Recommended: Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater

By Eddie Shapiro

Oxford University Press; 384 pages; $39.95

Life on the Broadway stage, from an audience’s perspective, looks glamorous and exciting. But what about the stuff that goes on behind the scenes—the out-of-town tryouts that fizzle, the cattle-call auditions, the chronic injuries? In his 20 interviews with leading ladies of the stage, Eddie Shapiro offers a wide-ranging—and honest—taste of what it means to be a woman in today’s world of musical theater. His candid conversations with the likes of Bebe Neuwirth (Chicago, Sweet Charity) and Donna McKechnie (A Chorus Line, Company) alternately idolize and humanize the biggest female stage stars of the 20th and 21st centuries. Though Shapiro’s musical theater insider information is already formidable, he still extracts new tidbits from his subjects: Chita Rivera (West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie) mentions that Jerome Robbins taught her to act and not just dance onstage; Sutton Foster (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek) recalls “bawling [her] eyes out naked in [her] dressing room” after Millie’s second preview, convinced she’d been terrible. Your Broadway-bound students will love reading about their favorite leading ladies, but bear in mind that a few of these divas can have quite the potty mouth (we’re looking at you, Patti LuPone).

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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