Michelle Joy

Michelle Joy IS a bundle of joy!  Every moment she is around you feel as though life is covered with sunshine.  She is also a spectacular dancer!  What really sets her apart aside from her impeccable technique is the emotion she brings to her dancing.  I saw her in Damnation of Faust at the Met Opera and was astounded by her free and passionate movement.  

It is incredibly exciting to be able to share her audition advice with you!  One thing that has always impressed me about Michelle is her laid back energy at auditions.  It is almost as though she is there just to have fun and go with the flow.  (In her own words: “I just try to perform my best.  I remind myself that everything else is out of my control.  When I was a younger dancer I used to compare myself to other dancers in the room.  Now I just try to stay focused on myself.”)  I think that attitude is part of what allows her to be so successful!  

But enough about my observations of the glorious Michelle Joy – let’s let her speak for herself!:)

Can you give us a little background your dance career?
  I’ve been dancing professionally for ten years nows.  I received my dance training from Houston Ballet Academy on full Scholarship.  After I graduated at age 17 I landed my first paid job with Colorado Ballet as an apprentice.  I later danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, American Repertory Ballet and The The Metropolitan Opera.  I’m currently performing this leading role a workshop of a new show, 49th St and Other Stories.
How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?
  I find I’m less stressed about auditions, I just try to perform my best.  I remind myself that everything else is out of my control.  When I was a younger dancer I used to compare myself to other dancers in the room.  Now I just try to stay focused on myself. 
Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?
  I like to stand is where I can see the combination the best and practice the steps.  Sometimes the most space is in the very front, (because some people are scared to stand there) and sometimes it’s in the back row.
What do you wear to auditions?

  I seem to do the best when I am wearing just a nice leotard and booty shots or something that shows my body.  Directors and choreographers want to see dancers, not their wardrobe.
Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly at an audition?

  I try not to over analyze any one step and let the entire combination sink it.  Paying close attention to the counts helps memorize the combination faster.
What do you do if you are having trouble picking up a combination or style?
  If I’m not familiar with the style I try to pay more attention to the counts and make sure that my body is in the right place at the right time.  Hip hop and tap combinations are very difficult for me. 
Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?
  Yes, but I try to be specific, such as: “what is on count seven?” or “can you repeat the opening section?”
What was your most challenging audition and how did you conquer it?

  The most challenging audition for me was when I auditioned for American Repertory Ballet.  The audition was six hours long including a class, repertory, partnering and improve.  They kept making cuts after every different combination.  I had no idea I was going to be there all day long.  I ended up signing the only female contract at the end of the day, but I couldn’t walk for a week.
If you were to recommend one style of dance for a singer who moves to study – which would it be and why?

  I would suggest a musical theatre class such at Richard Pierlon’s class because the first hour you spend in the center working on technique and flexibility and the second half you work on a combination.

Which classes do you take that you feel are most helpful for auditions?

  Deborah Roshe’s jazz class at Steps on Broadway helped me learn to pick up choreography quickly and to put counts to every move. 

As a dancer who sings – how do you approach a singing callback? Do you have a different mentality than during a dance call?

  Naturally I’m way more nervous about the singing portion of the audition.  I’ve been taking weekly voice lessons for the past 3 years which has given me more confidence.  My voice teacher and I always prepare a song in advance for an audition which I may or may non get called back to sing.
Are there any classes you would recommend a non-dancer take to work on audition skills?

  Lisa Lockwood’s class at Steps is a great basic ballet class with lots of begging adults.  I think that taking a ballet one or twice a week will help anyone with the basics for any dance audition no matter what the style is.  
What is the best audition advice you’ve ever received?

  You’re not going to get any job sitting in your apartment.  Showing up is the most important thing whether you think you are right for the show or not.


Next in our SPOTLIGHT series is the gorgeous, talented, and infinitely generous Danielle!

I first met Danielle in ballet class at STEPS where her long legs were the envy of everyone in the class and her cheery hard working personality inspired all!   Though she hadn’t chosen teaching as her profession at the time, she was already working as a teacher at the “School at Steps.”  She asked me to be her teaching assistant for a class of three year olds.  This task seemed incredibly daunting to me, but I was soo gobsmacked by how Danielle made ballet fun and appropriately challenging each of her students, from the one who would rather be coloring outside to the one who would be future prima ballerina.  They were truly lucky students.  (Her students today continue to be lucky students!)

She also has a super power that I can only dream of – she is a FABULOUS TAPPER!  (I am quite possibly the world’s most horrendous tapper.  I have virtually zero sense of rhythm, I’m a ballerina so my feet always want to point and be above my head instead of relaxed and tapping near the ground, and to make matters worse, I’m actually allergic to the metal the taps are made out!  Now if that isn’t a sign!)  At any rate, Ms. Danielle generously offered to help me learn to tap, and I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am for the patience and humor she brought to each of our sessions.   Knowing my unwavering love of THE LITTLE MERMAID, she would even bring in arrangements of UNDER THE SEA knowing that if any song was gonna get me tapping, that was it!

THE BEST NEWS OF ALL is that YOU TOO can take class with Ms. Danielle!  She teaches both Zumba (at Steps Wed. at 8 p.m. and Ballet Hispanico Thursday at 7 p.m.) and Pilates (at Pilates on Fifth!)

Here’s a description of her Zumba class:

The Zumba® program fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness program that will blow you away. Our goal is simple: We want you to want to work out, to love working out, to get hooked. Zumba® Fanatics achieve long-term benefits while experiencing an absolute blast in one exciting hour of calorie-burning, body-energizing, awe-inspiring movements meant to engage and captivate for life!

***(M4M note – Zumba is a FABULOUS way to get into dance, even if you have never danced a day in your life!  We will hopefully be doing a Zumba special in the future featuring Danielle!)


What is your pursued career?  (Singer, dancer, actor, lawyer?) 
I refer to myself as a “Movement Educator”. I primarily teach dance to kids, but I am also a licensed ZUMBA Instructor and Certified to teach Pilates (Mat and Machines)

What are favorite forms of exercise and why?  
I love to move so I try to mix it up regularly! I did a lot of Pilates before I started teaching it but I am trying to rekindle my love for it. I am currently loving Yoga and Gyrotonic. Of course, there’s also dance class- ballet, tap, jazz, modern….Since I started teaching Zumba I have no interest in Cardio equipment except the rebounder.

What are your favorite classes (in any form of fitness) in the city and what do you love about them?
Classes at Sonic Yoga, especially those taught by Johanna Aldrich (she is AMAZING- you will think about your life in ways you might not usually- while you have your shoulder tucked under your elbow and your other knee by your ear-it’s everything yoga shoud be- contemplative, yet hot and sweaty, and flowing and a kick tush workout!)  They also do 6 week beginner workshops regularly for people who have no yoga experience at all.

Barre Sculpt and Cardiolates at Pilates on Fifth– These classes take pilates ideas and meld them with ballet barre work and weights and the rebounder, respectively, and they are fun ways to mix up your routine.

ZUMBA (is it too self serving if I say taught by ME) I teach at Steps on Broadway and Ballet Hispanico, but you can find amazing classes all over! http://38595.zumba.com/ It’s FUN and it is a non monotonous way of doing cardio!

What do you do at home or on the road to stay in shape when you can’t get to a class or the gym?The flexband is your best friend. It’s tiny and portable and makes doing mat work or just toning and stretching exercises more interesting on the road. I also like www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com. Its a free service if you want to use it on your laptop, or you can pay to download workout videos to your mobile device. Katherine and Kimberly Corp lead a whole slew of awesome Pilates workouts to suit every need and level.

How do you approach a dance/movement audition and what advice would you have for non-dancers in a dance audition?  
I don’t (audition) anymore, because I’m an amazing teacher and a mediocre auditioner. However, I had the most success at auditions when I was wearing something that I felt good about my body in. (Leotards, goodbye. Hello, Lululemon tank and Skort). I also found that I performed best when I was really relaxed and didn’t get over invested in any specific call. If you put forth all of your energy when you take dance class, treating an audition “like class” in your head really helps. If you take class regularly and give it your all and take risks in class (It’s great to fall on your but in class), you have a stronger arsenal of things to help you in auditions.

What to wear to class and where to buy it.

We all saw the Black Swan and dread wearing pink tights.  The good news is – you NEVER HAVE TO WEAR PINK TIGHTS.  Or any tights if you don’t want to.

The studios I listed below are “open class” studios, and with the exception of one teacher (David Marquez who requires you to wear all black form fitting cloths), you can wear whatever you feel comfortable in.  I happen to wear booty shorts I made myself (by cutting off long black leggings to a length I am comfortable with) and a leotard to every class I take.   Other people wear sweat pants and baggy shirts, others wear a sports bra and uber short booty shorts, others wear pink tights and leotards, some wear fishnets, some wear black tights, one very well-known male ballet dancer is famous for wearing what is essentially a purple snuggie to class.   Yes – a Snuggie.  The most important thing when dressing for dance class is to make sure the cloths allow you to utilize your full range of motion (stretchy!) and that you feel comfortable and beautiful enough to walk into a room full of mirrors confidently.  You are pretty much always safe in tights,shorts (baggy or tight fitting), yoga pants (anything from lululemon works beautifully), a ballet skirt, a leotard, a sports bra with a form fitting t-shirt, or a yoga top.  For boys, you will NEED a dance belt.  (It protects vital equipment.)   It always seemed self explanatory to me, but one poor boy once wore his dance belt OVER his tights.  You should know, a dance belt goes UNDER your tights/pants/shorts.  Otherwise, you can wear just about anything you’d wear to work out in – t-shirt, sweat pants, tights, gym shorts, booty shorts, sweathshirt, and if you are a particularly fit guy, some teachers will let you go topless when it get starts getting steamy in the class room.   I promise you, no matter what your insecurities are, no one in the class is judging you based on what you are wearing.  They are all too busy feeling self-conscious about themselves.

