By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.
One would think that Steps on Broadway, one of New York’s legendary dance studios tucked above Fairway Market on the Upper West Side, would be quiet and peaceful in the early mornings before the rush of eager dancers sign in for class. But no. Early mornings—before 9am—are peak hours for Steps on Broadway’s special private group classes.
On the morning of September 23rd I popped by the studio to catch dancers from Bundaberg’s Shalom College sweating in jazz classes taught by Lisa Gajda and Joyce King. These teenage dancers traveled twenty-three long hours on a flight from their hometown near Queensland, Australia. “I find that groups that visit us from Australia are often the most excited,” said Caitlin Gillette, Marketing and Programs Coordinator at Steps. “They travel the furthest to get here and their enthusiasm shows.”
This was Shalom College’s first school trip to New York City. But the College’s principal, Daniel McMahon said, “While we come from a small-town high school, we offer a significant number of dance classes and many students also take dance class outside of school.”
“Our college offers mostly contemporary jazz—all taught by the same teachers,” shared one student. Another student added, “It’s great to take jazz in New York City so we experience a variety of style, technique, and teachers.”
But what’s so different about dance classes in New York?
“Classes are very professional because the goal is to turn us into professionals,” explained a student. “Teachers are very hands-on and offer audition tips and personal feedback.”
Along with jazz class at Steps, the Shalom College students also took dance at Broadway Dance Center, the Joffrey Ballet School, Alvin Ailey, and the Rockette Experience. But besides dancing, the Aussies made sure to schedule time to hit some of New York City’s famous tourist attractions: Radio City Music Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum, the 9/11 Memorial, Times Square, Central Park, and a few Broadway shows.
With all the dancing and sightseeing over their week-long visit in New York, the students were tired, but their excitement and adrenaline kept them going. “When we get back to our hotel at night, I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow,” said one student.
Principal McMahon remarked, “This trip will breed so much excitement among the students back in Bundaberg that I’d be surprised if we didn’t come back next year.”
One student, Leisa, will be moving to New York next year to dance in the four-year ballet training program at the Joffrey School. When I ask a group of students of their hopes of becoming professional dancers, their answer was a definite “Yes!”
Just the week of September 22nd, Steps on Broadway hosted four different groups from Australia: Shalom College, Halo Dance Academy, Abbotsleigh, and Brisbane Academy. For more information about group visits to Steps, visit www.StepsNYC.com.