More Than Dance: The Broadway Experience Aims to Show Students What It's Really like to Perform in Musical Theater

By Holmes, Kathryn | Dance Magazine, January 2016 | Go to article overview

More Than Dance: The Broadway Experience Aims to Show Students What It's Really like to Perform in Musical Theater


Holmes, Kathryn, Dance Magazine


The energy at Mark Morris Dance Center is palpable. In one studio, young dancers are learning a routine to music from the Broadway show Fela! "I need to see the characters," teacher Lauren Cox says. "Men, you are kings! Ladies, you are queens!" Upstairs, Julie Barnes is taking more advanced dancers through choreography from Tuck Everlasting. "When you turn around," she says, demonstrating, "I want you to feel that sunlight hit your chest!" In a smaller studio, individual voices ring out. "Never just sing," musical director Julian Reeve tells one student after her number. "You're always telling a story."

This is The Broadway Experience, a two-week musical theater intensive for tweens, teens, college students and young professionals. In addition to its annual New York City program, TBE runs workshops in San Francisco, Miami, Italy and Japan. New York participants study with working and experienced musical theater performers, see two Broadway shows, attend a Q&A with Broadway cast members and even have access to discounted classes at Broadway Dance Center.

Founder Ben Hartley, who danced with Matthew Bourne's New Adventures and on the West End and Broadway, is passionate about sharing his industry knowledge. "I started TBE to give students a healthy dose of how intense it's going to be should they choose to pursue this as a living," he says.

TBE's curriculum is designed not only to help students develop versatility, but also to expose them to different aspects of the profession. Meanwhile, TBE's boutique size--about 50 students attended the NYC program in 2015--translates to a lot of personal attention. "We push our students as much as they allow us to," Hartley says. "We want them to realize how far they can go, and how much more there is to discover."

THE SCHEDULE

The Broadway Experience is in session from 10 am to either 6 or 7 pm on weekdays, with Saturday classes finishing at 1 pm. Students do a physical warm-up in the morning, followed by theater dance classes in different styles, including tap and hip hop/African fusion. After lunch, acting classes include scene study, monologues, improvisation, script analysis and cold-read study. Voice classes include solo and group work, repertoire, song interpretation and dance-and-song, where students practice doing both at the same time. "We touch on every discipline in some way every day," Hartley says.

TBE's offerings vary each summer based on the current Broadway scene. Working performers might share choreography from current or upcoming shows, as in the case of Barnes and Tuck Everlasting, which is scheduled to arrive on Broadway in April. …

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