What could possibly be better than dancing in Susan Stroman’s new musical, Bullets Over Broadway? How about getting to dance next to your best friend? Beth Johnson Nicely and Amanda Kloots-Larsen have been close to inseparable since meeting on the national tour of 42nd Street in 2002. So it was only a matter of time before these two leggy ladies discovered they shared another obsession—desserts—and decided to turn their sweet teeth into something more. They started the blog Just Desserts NYC (justdessertsnyc.com) in 2007. Despite their hectic careers on Broadway and as fitness instructors in NYC, Kloots-Larsen and Johnson Nicely have continued to grow their sugary side project into a recognizable brand.
(Photo by Justin Patterson)
Kloots-Larsen and Johnson Nicely first met during callbacks for the national tour of 42nd Street, and immediately bonded over their Ohio roots. And when they spotted one another on the first day of rehearsal, a little challenge brought them together. “We didn’t know how to fill out our contracts,” recalls Johnson Nicely. “We were struggling—the lead at the time had to help us.”
Their friendship soon blossomed. “In every city, Beth and I would go on a search for something sweet,” says Kloots-Larsen. Those delicious adventures continued once the two girls returned to NYC, and a blog seemed like a natural next step. “People kept asking us where to go for the best desserts in the city,” Johnson Nicely says. “We figured our blog could be a resource for everyone.”
Just Desserts NYC hit its stride around 2011, and today, new bakeries and restaurants reach out to the dancing dessert duo—who also go by “Blondie” (blonde Amanda) and “Brownie” (brunette Beth)—to taste and review their treats. They post almost daily about new desserts, recipes, the latest crazes and sweet spots to check out, not only in NYC but across the U.S. and abroad. And of course, they do it all together. (Kloots-Larsen and Johnson Nicely were even one another’s bridesmaids.) “Luckily, dancing is a great workout,” says Kloots-Larsen, “because our blog requires us to taste a lot of desserts!”
(Photo by Dana Edelson)
In addition to the blogosphere, Kloots-Larsen and Johnson Nicely have also enjoyed great success onstage. Since the national tour of 42nd Street, they’ve performed as Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. And between the two of them, they’ve scored roles in Broadway musicals including Young Frankenstein, Good Vibrations, Follies, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and Spamalot. Now, Bullets has finally brought them back together—and dealing with desserts is even part of the gig.
In Bullets, the gluttonous actor Warner has an odd food fetish: dog treats that he steals and eats throughout the show. Enter Blondie and Brownie. Stroman, Bullets’ director and choreographer, who was familiar with Just Desserts NYC, asked if they’d bake the “dog treats” during the show’s early workshops last fall. “Beth and I consider ourselves more critics than bakers,” says Kloots-Larsen. “But when she asked, we automatically agreed. You don’t say ‘no’ to Stro!”
Now, in addition to performing eight shows per week, Kloots-Larsen and Johnson Nicely also bake two dozen edible props—tasty gingerbread-butterscotch cookies. In May, the St. James Theatre even started selling the cookies to theatergoers after each performance. So far, the extra work has been worth it. “The opportunity to marry our two loves—desserts and musical theater—has been a dream come true,” Johnson Nicely says.
While Just Desserts NYC hasn’t brought in extra income, the girls have high hopes for the blog’s future. They’ve received steady attention, including webisodes on NBC’s Today.com and the Cooking Channel’s “Log On & Eat with Eden Grinshpan.”
One day, Kloots-Larsen and Johnson Nicely dream of hosting their own TV show. But for now, their blog helps keep them grounded. “Being in show business is a lot like being on a roller-coaster ride,” Kloots-Larsen says. “There are so many ups and downs in your career.” Adds Johnson Nicely: “That’s why it’s so important to have a creative outlet on the side.”
(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.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
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There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "