Photo Credit: Broadway Dance Lab, Choreographer Karen Seiber
The famous Broadway shows that we love to watch don’t just come together over night. Choreographers must go through an extensive creative process, testing different concepts and ideas, before they decide on what their shows will eventually look like. Surprisingly, after his involvement with Shrek the Musical, choreographer Josh Prince discovered that there were really no spaces available for choreographers in the New York dance community to practice and test out new ideas. This drove him to create Broadway Dance Lab (BDL), which supports the work of choreographers by providing them with free rehearsal space and a company of professional dancers.
Founded in 2012, BDL is the only arts service organization whose sole mission is to support theater choreographers of all backgrounds. “Everyone deserves and needs a practice room. I found it to be a very broken model for creation and found that it was a problem that needed to be solved in the industry,” Prince told Playbill. BDL strives to create an artistically safe, highly sophisticated environment for choreographers to practice their ideas and incubate new dance-driven ideas from the pressures and influences normally associated with commissions and/or production.
Photo Credit: Broadway Dance Lab, Founder and Choreographer Josh Prince
At the center of BDL are lab cycles, where choreographers are granted 20 hours of free exploration time in large spaces complete with a company of 12 professional dancers who are secured by contracts and competitive salaries. Each year, through an online submission process, Prince invites a select group of choreographers to participate in a month-long lab that provides space and trained dancers to test concepts. At the cycle’s conclusion, choreographers present their work in a final showcase, free of charge.
Every cycle of BDL includes some of New York’s best choreographers such as Andy Blankenbuehler, Al Blackstone, and Camille A. Brown, with the sole intention of providing them with an open, pressure-free environment to create. ““The choreographers have all of the tools at their disposal to be able to make, experiment, or play. Every morning, I [was] able to explore and experiment in a way that I rarely am able to,” commented Blackstone to Playbill. A new company of dancers is assembled for each lab cycle, curated by Prince, who serves as artistic director. Prince also utilizes a casting director and holds open call auditions to search for talent.
Photo Credit: Broadway Dance Lab, Choreographer Brooke Wendle
In addition to these creation grants, BDL fosters risk-taking, encourages collaboration, provides mentorship, and enhances the future of dance on Broadway. Prince views choreographers like writers and writers need tools to write. Therefore, he seeks to provide choreographers with highly-trained, versatile dancers in addition to rehearsal space that allows the exploration of all ideas and concepts.
Prince’s choreography credits include Shrek the Musical, a new adaptation of Frozen for Disney Cruise Lines, and he directed Grease at the Winter Garden Theater in Toronto, CA. Currently, he is working on the new musical, Trevor, and A Walk on the Moon in San Francisco. He is also the choreographer for the hit Broadway show, Beautiful- The Carole King Musical.
Currently, BDL rents spaces in the following locations: NY City Center, Martha Graham Studios, Paul Taylor Studios, National Dance Institute, Baryshnikov Arts Center, and Mark Morris Dance Studios. To learn more about BDL, visit www.broadwaydancelab.org .