The Making of a Musical (part 5)

February 6

It is the final weekend of our February vacation and a perfect time to get caught up on the blog.   Next up: character development.

There are several ways to bring a character from the page to the stage.  It is a personal choice.  Here are three of our actors describing how they develop a character.


First up is Shannen Holohan.  Shannen is playing Robertson Ay who is a member of the Banks household staff.  In developing a character Shannen builds from the outside in.  First learning lines and blocking and then crafting a posture, walk, and voice. Add language, costuming and props and she's got the making of a character.

And then a dash of dialect and Shannen's characters are a delight.


Second is Anna Whitney who is playing Michael Banks.  Anna's forte is imagination.

She studies her character - learning her lines and her blocking - and honestly, probably every else's lines as well.  She formulates her character fully in her imagination first, which allows her to know her characters intimately.  As rehearsals continue Anna brings the character that lives in her imagination to life - bit by bit.

She implements the acting skills that she has learned in class resulting in a fully realized character for all of us to enjoy.


And finally is Allison Seidel.   Allison is playing Jane Banks.  Allison's process is analytical.  First step - a comprehensive character analysis that serves as her guide throughout her rehearsal and performance journey.  She is able to fully understand her character identifying their likes and dislikes, characteristics, relationships, personal data and history.  Some of her character analysis is born out the actual script and the rest comes from her rich imagination.  This is where her creativity comes into play.  Allison's characters are complete and well founded allowing her to delve deeply into her roles with complexity and honesty. 

Physicality, imagination, and analysis are used by each of actors but the methodology is a personal choice.  Whatever works.  The end result - entertainment and if we are lucky - art!

February 9

Over the decades that I have directed set design has been made up of flats, drops, and props.  In our production of Mary Poppins we step in time and into the digital age with projection slides.  Our production will use a combination of flats, drops, props and projection slides.  Here is a sampling of our projections.

The use of projections will allow us to create the rooftop and park scenes.  With the touch of the computer space bar you will be transported to 1910 England - glorious and simple  However, it does take a bit of finessing to our traditional lighting plot.

Here's how that works. 

The purpose of a lighting plot is to ensure that each spot of our stage is fully lit allowing us to adjust the intensity and the direction of the light to create our desired look for each scene. On our stage at Derryfield stage we are also able to access color through the use of scrollers that offer the bonus of spilling color onto our stage as well as transitioning from one color to another such as moving from night through dawn to morning. 

Lighting the rear of the stage involves cyc lights that are a band of lights at the back of the stage to light the upstage and the drop hanging at the rear of the stage.  When using the projection slides we need to modify our use of the cyc lights so we do not wash out the image. Our challenge then is to design a lighting plot that will fully light our actors while enhancing the images of the projection slides. 

Today we met with the team at Derryfield School.  Stay tuned...

February 10

Each and every rehearsal begins with warm ups - dance and voice.  Today we did an acting warm up as well.

Here is the video of our cast enjoying a dance warm up led by our choreographer Jess Davison.

The purpose of a dance warm up is to warm and stretch muscles in preparation for performing our choreography.  It increases the performance capacity of our dancers and equally important, it guards against injury.   The warm up routines are often the same, the warm up music is often the same, and the fun is always the same - solid.  We like consistency.

Here is the video of our vocal warm up.

Vocalizing involves muscles that need to be warmed up and made pliable.  Vocal chords that are warm are best able to produce a broader and richer range of sound.

It can look ridiculous but it seems that the more ridiculous the more effective.

Today we added a warm up for acting - meditation.  We spent a few moments with Andy at Headspace, a meditation app. Why meditation?  It serves to focus the mind, relax the body, focus on breath - each powerful for an actor. 

We are warm and rehearsal begins.

Check out Headspace at


The Making of a Musical (part 4)

January 23

As actors it is our job to breath life into the characters that we bring onto the stage.

So, what happens when your character is a statue?  How do you breath life into an inanimate object?  The secret is the focus of energy.  As our actors strike a pose they send energy throughout their bodies by focusing the brain. 


