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
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.
A version of this story appeared in the January 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Letter to My Teenage Self: Ryan Steele."
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
We also want you to
get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.
Liz Imperio teaching at Hollywood Vibe, Courtesy of Hollywood Vibe
It's an increasingly common scenario: A talented dancer wins big at a competition, is offered an assistantship with a famous faculty member, and ends up leaving her hometown studio to travel with a convention. Convention-hopping has obvious benefits. Every event generates new content for dancers to post on social media, gives them a better shot at ending up on their favorite choreographers' accounts, lets them learn from the best of the best, and helps them make valuable connections. "Traveling is a great way for dancers to gain admirers around the country," says Jen Jarnot, owner of Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Thornton, CO. "That's something every dancer craves." So it's no surprise that weekend FOMO has been blazing through studios like wildfire.
But is this jet-setter lifestyle really the most effective road to take? Can weekends of dancing with top talent truly replace the bread and butter of daily work at your home studio? The answer, according to most industry experts, is no. We asked five pros to explain why.