The most IMPORTANT thing is to have the proper FOOT WEAR.  Teachers may ask you to leave the class if you don’t have proper footwear.  So what IS proper footwear?  Well it changes based on the class.  Here is a basic set of guidelines.

Ballet – Flat ballet slippers.  Black, white, tan, or pink all work.  Canvas or Leather work equally well.   I would recommend a split sole shoe.  I use the “Sansha Pro” which is a canvas split sole, and is sized exactly the same as a street shoe.  Socks aren’t typically considered acceptable, although a few teachers will let you take your first class with them in socks.  I HIGHLY encourage you to invest in a pair of flat ballet shoes.  They are inexpensive and you will use them.

Jazz/Theatre Dance – a typical jazz warm-up will be in bare feet or socks.  When you move into the “center” or start on the combination you will be asked to switch into “flats” or “heels.”  This means – flat JAZZ shoes (ballet slippers can be used in a pinch if they are all you have, but you will feel “jazzier” in jazz flat) or for females – it may also mean character shoes with heels.  Most of the “fierce” dancers will be using a bran called La Duca, but Capezio makes equally solid shoes.  For beginners I recommend inch and a half to two inch heels.  Three inch heels are difficult to dance in, and not really necessary.  Lower than an inch and a half and you won’t get the “dancing in heels” effect.  When trying on character heels, you should test if the arch allows you to pointe your foot.  This means the arch of the shoe is mobile and will bend a little like a flat shoe, making your lines longer and dancing for comfortable.

Tap:  You really need to wear tap shoes to properly tap.  Flat shoes are easier, but most auditions and shows will require girls to dance in heels.  I’d recommend getting an inexpensive pair of one and a half or two inch heels and attaching taps.  You do NOT want the center of these shoes to “pointe and flex.”  It will make tapping far more difficult.

Contemporary/Modern:  These classes are usually barefoot or in socks.  There is a brand called Dance Paws which makes fun dance shoes that look like you are dancing barefoot but protects the soles of your feet if you are worried about blisters.

For specialty classes such as Flamenco and Belly Dancing check the course descriptions or call the studio ahead of time and ask what shoes and equipment they recommend.  (When I walk by Flamenco Classes they have special shoes and long skirts that flare out, and belly dance classes often have “jingle skirts,” scarves, and finger cymbals.

Here are some of my favorite places to shop for dance clothing and equipment.

Discount Dance Supply
a great place for everything dance (shoes, cloths, bags, etc…) with great prices!

La Duca Shoes
The famed dance shoe maker.  They are pricey, but they have a more economical student line.

(they designed the leotards for Black Swan.)
These are my favorite leotards.  They have a pre-made line, but you can also custom order your own designs and colors.   Very flattering!  If you can, visit their boutique on 46th st. in Manhattan!

Capezio makes great shoes and has a good selection of dance wear.

Their store has lots of cute dance clothing, they also make my favorite ballet slippers

Dancer’s Warehouse
If Discount Dance Supply doesn’t have it…Dancer’s Warehouse will.

Lulu Lemon
This is primarily a yoga/pilates store, but all of their clothing makes great dancewear.  They have very cute tops and bottoms which you can mix and match.  They also have fabulous cover-up, jackets, and bags.

Freed makes beautiful pointe shoes.  They have a store in Queens that specializes in personalized shoe fittings.  They also sell lovely leotards and cover-ups.

Class-In is a secret shop on 72nd st and Amsterdam.  They custom make leotards and have a great array of ready to wear leotards.  They are known for their bright colors and fun prints.

If you are lucky, you might have a Bloch store near you, or you might have to order on-line.  Their leotards and shoes are all fabulous and durable.  I highly recommend all of their products!

Mer Wear
A new line of leotards and cover-up.  They are all designed by a beautiful dancer named Merrin Trombka – so all of her creations are incredibly dancer friendly!

A lot of dance studios will also have boutiques where they sell dance friendly cloths and shoes!:)

Happy Dancing!