Check out Maddie LaCroix (left) and Shannen Holohan (right) as they create a dynamic stillness by imagining movement throughout their bodies breathing life into an inanimate statue.  The tension that they send down into their arms, legs, hands, and torso create the stillness but by actively sending the tension throughout their body they create a moving energy for their statue characters. 

Next watch how we bring those statues to life!

January 26

A few years back Bradley Cooper appeared on the CBS Morning Show to promote the movie "Burnt".  During his interview he defined the job of an actor as to "create these imaginary circumstances and to live within them and have an honest moment."  It is our job as actors to create believable characters and their stories.

So what happens when you have to create an honest moment for a circumstance that you have never experienced or even imagined?  For example, how do you create an honest moment as a statue that comes to life?

It is a fact that none of our actors have ever experienced being a statue coming to life but what have they experienced that could simulate that action?  How about waking in the morning?  So let's create that imaginary circumstance.  Here are all of actors lying on the floor exactly as they would if they were sleeping in the exact position that they experience as they sleep each night. 


Next they are asked to imagine waking from a deep sleep - wake your mind, wake your body - what does that look like?  What does that feel like? How do you live that in this moment?  If we do it honestly by imagining that we are living it then we will be true to Bradley Cooper's definition of an actor and a statue might just come to life.

January 27

So what does a toy soldier have in common with a chimney sweep?  Nothing - unless, the chimney sweeps are dancing in "Step in Time".  Nothing - unless the chimney sweeps dancing in "Step in Time" are rotating in a straight line.  Nothing - unless they are dancing in "Step in Time" rotating in a straight line just like a Rockette dancing in the iconic "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers".

Moving in a straight line as a wooden soldier or a chimney sweep is definitely challenging.  It begins with the correct positions of arms and no actual touching.

Each dancer must move individually but in direct line with the dancer on either side.  So as our dancers move forward in a fully measured way they must also look side-to-side using their peripheral vision to keep that line straight and moving.  It is sort of like patting your head while rubbing your tummy.  Try it.

Now check out our kick line. - same basic theory.  Our dancers begin with correct arm placement with no touching.  Each dancer's movement needs to be fully supported and independent..  And honestly, the kick is more of a lift - no need for momentum here - just pure core strength.  Add some peripheral vision and you have yourself a kick line.  I have to admit - much tougher than it looks.  Our dancers had fun giving it a shot - check it out.

January 30

A cast made up of actors with strength of character is key to the success of any musical production and I am not talking about the character that you find on the page of a script.  I mean the character that begins with integrity and discipline, that understands the true meaning of commitment and sacrifice, and that leads to trust and confidence as a cast.   Building character is a perk of performing.  It requires time, work, and discipline.  And often times it requires sacrifice.  But when we are able to count on each other as a cast then there is no limit to what we can accomplish - together.


Here is Sarah Dobbin.  You may remember her from our very first blog post.

She always comes prepared and ready to work.  She gives her best at whatever is asked of her no matter the challenge.  Her journey has not always been an easy one but she has always worked with determination and a touch of humor (that never hurts). 

Sarah is a senior and has been accepted to her first choice college!  Lucky school.  Today she asked if she could miss a rehearsal next week.  She made it clear that her commitment to our show is paramount but that she was invited to a special event at her college.  And she asked if she could go. The answer was easy. Sarah is a young woman of character and she has earned my trust.  We missed her but had a fabulous day at the college where she will spend the next four years of her life.  It was thrilling to hear her tell about her day's visit.  She was so excited and we will miss her.

Building strength of character is a perk but the payback is priceless.

February 2

Mirror - friend or foe?  Well, for those of us who look in the mirror and see our mothers - foe.  To dancers it can be a friend - a tool that comes with a warning label.

Warning - use with caution.


A wall full of floor-to-ceiling mirrors provides the perfect tool for dancers to learn choreography, to check alignment, and to adjust lines and spacing.  But when a dancer gets lost in the mirror or depends too much on the mirror it can be a curse.  Check out this March 2017 blog post from the Rockette Facebook page:

While almost every dance studio has one, facing your own reflected image is practically a given, and some even consider the dance mirror a necessary tool in dance training. Here are a few tips on how to use the studio mirrors to your advantage and how to avoid common reflection-gazing pitfalls:

•   Watch yourself in the mirror occasionally to adjust your shape, line, alignment or spacing. Sometimes it helps to decide on one dance element you want to work on during class and use the mirror only to correct that one thing.

