I Can Do That!

By Kay, Lauren | Dance Spirit, July/August 2007 | Go to article overview
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I Can Do That!


Kay, Lauren, Dance Spirit


WHAT EXTRA SKILLS DO YOU NEED TO MAKE IT TO BROADWAY? By Lauren Kay

It used to be that a gorgeous extension, clean pirouette and explosive jump could land you a job on Broadway. Now, technique and commitment to dance just aren't enough, and competition studios are grooming dancers who can tumble and flip, too. In addition, dwindling budgets mean that even the biggest shows on the Great White Way are hiring multitasking performers who dance, sing, act and even play instruments.

To be the type of grab-bag dancer that will nab the job, start gathering as many skills as possible-you want to make sure that at any audition, you can be like A Chorus Line's Mike and respond, "I can do that!" Start with the areas below to expand your range while continuing to perfect your dance foundation.

FIND YOUR INNER ATHLETE

A recent audition notice for the upcoming Broadway production of High School Musical stated that breakdancing, tumbling and acrobatic skills were a plus. At more and more open calls, dancers are asked to stay in the studio after their dance audition and show any tumbling or "freezes" (shoulder or wrist poses like those done in breakdancing or gymnastics) they have in their arsenal. If you're just getting started, cartwheels, round-offs and walkovers are toned-down versions of fast-paced tumbling that are reasonably easy to learn and will allow you to add yourself to the hand-ratsers. Worried about your strength and stamina? Consider joining a gym to add cardio, weight lifting, Pilates or yoga to your regimen. Don't let a somersault stand in your way of standing out!

EXPRESS YOURSELF

In musical theater, you're often not only a dancer; you're a character helping to move the plot along. So how can you beef up your acting skills? Books by acting coaches and performers like Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen. Konstantin Stanislavsky and Stella Adler can help you learn about motivation, action and dramatic conflict. Even better than academic sources, however, are practical scene classes at an acting school, where you can explore your emotional "instrument" and study how to embody different characters, speak in dialects and relate to other actors onstage. Many colleges also provide inexpensive introductory acting classes that you can audit. When you're prepping for auditions, make sure to have two monologues-one contemporary (think Neil LaBute or Theresa Rebeck) and one classical (Shakespeare)-ready to perform. If two equally talented dancers are up for a principal role, acting chops can tip the scales.

SING OUT, LOUISE!

Since many companies can't afford to hire separate dancing and singing ensembles (and few shows have any roles that don't require both), a quiet dancer has to learn to raise her voice.

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