"For me, it's a big full circle," says Lanteri, who used to take class at Steps when he first moved to New York City, and started teaching there in the mid-1980s. The 4:30 p.m. Tuesday/Thursday Advanced Intermediate Jazz slot he held down for many years taught a slew of young talent—including choreographers-to-be like Jessica Lang and Sergio Trujillo. "As a young teacher, Steps was a platform for me to travel the world giving master classes; it became the underlying foundation for what I'm doing now in my life."
Joe Lanteri and Carol Paumgarten at the first annual NYCDAF Bright Lights Shining Start Gala, August 1, 2011, NYU Skirball Center
Steps founder Carol Paumgarten first reached out to Lanteri in February to ask if he'd help her continue the school's legacy. "Carol has made Steps not just an important part of the New York community, but the international dance world," says Lanteri. "This new role is about me bringing new ideas, contacts and energy into the building." Paumgarten will remain a co-owner and director of the school.
Lanteri will be involved in every aspect of the wide-ranging institution, from the open classes to the conservatory program, the visa program, the children's program and the master series. He's already brainstorming what more Steps might be able to do for dancers, such as in-studio performance opportunities in front of industry leaders. "My goal is to augment what Steps already has, and expand the concept of a community that's welcoming to all," he says.
Lanteri will remain executive director of NYCDA, continuing to travel most weekends to regional conventions. "I always love a challenge," he admits. He's hoping that being amongst the next generation of dancers and forming new relationships will only help him create more opportunities for Steps' dancers.
The relationship between Steps and NYCDA isn't new: The school has offered many scholarships to NYCDA dancers over the years, and Steps was one of the original sponsors of the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation College Scholarship Program.
Although Lanteri hasn't yet committed to teaching a regular class again, he won't rule it out. "I always have my dance clothes on me."