While New York City is seen as one of the ultimate places to study dance and musical theater, students who come from abroad may be faced with a language barrier in their training. Step One International, an organization incorporated in October 2015, caters to dancers from the countries of Andorra and Spain, and offers customized workshops for these Spanish speakers as they immerse themselves in the Big Apple.
With Step One International, participating studios and groups are able to take classes in various dance disciplines, along with voice, acting technique and conversational English, in a private studio setting.
“With this method,” explains Director of Operations Christopher Davis, “we are able to bring the instructors to them in a fun, personalized environment.”
Step One International was formed by investors and dance aficionados from Andorra who realized from past experiences that when dancers travel to NYC to study, they often find themselves in a class full of 50 English-speaking students and instructors. With this organization, however, students can receive personalized instruction from top teachers and learn in a setting that is comfortable and supportive, and one in which they can easily understand.
“This allows them to ask questions and not get lost in the crowd the same way they might in the more popular dance studios in the city,” Davis explains.
Step One International works individually with a studio or group from Andorra or Spain to create a package just for them. Each group can provide a timeline for their travel (generally one to two weeks), the types of classes its students are interested in, and a budget. Step One International organizes airfare and accommodations (with options including a hotel, hostel or short-term apartment rental, depending on the group’s budget and desires), and creates a program of classes.
Step One International rents space in midtown Manhattan and can bring in teachers from all disciplines: ballet, tap, Fosse technique, jazz, contemporary, body percussion, Latin fusion, vocal technique, musical theater audition technique, acting and English. Teachers are not necessarily Spanish-speaking, but there is no pressure to speak English or Spanish, and there is always a Spanish speaker in the room should the dancers need any translation.
“We have amazing teachers with great theatrical credits, so our clients are learning from people with vast experience in the performing arts industry,” Davis assures. “Students have the option of seeing Broadway shows and often go backstage to visit the instructor who taught them earlier that day. This isn’t something the average visiting dance student or teacher has access to.”
Step One International is committed to making sure its traveling groups are felt welcomed and connected to NYC’s theatrical community. Davis adds that groups are even given a box of cookies from well-known bakery Schmakary’s as a “welcome to New York” gift.
In just the few months of its existence, Step One International has already hosted several dance and musical theater groups, some who have booked a second trip as well, and has attracted show choirs in Spain, too. The organization plans to expand its services to at least one other country in the future.
Davis encourages anyone from Andorra or Spain who is interested in gaining top training and a unique NYC experience to contact Step One International. For more information, visit www.steponeint.us.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): A Step One International workshop in NYC. Photo by Darin Chumbley.