The American Theater Dance Workshop prepares aspiring, as well as working professionals for a career in Broadway Musical Theater.
By Vanessa Neupmann
In a modern dance studio at Hofstra University, Long Island, a group of teenagers is sweating, smiling and performing
like they were in a Broadway production. The live music makes the ambiance exciting, and the students are determined to get
their steps right, under their instructor's intense gaze.
This is just another day at the summer camp offered by the American Theater Dance Workshop, held at Hofstra University,
Long Island. Students throughout the United States and from as far away as Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Norway come to
Long Island to participate in the workshop. A two-week highly intensive programis designed for the serious, intermediate to
advanced dancer, ages fourteen and older. Dance teachers who take the program come away with a wealth of information for their
own studios, said program director Madeline Dempster.
A typical day consists of six hours of classes. The evenings are reserved for additional classes, seminars, master classes
and rehearsals. There are also trips to New York City to see Broadway shows and do some sightseeing. The story of the American
Theater Dance Workshop began in 1982, as the American Dance Machine. The primary goal, according to Dempster, was to "reconstruct,
perform and preserve the great dance numbers from Broadway." In 1986 when the company's founder, Lee Theodore died, it
became the American Theater Dance Workshop. Dempster also stated, "Our goal was to continue the educational aspect. To
this day, we teach choreographic styles of the Broadway stage in our Theater Dance, Musical Theater, Tap and Repertory classes,
so that they will be preserved for future generations." Dempster, a Hofstra Alumni, was once directed by Francis Ford
Coppolla, while she was a student at the university.
The workshop's faculty is composed of professional dancers such as Johnny Anzalone, a New Orleans native. Anzalone started
to dance when he was 18 years old and his performance credits include the Broadway Company of Cats, the national tour of La
Cage Aux Folles, the international company of West Side Story, the Broadway workshops of Legs Diamond, and Fosse, the American
Dance Machine and the Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians. Anzalone currently teaches at New York University.
According to Bill Hastings, "Dancing makes you young!" Hastings, 56, started dancing at the age of 23, and teaches
choreography at the program. He has a very impressive and extensive resume, which includes performing in over forty musicals
and plays such as the Broadway and National Tour productions of The Most Happy Fella, A Chorus Line, Cabaret, Rags, Bob Fosse's
Dancing, and Sweet Charity. Hastings has also choreographed over forty productions for American, European, and Japanese theater,
television, video, industrial, and concert dance companies including Peter Pan, The King and I, Dames at Sea, The Pajama Game,
My Fair Lady, Where's Charlie?, The Boy Friend, The Wiz, and Grease among others.
The program's instructors are all stage-experienced and their faculty still includes names such as Lillie Kae Stevens,
(Chicago, Evita, West Side Story); Karin Baker, (The Carol Burnett Show); and Jeffrey Dunn, who as a director is creditedfor
numerous musicals all over the world, including record-breaking European tours of Oklahoma! and West Side Story.
To participate in the workshop, students must audition first. Next, the audition tapes are carefully reviewed by Dempster,
who selects the students. Some of them are coming back for a second workshop, and others, such as faculty member Lillie Kae
Stevens, have graduated from it. "When they first come in, each one of them has their own style, but at the end of the
workshop, they are very uniform, very professional," said Dempster.
There are not too many boys in the workshop, and few like Michael Darnell, 18, from Tucson, Arizona, are coming back for
the second time. " I hope to be a professional dancer someday," said Darnell.
Maggie Gomez Madonia, 16, from New Jersey, also hopes to have a professional career in the future. In the meantime, despite
the rigorous training and pressure to learn so much within such a short period of time, these kids are having fun and enjoying
every minute of it, thanks to the professionalism and dedication of their instructors.
The workshop is held every summer, and the tuition of $1925 covers room and board.
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