From the founders and owners of Boys Dance Too: The Dance Store for Men comes the inaugural Male Dancer Conference, set for August 18-21, at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance in the West Village of NYC. Michael Vadacchino and Sarah Singer created Boys Dance Too because after years in dance retail, they wanted to create a site just for males to be able to find everything they need. Similarly, the conference was envisioned and launched to serve the male dance community.
“The conference was created so that there could be a yearly event where male dancers gather to learn, connect and converse, and at the same time their supporters, teachers and directors gather to discuss how to expedite the evolution of the male dancer experience as a whole,” Vadacchino explains. “We really want the Male Dancer Conference to become the starting point of new ideas and solutions for the future of the male dancer experience.”
Vadacchino brings together his varied background as a gymnast, dance instructor and Pilates studio owner with Singer’s as a classically trained competition kid who has studied and worked in arts management and costume design. Their journeys coincided when they both worked at a dance retail store in NYC. Singer recalls their “a-ha” moment.
“Poor boys would just come into the store looking so sad because they had been to three other stores already with no luck and we had nothing to give them either,” Singer recounts. “Michael was always into creating and managing businesses, and I always sort of wanted to do my own thing. I originally thought I wanted to own my own dance studio, but after teaching for over 10 years, while I miss it at times, it isn’t for me. It was perfect timing for Michael and I to come together. We almost simultaneously said, ‘I’ve had it! Boys. Dance. Too.’”
Singer says she’s excited to organize and launch this live conference because Boys Dance Too is strictly online. Now the duo will be able to connect with and encourage all these young male dancers in person for an exciting four-day event.
“Boys Dance Too is all online,” Singer explains. “Michael and I have been locked in an office for the past five years. I’m pumped to be active and engaged with the dancers and parents, teachers and speakers. Some of these people will be customers we’ve spoken to through email and over the phone for years but have never seen in person! It’s going to be an awesome change of pace running around and meeting tons of people for the weekend.”
The conference will be both educational and social, featuring a comprehensive beginner program, open classes, special workshops, master clinics, lectures, discussions, panels, parties and more.
Vadacchino shares, “The education portion of the conference is split into two programs. The first one is a four-day mini-intensive for boys ages eight through 11. We chose one of our favorite ballet teachers, Francisco Gella, as our primary instructor for the mini-intensive and added Broadway actor Brandon Leffler for jazz. I personally will be teaching an acrobatics clinic, and we have anatomy and injury prevention specialists coming in as well.”
He continues, “The second program is a long list of open classes specifically that feature some of the faculty from the mini-intensive program, and we added Alex Wong and Sascha Radetsky to the mix, as well as a rare partnering class with invited female classmates taught by the amazing Kat Wildish.”
Former American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Soloist Sascha Radetsky, widely recognized for starring in the movie Center Stage and TV’s Flesh and Bone, is currently the director of the ABT/NYU Master’s Degree Program in Ballet Pedagogy. He’s eager to teach at the conference.
“It’s so rare that we get the opportunity to focus exclusively on the guys’s side of ballet,” Radetsky says. “I’m grateful to be a part of this unique project and excited to work with this important demographic of dancers.”
So You Think You Can Dance favorite and former Prix de Lausanne winner Alex Wong will also be teaching a special workshop. He’ll bring a wealth of diverse experience to his classes, having professionally performed in classical settings (ABT, Miami City Ballet), commercially (The Ellen Show, The Voice, American Idol) and on Broadway (Newsies).
Wong comments, “I’m so excited to work with exclusively male dancers. I wish I had something like this growing up because it’s not easy navigating the dance world as a young male dancer!”
Vadacchino and Singer are proud to bring in these two dance greats for the conference’s first year. Students will be spoiled because their master classes will be three hours long and capped at 50-60 participants. “The participants get a rare opportunity to be under the eyes and direction of these masters in a setting that is more intimate than the typical convention or competition,” Vadacchino adds.
In addition to Wong, Radetsky, Gella, Leffler and Wildish, the Male Dancer Conference will boast faculty like John Drake, Dianne Wise, Matt McCulloch and Billy Griffin. In the next couple weeks, they’ll be adding hip hop faculty as well to incorporate more street dance.
Thus far, the conference is already receiving a great response, with the eight- through 11-year-old program almost sold out. The deadline to register is tentatively set at July 31, but both leaders highly recommend registering as soon as possible so dancers don’t miss out.
Promising the start of new relationships and connections for young male dancers that often feel isolated in their home studios, the conference’s social events will be a breath of fresh air. Younger students will have a few of their own social events, like a character study activity, and the older participants can look forward to a dance movie screening. The closing party on the final night also promises to be a fun semi-formal occasion for both students and their parents.
When reflecting on their main vision for the event, Vadacchino says, “Sarah and I are committed to making this conference deliver more than just an opportunity for guys to be around other male dancers – though, clearly that is the draw for most of them. That’s not enough for us. We are being diligent about ‘information retention’ when it comes to the education portion. We want them to learn and remember as much as possible.”
This passion project invites all male dancers from across America and beyond to register. For more information, visit www.themaledancerconference.com.
“We want all of these boys who come, even if it’s just for one class, to leave feeling respected, honored even,” Vadacchino concludes.
By Chelsea Thomas of Dance Informa.