Talks about her debut on NBC's "Smash"

Joey Dowling has one long leg planted in the commercial world and the other in concert dance. The former Radio City Rockette has appeared in the films Chicago and Rock of Ages, performed on Broadway in the revival of Sweet Charity, choreographed for “So You Think You Can Dance” and was associate choreographer for the Tony Award–winning musical In the Heights. Dowling grew up competing at her mother’s studio, The Dance Club in Orem, Utah, and she continues to be a role model for young dancers nationwide. On faculty at New York City Dance Alliance, she also choreographs for competition studios and designs dancewear for Jo+Jax, the apparel line she co-founded with her sister. “I’ve always liked being busy,” she says about doing it all. “I freak out when I sit home and have nothing to do. It’s just how I keep going—there’s always something more.”

This winter, Dowling adds another show to her credits—a dance role in the second season premiere of NBC’s television musical drama, “Smash.”

Dance Teacher: Can you tell us about your role on “Smash”?

Joey Dowling: I play a dancer playing a model in a Broadway show routine that Derek [Jack Davenport] the director and Karen [Katharine McPhee] go to see. It’s a number about a black model (based on the famous Naomi Sims) who breaks out onto the scene. At first, you only see white models walking the catwalk, and all of a sudden, the Naomi Sims character, played by Jennifer Hudson, appears and starts singing to the effect of, “Get back. I’m coming down and I’m going to make my mark.” We’re all dressed in very couture houndstooth suits, and as she walks down the runway telling us off, she throws out her hair and takes off her dress to reveal a gold outfit. The other models jump onboard and it turns into a huge go-go dance party.

DT: What were the rehearsals like?

JD: We had about four days of rehearsal and then we shot the number in one day. We got in at 5 am, and we wrapped at about 7 pm and did not stop. When we were working with Jennifer Hudson, many dancers—myself included—would keep getting distracted because she was so vocally amazing. She would sing on top of the track and we just wanted to stand and listen.

DT: On “Smash” we see a rendition of Broadway behind the scenes. Are the fictional rehearsals true to life?

JD: There’s more comedy in a real rehearsal, more joking around. But they capture the essence: people falling, tripping, screwing up and also doing a run-through so amazingly and having a vibe that’s magical.

DT: What are the differences between a Broadway and TV rehearsal?

JD: A lot of it depends on the choreographer; he sets the tone of the room. If he is stressed, the room gets very tense. But I understand that pressure from being on that side with In the Heights. You really have a time crunch. Maybe 20 years ago, people had six to eight weeks to put a show together; now you’re lucky if you get four. You have about one day to teach each number before moving on to put in the scenes and transitions.

TV is a bit less stressful. There’s more time, and when shooting they can do as many takes as they want to get it right. I’m a big fan of films. It pays better, you get residuals and it’s more relaxed.

DT: Do you have advice for young dancers trying to break onto the professional scene?

JD: You can’t get complacent and expect that if you get an agent, you can just sit home and wait for things to happen. The best artists have their own YouTube channels; they’re producing videos and collaborating with friends. They’re doing everything in their power to make things happen on their own.

The competition world really sets you up for having a career, period. And not only in dance—any career has a competitive edge. DT

 

 

Photo: Joey Dowling (far left) in costume for her “Smash” debut, by Eric Liebowitz/NBC

 

 

Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

When choosing music for tap, Jason Samuels Smith encourages teachers to start with classic jazz music. Improvisation, call and response, and syncopated rhythms embedded in the genre and its history, in general, help students to understand the structure of tap, which is different than other styles of dance. "Tap dancers have the responsibility to be more than just a visual artist," he says. "They're an instrument and a sound."

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo Courtesy of Ballet Next

In 2011, when former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles departed the company and formed BalletNext, she found an artistic freedom she'd been longing for. Along with new collaborations with choreographers and musicians, she began working with trumpeter Tom Harrell, who introduced her to the multilayered sounds of jazz. "The dancers are another instrument to a jazz musician," says Wiles. Pairing this music genre with her classical foundation has been pivotal in defining her style. "I have this classical facility, but my mind is more contemporary. Jazz is a good intersection for my work," she says.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo by Rachel Papo

Martin Harvey brought a little movie star charm into morning ballet class at our New York Dance Teacher Summit. (His acting credits include Gossip Girls, All My Children, Dirty Dancing, A Chorus Line, Carousel, plus Metropolitan Opera productions of Carmen and Manon Lescaut.) Educated at the Royal Ballet School in London, he danced many principal roles for The Royal Ballet during his 12-year career.

Mark Your Calendar

Join us in Long Beach, CA, July 26–28, or in NYC, August 1–3, for our 2019 Dance Teacher Summit.

Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Q: What suggestions do you have for dancers to get their shoulder blades to lie flat on their backs?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo by Sarah Ash, courtesy of Larkin Dance

Ask Michele Larkin-Wagner and Molly Larkin-Symanietz what sets them and Maplewood, Minnesota–based Larkin Dance Studio apart, and they immediately give the credit to their mom. Shirley Larkin founded the school in 1950 and continued to oversee the growing business until she passed away in 2011. "She put Minnesota on the map for dance training and made other local studios step up to the plate to become as strong as we are," Michele says. "A lot of people's lives are better because of Shirley Larkin."

For Michele and Molly, following in their mom's footsteps was a no-brainer. "I knew I was going to be a choreographer and take over the studio," Michele says. To Molly, seven years Michele's junior and the baby out of six siblings, the studio was always a second home. The two sisters trained across genres but had distinct specialties: Michele found her niche in jazz, musical theater and lyrical, while Molly excelled in tap. In the summers, they'd travel for workshops in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. While Michele was in class with jazz legends like Gus Giordano, JoJo Smith, Luigi and Frank Hatchett, Molly was taking tap classes with the likes of Brenda Bufalino and Phil Black.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Gandarillas

In Macarena Gandarillas' jazz class at California State University, Fullerton, a sign in the studio reads, "Never underestimate the power of determination." This simple mantra embodies what has made this self-described "danceaholic" such an impactful teacher.

When Gandarillas came to Los Angeles at age 6 with her family from Santiago, Chile, the language barrier was beyond overwhelming—until her mom enrolled her in ballet classes. Gandarillas found an instant love. "There were no Spanish-speaking kids at my school," she says. "But with dance I could communicate with my body. I'd finally found my voice."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: Is teaching for an after-school program a good way to find a job in K–12?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Inspire School of Arts and Sciences

It was the morning of November 8, 2018, and Jarrah Myles' first-period choreography students were in last-minute rehearsals for their fall dance concert that evening. "All of a sudden my students' phones started ringing like crazy," says Myles, a teacher at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences, a Chico, California, high school whose dance and theater programs Myles helped establish in 2010. "And once they answered, I saw these tragic faces staring back at me."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox