Performance Planner: Once Upon a Time in New York City
Bring the Big Apple to your hometown with an NYC-themed recital.
From Yankee Stadium to the Statue of Liberty, New York City is brimming with inspiration. Dance Teacher has compiled ideas for music, costumes and choreography for your dancers to take their audience on a tour of the city that never sleeps.
Big City, Big Business
The Big Apple is bursting with New Yorkers hard at work. Capture the bustling Financial District, including looming skyscrapers and the hectic nature of Wall Street. Students can dance their way through the NYC workweek with these fun suggestions:
Start off Monday morning by tumbling out of bed, stumbling to the kitchen and pouring yourself a cup of ambition with Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” for your tap students. The audience will be clapping and singing along right from the beginning.
Time to head to the office—change scenery with a dance about the crowded morning commute. Set up chairs to look like an NYC subway car and have a teen class dance among them, imitating activities you might see on the train—reading the paper, listening to music or flirting with a stranger! Use scenes like this multiple times as you transition between city locations in your show. Songs like “Subway,” from “Sesame Street,” is great for younger dancers, or use “Take the A Train” for a more jazzy take. Try other transportation ideas with “Bus Song,” by The Kooks, or “Taxi Cab,” by the Naked Brothers Band.
Nothing says Wall Street quite like lots of money! Have little musical theater students greedily snatch moneybags from each other to “Money Makes the World Go Round,” from Cabaret. And your tiniest tappers in suits and briefcases can keep the stock market above ground by incorporating hand signals from the trading floor to “Wall Street Shuffle,” by 10cc.
Also, check out the instrumental soundtrack of the 2010 movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps or the Mad Men theme song (“A Beautiful Mine,” by RJD2) for lyrical or ballet numbers. Dresses and pearls, inspired by the 1950s, will get your ballerinas into character.
When we think big-city skyscrapers, we think King Kong. Have a class with one boy? He can be the gigantic ape while the girls dance around him. If you’re feeling really creative, use cardboard cutouts of buildings in the NYC skyline as props. “King Kong Song” by ABBA will make it fun and upbeat!
Celebrate the end of a busy workweek with a humorous hip-hop number to *NSYNC’s “Just Got Paid.”
Root, Root, Root for the Home Team
New York is home to nine major sports teams, each with diehard fans. But don’t forget to think outside the big arenas: the New York City Marathon’s course twists through all five boroughs, and the US Open takes place in Queens. And recreational sports like street hockey and wall ball are fixtures on neighborhood blocks. Here are a few ideas to bring the heat to your recital stage.
Kick off the scene with the theme from ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Dads will love it and the clear “da, da, da—da, da, da” synthesized melody will make it easy for even your youngest dancers to find the beat. Set up a desk downstage, and have two sports anchors introduce the upcoming numbers to provide entertainment during set changes.
Mets or Yankees? Queens or the Bronx? Create your own Subway Series and have your tap students battle it out to original team theme songs: “Meet the Mets,” by Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz, and “Here Come the Yankees,” by Bob Bundin and Lou Stallman. End the battle by bringing out a tapper in Red Sox garb—everyone can agree to gang up on Boston!
Sure, Fosse’s Damn Yankees is actually about the Washington Senators, but if your musical theater dancers really sell it in “Heart,” does it matter? Use Tyce Diorio’s choreography to “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO” on “So You Think You Can Dance” as inspiration.
Is that Spike Lee in the front row watching your Knicks routine? Dress your dancers in blue and orange and create a funky dance-team-esque routine in homage to the Knicks City Dancers. Use red-white-and-blue–starred basketballs, and practice cool tricks à la the Harlem Globetrotters. Try 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This,” from ESPN Presents: Jock Jams, Volume 1, or Quad City DJ’s “Space Jam” to get the crowd riled up.
Whether you cheer for the Rangers or Islanders, no hockey game is complete without Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Stock up on black-tooth makeup to complete your players’ toothless grins, and don’t forget about those standard hockey-player black eyes. Include your audience: Pass out giant foam fingers and let them go nuts during the applause!
A Central Park Outing
With expansive grasses, a glistening lake and enough paths to run a marathon, no other city has a place quite like Central Park—an oasis in the center of a roaring metropolis. Travel to this beautiful NYC locale with these uptown suggestions.
Introduce your audience to the wonders of the park with “Central Park New York” by The Wiggles. Have ballet students plan a picnic in the grass to The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” And don’t forget the Central Park Zoo! Use “At the Zoo,” by Simon & Garfunkel, for younger dancers who can dress up as their favorite animals.
Capture the sophisticated air of Upper East Siders shopping along the perimeter of the park or having tea at The Plaza Hotel. Girls in party dresses can dance to “Uptown Girl,” by Billy Joel, while holding shopping bags. Or use “NYC Girls,” by Joey McIntyre, for a jazz routine. Accessorize with stuffed dogs poking their heads out of pink purses!
Central Park is the perfect place to exercise. A jazz class in roller skating gear can mime skating through the park to “Rolling in the Deep,” by Adele (or if you’re feeling daring, experiment with them doing part of the dance on actual roller skates). And fill the running paths with joggers in gym shorts and sweatbands. Use “Running,” by No Doubt, or go the hip-hop route with “Let’s Get It Started,” by the Black Eyed Peas.
Capture the holiday season in NYC with a number about ice-skating in the Central Park rink—bundle your dancers in hats, gloves and skating skirts and have them glide across the stage into a graceful tour jeté. This is the perfect option for a partnering number. Use the snow scene music from The Nutcracker or “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, or try a musical theater routine to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
Bright Broadway Lights
The sky’s the limit with this act; nothing says “Big Apple” better than sequined Broadway. Bring your audience to the Great White Way with legendary songs, iconic images and routines about the life of a Broadway gypsy.
Demonstrate the struggles of triple-threat training and auditioning with “Let Me Entertain You,” from Gypsy; or “Fame,” sung by Irene Cara for the movie. Have siblings in your cast? Have the pair one-up each other in “Anything You Can Do,” from Annie Get Your Gun. Or try the same number with boys versus girls.
Kander and Ebb’s music in Chicago sets the stage for showbiz. Using songs like “All that Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle” can give some bite to your older dancers’ jazz routines. And let your younger classes perfect their Charlestons to the lyric-less “Hot Honey Rag.” Minimal costumes—tights, heels and leotards—are enough for Fosse’s simple look.
No one has more staying power on Broadway than Andrew Lloyd Weber. Create a medley of your favorite tunes: Have your youngest jazz students wear kitten ears and tails for Cats; get your ballerinas waltzing to music from The Phantom of the Opera; and create a spicy tango routine with music from Evita.
Visit the streets of Times Square with a funky jazz piece to “On Broadway,” by George Benson; or try two tap routines: “Lullaby of Broadway” and “42nd Street,” both from the iconic 42nd Street.
Pay homage to 1930s Broadway with precise lines of leggy chorus girls clad in sequined dresses and heels, à la the Radio City Rockettes. Finish this scene off with the finale to A Chorus Line, “One,” complete with top hats, gloves, canes and, of course, more sequins.
The whole studio can perform in a classic jazz piece to “Give My Regards to Broadway,” by George M. Cohan. Use the version with Judy Garland—it’s upbeat, patriotic and perfect for a finale with large group formations. It’s not too fast, letting your novice dancers and more advanced students dance together. DT
Photo: Costume Gallery: “Undercover,” style 12660