Broadway, a street that runs the length of the island of Manhattan, is best known for the stretch that runs through Midtown. This is the Theater District of New York City, and has become an American icon and a global destination for entertainment. For dancers, performing “on Broadway,” is often considered the pinnacle of success in a dance career.
Before you head to “The Great White Way,” to make your dreams come true, brush up on these lesser known facts on this theater mecca.
In order to qualify for Broadway theater status, a theater must have 500 seats and be located between 40th Street to 54th Street, and from West of 6th Avenue to East of Eighth Avenue, including Times Square (Credit: American Music Theater).
There are 40 Broadway theaters, but only 4 are actually located on Broadway Street. The remainders are in the theater district, which is defined by the parameters above.
The Lion King has grossed $1.09 billion, which sets the record as the highest grossing musical of all time. The next highest is The Phantom of the Opera. Who’s in third place? Elphaba and her beloved musical Wicked.
The new and much acclaimed musical by Lin Manual Miranda, Hamilton, has garnered an astonished 16 Tony nominations. But the award for most Tony won goes to the Mel Brooks musical The Producers with 12 Tony Awards.
Broadway performers are the best of the best and train their whole lives to earn a place on a Broadway stage. Musical Theater is considered one of the most difficult genres to master because it requires the dancer to be a “triple threat,”—exceptionally talent at dancing, singing, and acting. Additionally, dancers must have incredible stamina as Broadway shows perform almost every day of the week.
Start by taking a lot of class, emphasizing a strong foundation in ballet, balanced with jazz and tap. Vocal lessons and an acting coach will also help you feel more comfortable in auditions. Start out by diving into your local theater scene and becoming comfortable on a stage and working with a cast. If you can, plan a trip to New York City to dip your toes into the Musical Theater world by taking a class at Broadway Dance Center or Steps on Broadway. If you’re feeling brave you can even try attending a Broadway audition, but if you don’t have Actor’s Equity union status, it is not guaranteed you’ll get a chance to dance.
Broadway auditions are competitive, to say the least. Expect to be warming up alongside veteran Broadway performers or even familiar faces from shows like “So You Think You Can Dance.” Auditions combinations are taught quickly, so dancers must pick up choreography fast. On top of that, casting directors are looking for you to tell a story, set the scene, or portray a character. In a matter of 20 to 30 minutes, a dancer must layer on these elements atop excellent technique and complicated dance routines.
At the end of the day, you could be the best dancer in New York City, but casting often comes down to your look, your height, or whether you’ll fit into a costume that’s already been made. As dancers, we never know why we didn’t get a call back. All we can do is show up the next day prepared and eager for the job.
Good luck out there and break a leg!
by Kelsey Glennon
Kelsey is a classically trained dancer and Actor’s Equity performer. She has performed for companies such as Central Florida Ballet, Tokyo Disney, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and at sea with leading luxury cruise lines. A dancer by day and a writer by night, when Kelsey is not performing she shares her love of dance, travel, and finding a good cup of coffee on her blog Wend Away Travels. Find her full performance bio and show gallery at www.kelseyannglennon.com.
Kick up your heels and let's dance!
Broadway Dance Dreams