apartment your gym. Gym memberships and fitness classes can be expensive. “I picked up a few yoga DVDs I can do at home on my own,” Covillo says. “You can also check out qinetic.com. It offers free live-streamed fitness classes, and it has a video archive of past classes, too.”
18. Keep your dance clothes clean—on the cheap. Many buildings don’t have a washer and dryer on the premises, so finding a laundromat in your neighborhood is key. But keep in mind that frequent mini loads of laundry add up. “Hand-wash your tights, leotards and smaller items in the sink,” Guy says. “And if you can, wait until you have huge loads of laundry to go to the laundromat.”
Living on a Budget
19. Cook as much as possible. “Making your own food is always cheaper,” Segin says. “There are lots of healthy, dancer-friendly restaurants near Lincoln Center, but they’re expensive. I pack my lunch as much as I can—and I always throw an extra energy bar, yogurt or sandwich in my bag.”
20. Shop for foods that won’t spoil easily. “Trader Joe’s is great if you’re staying here a short time,” Guy says. “You can stock up on healthy snacks that won’t go bad,” like trail mix or granola bars.
21. Scout for cheap eats. “In college, I’d always look for restaurants with lunch specials,” Harder says. “For example, there was an inexpensive Thai place that gave huge portions I could snack on throughout the day.”
(Brighton and Coney Island Beach at sunset, photo by Demerzel21/Thinkstock)
22. Skip Starbucks. “Go to your neighborhood bodega for your coffee fix,” Covillo says. “There’s one on just about every corner”—and their coffees are frequently $1.
23. Use Yelp. “After a long week of work, I love to pamper myself with a manicure,” Segin says. “There are a ton of nail salons on the Upper West Side, but I always look at a salon’s review and price point on Yelp.”
24. Take advantage of your student ID. “There are so many deals for students,” Segin says. “I go to Fordham University part-time, and I use my ID to get discounts on museum admissions and Broadway or American Ballet Theatre tickets. You can even use a student ID from a summer course.”
25. Explore the city—for the price of a subway fare. “It’s easy to get stuck within a 5- to 10-block radius, but it doesn’t cost a lot to have great adventures all over NYC,” Covillo says. “Each neighborhood has a different flavor, whether you’re in Chinatown, Little Italy or Union Square, all accessible via the subway. There are even beaches right off the subway—like Brighton Beach in Brooklyn—or you can take the Long Island Railroad and go to Long Beach.”