The Buzz on Broadway: Explore Dance! Hits Broadway. (Summer Study Guide 2003)
Menotti, Andrea, Dance Magazine
It's a summer afternoon, and fifty-five girls from around the country are gathered onstage at New York City's Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, the school that inspired the movie Fame. They're learning one of the dance numbers from the current Broadway revival of Oklahoma! choreographed by Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman. Their teacher, and Stroman's assistant, is Lisa Shriver, a lively young woman who throws in showbiz buzzwords like "Here's the button of the number!" which, the young dancers learn, means the number's final moment.
For five days during the summer, or four days in February, Curtain Call Explore Dance! Learning Camp for Dancers brings dancers ages 10-18 and their parent or teacher chaperones (required for those under 14) to New York City for a multilayered experience of dance. Tonight, the girls have tickets to Oklahoma!, not only to see the musical but to watch how the Broadway dancers perform the steps the dancers are now learning. After the show, the girls go backstage and meet the cast, which gives the young dancers exposure to professionals at work.
Presented by Curtain Call Costumes, hosted by LaGuardia High School on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and now in its third year in New York City, the program includes technique classes in ballet, tap, jazz, Broadway dance, Pilates, and stretch. It also includes a choreography workshop that introduces basic Laban notation; tickets to shows; tours of dance schools such as The Juilliard School; chats with dance professionals; workshops on music-video production and preparing for auditions; and seminars on dance history and college planning. Remarkably, there is also time built into the program for the students to see the sights of New York.
Designed by Susan Epstein, a dancer, choreographer, and teacher at her own studio, Explore Dance! was conceived as an educational part of Curtain Call's Dance Club for young dancers. According to Epstein, Explore Dance! is for inquisitive dancers who are interested in delving into a complete dance experience, from studio to stage. "You don't need to aspire to dance as your career. It's not talent based," she explains, noting that no auditions are required. She continues, "It's not about how well you dance. It's more about your innate interest in dance." For Curtain Call it also means educating future teachers and audience members.
Epstein designed Explore Dance! to highlight aspects of the art that young dancers might not have considered. In the Oklahoma! pre-performance workshop, for example, learning a dance number from the current show is only part of the drill. Before they begin moving, the dancers are first introduced to the legacy of Agnes de Mille, who choreographed the original 1943 Broadway production. The girls learn about de Mille's life from Patricia Harrington Delaney, an assistant professor of dance at Southern Methodist University, and watch a video of de Mille's Oklahoma! …