By Chelsea Thomas of Dance Informa.
Steps on Broadway, founded in 1979, is a central hub for New York’s professional dance scene. Offering classes seven days a week in almost every style imaginable, the training centre is constantly bursting with activity and opportunity, with a steady pulse of vigor and inspiration.
Every summer since 2005, Steps has offered a summer intensive program, welcoming dancers from all over to train with some of the field’s most renowned instructors. In the program’s latest manifestation, Summer Study NYC, both domestic and international students have the opportunity to train for four weeks with New York’s leading contemporary artistic directors and choreographers.
For 2014, Steps will offer the program twice. Session 1 starts June 16 and concludes July 11 with an open performance. The application deadline is Friday, May 16. Session 2 starts July 14 and concludes August 8, also ending with an open performance. The application deadline for this session is Friday, June 20.
The audition-based program is about total immersion in New York’s contemporary dance world. It offers intermediate and advanced dancers age 18 and older the unique opportunity to study and perform under the direction of some of the best artistic directors and choreographers working today.
“Summer Study is a really great way for students to come to the city and just immerse themselves immediately in the New York professional dance scene,” says Program Director Cassie Bednall. “Not only is our faculty phenomenal, but the atmosphere is great for helping aspiring dancers jumpstart their career. It pushes them into high gear.”
Bednall explains that Summer Study is made up of three components: the Contemporary Masters Series, the Creative Tools classes and the Performance Skills classes.
First and foremost, the Contemporary Masters Series is “the core” of the program, helping dancers improve their technique while exploring movement, choreography and repertory in week-long workshops with master teachers. This year’s teachers include: Aszure Barton (Founder and Artistic Director of Aszure Barton & Artists); Donald Byrd (Artistic Director of Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater); Elisa Monte (former dancer with Martha Graham Dance Company, Lar Lubovitch and Pilobolus); Stephen Petronio (Artistic Director and Choreographer of Stephen Petronio Company); Benoit Swan Pouffer (former Artistic Director of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet); Pascal Rioult (Artistic Director of RIOULT Dance NY); and Kevin Wynn (Artistic Director of Kevin Wynn Collections.) Andrea Miller, Artistic Director of Gallim Dance, will also return to lead a workshop for the first time in a few years.
Bednall says, “Many times, these choreographers don’t teach in any other form. So when they come into our Summer Study program, it is a pretty special thing.”
Whereas these classes are open to the public, the other classes for Summer Study students are closed, offering a separate, and yet still interactive, program. The second component of the program is the Creative Tools classes.
“These basically look at dance as a collaborative and creative process, and students learn different compositional styles from people like Sidra Bell, Mark Dendy, Loni Landon and others,” explains Bednall.
The Creative Tools classes are developed and led by Elisa Monte, who is assisted by Tiffany Rea-Fisher. “Artists share their process, and dancers and choreographers learn collaborative approaches to movement creation and articulation,” says Steps’ website. Throughout their four weeks of study, participants create compositions that are presented in a showing at the end of each session in Steps Studio Theater.
Finally, the third component of the program is Performance Skills classes, led by Stefanie Batten Bland and Heidi Latsky. This closed class is “really about honing the performance skills of the student. It looks at how you not only convey the movement but also connect with your audience,” says Bednall.
In addition to all these technical classes and opportunities for creative mentorships, Summer Study students are also able to attend lectures and demonstrations hosted by Steps Beyond, giving students another opportunity to learn from and network with industry experts.
Bednall says, “This year we’ll be doing a choreographic panel where we are bringing in artistic directors and choreographers to talk about the creative process, show some film footage of their work and then talk about how they got there. There will also be a panel with our resident company, the Steps Repertory Ensemble led by Artistic Director Bradley Shelver. That’s a closed panel just for the Summer Study NYC participants that’s really about how they can survive as a dancer in New York, what the steps are for moving here and working towards becoming a dance professional. So that’s really great for students, in particular those in college right now who really need that push and advice.”
For students coming to Summer Study from out of state or abroad, Steps doesn’t provide housing, however, dancers are given housing recommendations, such as Sara’s Homestay, which has previously given special discounts and fee waivers for program students.
At this time, there are no scholarships available, however Steps hopes to offer these in the future. The tuition for one session of the program is $1,600 (for four weeks), and for both sessions it’s $2,880 (for eight weeks.) At the end of each Summer Study NYC, students receive a Certificate of Completion.
“We have had students who were able to apply that to college credit in the past,” says Bednall. “I know some colleges ask students to go do internships or acquire practical training during their summers and so this often can count for that, which is really fantastic.”
For acceptance to the program, Bednall says dancers must first apply and audition, either in-person or on video. “We’re really looking for people who already have very strong technique because the program is very rigorous. We need to make sure they are able to absorb material as well as have the proper technique so they won’t hurt themselves and can really benefit. Beyond that, we also look at recommendations from teachers and make sure that they’re dedicated students.”
To audition for this “high-intensity program,” Bednall says to come out to Steps on Saturday, May 10 for Intermediate Contemporary from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., or Sunday, May 11 for Intermediate Ballet from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“For auditions, I generally look at how easily [dancers] pick up the phrase work, as well as their technical prowess. Since the classes they are put in are professional level classes, they are quite intense. Not only are they technically demanding but they also move very quickly in the output of material. So students really need to be able to pick up material quickly and not be struggling in the back of the room,” says Bednall .
To submit a video, visit the Application Process page at Steps’ website for video submission guidelines. For more information on Steps’ Summer Study NYC program, visit www.stepsnyc.com.
Photo (top): Summer Study NYC Final Performance in 2013 at Steps on Broadway.