Photo by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Ryan Steele

Ryan Steele Writes a Letter to His Teenage Self

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 summer, you can catch him playing Jerry on tour with An American in Paris in Asia. —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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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.

Margaret

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