My next spotlight is on my friend Joe. I met Joe doing a production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF with a wonderful company called The Village Light Opera. He played an incredibly dashing and compassionate Fyedka. He is a very talented musician excelling at voice and piano. I can't wait until GLEE discovers his overabundant talent and casts him!
I have so much admiration for him because he tackling dance full force as an adult beginner. He has put physical fitness, movement, and dance as a top priority in his life. So many adults get frustrated and give up. Not Joe! He makes a commitment and keeps it! His movement is definitely paying off! Recently, he was one of the top dancers (and singers!) in the House of Peers in The Village Light Opera's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's IOLANTHE. He has been kind enough to share his experiences and favorite classes with this blog! I hope everyone is as inspired as I am!
Six months ago, I had never taken a Dance class in my life. Sure, I’d done a grapevine in Annie in High School and I’d done about ten thousand Jazz squares in other shows, but I’d never had a need or desire to take Dance beyond that. Six months ago also marked the time that I decided to get serious about pursuing Musical Theater performance, and I knew that meant the inevitable: time to start taking the Dance classes that I’d put off for years. I, like many, had no idea where to start, so I began by picking the brains of every dancer I knew.
Early in my search, I happened on the gem that is Roy Arias studios. Located at 43rd and 8th, they are part of the Times Square Art Center. The studios themselves are not the most aesthetically pleasing, but what they lack in facilities, they make up in excellent teachers and friendly students. I’ve never once felt looked-down on or out-of-place, as I have on occasion at the bigger studios. The classes are very affordable, at $14 for a single class or $13 per class if you buy the 10 class card. They also do a workstudy program like the one at Steps; workstudy students work in the office for a few hours per week in exchange for discounted classes.
New York is a wonderful place because there are so many studios and teachers. However, I found that it is often daunting to know where to start when faced with so many options. Here’s the secret I found: you don’t need to know. You just need to do SOMETHING. Have an open mind and be ready to step out of your comfort zone a little. Don’t worry about looking foolish or having the right clothing or shoes (refer to the earlier article if you have questions). Just jump into a beginner class anywhere. Some studios even offer classes at the “Basic” level which are designed for people who have no real dance experience.
Here are the classes that I take regularly, which you should definitely check out if you are new to the world of Dance:
I love Hitomi. She is about 5 foot nothing and has the best sense of humor in the world. The Basic Slow Beginner class is great because she designs it for people, like me, who’ve had no dance training. She spends the bulk of the time on basic fundamentals, usually at the barre. She will end with a simple step across the floor.
7pm on Fridays at Roy Arias.
Shelley is great. She is friendly and helpful, but serious and will correct you when you’re wrong. She is demanding, yet affectionate. She spends the first half the class on warm-up, barre work, stretches, and isolations. The other half is dedicated to learning a Jazz combination she’s choreographed for that day. It is always challenging but approachable.
7:30pm on Wednesdays at Roy Arias. She offers the same class Mondays and Fridays during the afternoon.
Another class of Shelley’s which directly precedes her Jazz class. Think of this class as Aerobics taught by a dancer and designed for dancers. It’s a very energetic hour-and-a-half. Take the two back-to-back and really kick your butt!
6pm on Wednesdays at Roy Arias. She offers the same class Mondays and Fridays during the afternoon.
Jeff’s class at STEPs is a lot of fun. While Jazz and Ballet are great for technique, Jeff’s class is really about using that technique in the context of Musical Theater. He does warm-up and stretching, work across the floor, and then a combination with a lot of Broadway flair.
7:30pm on Mondays and Wednesdays at Steps.
Very similar to Jeff Shade’s class and technique.
1:00pm on Saturdays at Steps. He also teaches Wednesdays during the afternoon.
Okay, I’ll admit that I am way over my head in this one. However, Rachel is out of this world. She just has this energy and sass about her that is infectious. It’s impossible to not love every moment of her class, even if you are falling over yourself.
Rachel is not on faculty at Roy Arias, but teaches “In Residence”. Check the website for when she is teaching.
***M4M note --- Rachel subs at many dance studios in the city. Here schedule is updated on her website.
Me and Joe backstage during IOLANTHE