New York City’s acclaimed Steps on Broadway offers more than just hundreds of classes on its weekly open schedule. It also serves as a place where international students can train, work with popular choreographers and teachers, build friendships, immerse themselves in the bustling NYC dance community and garner skills that can certainly help lead them into their professional careers, no matter where that takes them. International students can choose from any of Steps’ Professional Training Programs (PTPs) that are available to domestic students and those from all over the world: the two-year Conservatory Program, International Independent Study Program (IISP) and Summer Study NYC (SSYNC).
Although it may seem daunting to head abroad to an unfamiliar city where you will be living for at least a couple months to study, the staff at Steps aims to work closely with each individual student every step of the way.
“From the very initial stages of inquiry to application, I work with each student to help get them to the U.S., including requirements to obtain the M-1 student visa, find housing and prepare for their studies,” says Mindy Upin Jackson, director of PTPs and foreign student advisor, DSO at Steps. “Once in NYC, students continue receiving detailed information about their program expectations and guidance for the classes they should be taking based on their levels and goals.”
She continues, “Steps offers such a wide variety of class styles and levels, so it is very important that each dancer starts off on the right foot to safely and properly improve and excel. Faculty members want to see our students succeed. Through regular class-taking, relationships are built and fortified. Our esteemed faculty and guests are working professionals and oftentimes cast dancers from their classes since they get to see how students work, pick up material, take and apply corrections, and enjoy their passion for dance. Students are encouraged and welcome to meet with me when needed to address concerns, discuss goals, and we work together to make them happen!”
IISP students take an average of 12 classes per week, totaling 48 classes per month. They have the freedom to choose their own classes (at their appropriate level) but must take at least three ballet per week. Upin Jackson also encourages students to keep in mind the versatility that is demanded of professional dancers today and to take classes outside of their comfort zone or ‘style’.
Conservatory students take 12 technique classes per week but also have rehearsals, vocal classes, specialty workshops and additional requirements. Unlike IISP students, those in the Conservatory have a set schedule for each of their four semesters.
Students in the SSNYC take both set and elective classes, with a total of 17 classes per week for their four-week summer session.
In addition to movement classes, Conservatory students participate in Performance Enrichment courses, which include vocal classes, acting, health and wellness workshops, and career development courses on creating websites, reels, headshots and resumes. The Steps Beyond Foundation also hosts “Artist Talks” and panel discussions, which are open to anyone to attend.
Performances round out both the SSYNC and Conservatory sessions. Because of the rolling enrollment and independence of the program, IISP does not have its own performance, but students are invited to audition for Conservatory pieces and submit work for the Steps Beyond Foundation Performance Lab Series.
Aside from the multitude of classes and workshops, studying at Steps places students in the heart of New York City, a giant hub of the arts and culture. Broadway and Lincoln Center are just a couple subway stops away, and professional performances take place every night throughout the city. And at Steps, students may be at the barre next to a star from American Ballet Theatre or New York City Ballet, or taking class with Radio City Rockettes or Broadway veterans. Studying dance in such a place can be an invaluable learning opportunity in and of itself.
“There is just so much to explore, learn and grow from!” Upin Jackson says. “The culture, the energy, the network of creative artists who inspire, teach and with whom one can collaborate is phenomenal. The adventure is also the takeaway. Even if the visit is not a permanent one, the lessons and experience are invaluable. Information and a new perspective can most certainly be brought home and applied to whatever the next step in a dancer’s life may be.”
Expectations are high for PTP students, who should uphold high standards of professional behavior and etiquette. But displaying this professionalism is not only good practice for a future career in dance; Upin Jackson says it also “makes it easy for me to recommend dancers for projects and jobs when asked.”
She adds, “This is a hard business, and, therefore, these are challenging programs. We want to prepare you, guide you and dance with you.”
Students interested in any of the PTPs can apply through the website, Acceptd. (LINK) Submission materials include a headshot, resume, two dance photos, a letter of introduction explaining why you want to study at Steps and what your dance goals are, and a letter of recommendation. If a dancer is attending a live audition, he/she also notes the audition date; otherwise, he/she can upload videos demonstrating technique and artistry.
Live auditions include the option to take an open class for observation or to attend one of the onsite program/scholarship auditions, which include ballet, contemporary and theatre jazz, plus a prepared solo. Upcoming onsite auditions are November 18, 2017; March 17, 2018; and May 12, 2018. Applications must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the selected date. International audition tour dates are to be announced.
“It is important for me to see your passion and drive, plus the potential for growth and enthusiasm to work hard,” Upin Jackson says. “Scholarships are granted when a dancer demonstrates strong versatility across the genres and an overall level of exceptional merit.”
For more information on all of Steps on Broadway’s programs, visit www.stepsnyc.com.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.