New York City Dance Alliance
By Deborah Searle of Dance Informa
Touring to 23 cities across the US, New York City Dance Alliance is one of the country’s most renowned dance conventions. NYCDA brings the best of the New York dance world to its participants at both the regional and national level, culminating in an exciting jam-packed Nationals event every July at Sheraton New York.
Convention weekends not only include workshops from an impressive faculty of the industry’s best, but a thrilling competition and even real audition experiences, providing participants with valuable training, performance and employment opportunities.
With such an encompassing program, NYCDA has a reputation for attracting the best dancers in the country. “We pride ourselves on that,” shares Managing Director Leah Brandon. “But it’s not what we’re all about. The real truth is that we really want to attract dancers who care about being their best as dancers and as people.”
Celebrating their 19th season, NYCDA is obviously doing something very right. When Executive Director Joe Lanteri approached Leah Brandon with his idea for a dance convention back in 1993, he had a vision which they have stayed true to all these years.
“Our vision has not veered much in time, it has only expanded. I genuinely felt that there was a need within the dance convention world for an organization that was willing to help bridge the gap between the local dance studio and convention training to the real professional world of dance. That has always been the driving force in all that we do in terms of faculty, how we put together our curriculum and all the opportunities that we make available to the young dancers. We inspire young dancers to not only pursue their dreams, but to really believe that they are attainable.”
“The focus is the dancers - period!” adds Brandon. “There’s not a decision that ever gets made that’s not focused on investing in the dancer and his or her future, and the dance schools themselves. There are times where a school comes to us and they are not currently the best, but they choose to come to us because they want to be - they want to work, they want to learn, they want to be challenged, they want it!”
NYCDA doesn’t only attract the best young dancers in the country, it also attracts casting directors and the dance communities finest artistic directors, choreographers and educators.
“At last summer’s Nationals there were five different Broadway casting directors there working with the young kids, including Tony award winning choreographers. Radio City and Cirque du Solei were there auditioning dancers, and the students also got to experience Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions and Cedar Lake,” boasts Lanteri.
And dancers don’t just get these opportunities at the Nationals event. “Newsies is traveling with us to many of the Regional events looking for young teenagers,” shares Lanteri. “Many of our boys have ended up in the Broadway company of Newsies.”
With a new program this season, called Friday Night Sessions, dancers can enjoy a two hour master class with a leader in the professional dance community at every Regional event.
“Several times this year Desmond Richardson has come out to do a Complexions repertoire workshop, Tony Dovolani taught a ballroom workshop, and Edgar Godineaux, the associate choreographer for Flashdance, has come out to do an audition workshop,” says Brandon. “In a few weeks Josh Bergasse, the choreographer for Smash, is coming for Friday Night Session.”
These workshops give the dancers a taste of the real dance world. “It really opens their minds to the different kinds of opportunities that might be out there if they choose to be dancers,” explains Brandon. “These are opportunities that you wouldn’t normally get in the convention world,” Lanteri elaborates.
“I think New York City Dance Alliance is the only convention that is truly looking to invest in their futures,” says Lanteri. “I think there are lots of opportunities for good workshop classes, and we certainly offer among the best classes in the industry, but we take it that next step, and that goes back to our original mission. We are committed to staying involved in these dancers’ lives. I have dancers of every age that I’ve met through NYCDA that are still a large part of our lives. We are committed to helping build the future of these young dancers, which in turn builds the future of dance.”
To take this a step further, the NYCDA Foundation was started in 2010. “I took it upon myself to create a foundation to help young dancers that genuinely would like to continue to pursue their training and education but financially are challenged to do it,” says Lanteri. Dancers receive college dance scholarships via the foundation and NYCDA has also developed college partners that attend the Nationals and recruit dancers via Foundation auditions, awarding scholarships to dancers that they want to entice to their programs.
“We produce annual fundraising events and have a ‘Bright Lights Shining Stars’ gala in September that raises funds for the Foundation. We are proud to say that one hundred per cent of any raised funds have gone dollar for dollar to dancers going to college,” reveals Brandon.
“Capezio is one of the Gold Sponsors of our Foundation and we are proud to offer a Capezio College Scholarship to a deserving teenager every July,” says Lanteri. “Capezio honestly was one of the first companies that I contacted way back when I started Dance Alliance. Capezio shares our passion for education and for reaching out to these young dancers.”
“Capezio is very involved in our Outstanding Dancer Program, which is our national scholarship program that starts regionally and has a follow through to Nationals,” Brandon adds. “We’ve had such a great relationship with Capezio over all of these years and we are so appreciative. They continue to support our goals and philosophies, and they really believe in our mission.”
With a mission to help dancers fulfil their dreams, NYCDA has surely succeeded, giving thousands of dollars in dance scholarships to deserving students for 19 seasons! And with the development of the NYCDA Foundation, the giving has amplified.
“Since 2010 over one hundred talented teenagers have benefited from more than five million dollars in college scholarships that have been awarded through our college partners and the Foundation! That’s something I’m incredibly proud of,” says Lanteri.
And proud he should be! NYCDA has achieved so much and continues to serve the dance community and better its programs every single year. “It is so exciting, and to be really honest I’m very humbled by it,” shares Lanteri. “It’s amazing what you end up building over time without really realising it by just getting up every day, working hard, and continuing to love what you do.”
To find out more about NYCDA visit www.nycdance.com.