•   Watch classmates only to learn from them and apply what they do well to your own dancing.

•   Use the mirror to get an overall picture of what the choreography looks like, or to learn a phrase of movement more quickly.

•    Constantly gazing at your own reflection causes you to rely on visual cues more than your proprioceptors, the sensors that provide awareness of where your body or its parts are in space. This can negatively affect your dance training. If you find you are having difficulty balancing or dancing without a mirror, these are signals to spend less time looking in the mirror in dance class:

•   Shift your focus toward points relevant to the choreography or in the direction you are moving just as you would on stage.

•   Intentionally stand in a part of the room that limits your use of the mirror.

Take class in a studio that covers or does not have wall-mounted mirrors.

Tonight we turn our cast around.  Choreography has all been taught. No more mirror.  Fourth wall here we come.

February 3

Choreography and music have been taught - check.  Now we clean.  Now we polish.

Now we add the finishing touches like transitions, style, precision, and character.

Now we create a performance.  And let's see who has come to play.

Holly Anne Palmer is a successful director and producer.  She has worked on Broadway and in regional theatre.  She is currently the lead producer for "Wine Lovers the Musical" performed on Norwegian Cruise Ships around the world.  A few years back Holly Anne came to BYPC to teach a workshop and one year later used Skype to teach our musical theatre class. Amongst her many pearls of wisdom were to get to class because training is key, to do your research, to always be prepared and on time, to conduct yourself professionally in a rehearsal or an audition, and to come ready to play.  

So who is ready to play?  At this stage of our rehearsal run our actors are deep in their heads remembering choreography, lines, music, and blocking.  It is tough to let go at this stage.   But, yet,  there are some who just do.  Today Allison Seidel, Jaime Setzler, Anna Whitney, and Hailey Moores did just that and it was so much fun to watch. It's playtime - watch as more of cast join in. Let the work of play begin!

The Making of a Musical (part 3)

Tuesday January 16

Designing a set is complex.  Our set needs to be portable - made in Bedford, NH and transported to The Derryfield School stage for assembly.  Our cast is large and our production numbers expansive - so space is key.  Our set designer is Martine

Archambault and she is pure artist.  Our design quest begins with script analysis clarifying setting requirements.  Next we discuss space demands and how to best consolidate our pieces to optimize space and maximize impact.  Two pieces are stationary and the remaining pieces are two sided.  Our goal is always to minimize set changes adding to the pace of our show.  Martine presents drawings or models and we agree on our design plan.  And that is where we are at this writing.  Here are Martine's drawings - the Banks study, parlor, kitchen, upstairs bedroom, an exterior flat with a movable roof, a cathedral flat, Mrs Corry's store flat, and the bank flat.

And there are some surprises as well.  But, you will have to wait to see those.

Here are our initial plans.

Friday January 19

Here is Jack Lavoie.  He plays Bert in our production of Mary Poppins.  Bert is a key role and there is a lot of work to do to get Jack ready to breath life into this colorful character.  But, for now, he sits and waits.  It is the sausage making thing and it is challenging. 

As we build the pieces of our production there are just times when cast members need to sit and wait as Jack so aptly demonstrates. The challenge here is what do you do with the down time and then how do you shift gears when called into action to rehearse. The answer lies in the discipline of the rehearsal room yielding the desired outcome of a focused performer.

So what is a cast member like Jack to do?  Ask Charlotte Ronan.  When Charlotte was not actively working on a piece she stood in the back of the rehearsal room and reviewed the choreography that she has learned.  The quick fire pace of our rehearsal schedule is demanding - seven pieces of choreography in three weeks. Charlotte has the answer - practice.  Make smart use of every moment and practice. In the words of Vince Lombardi "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."

Jack did just that.  He watched, he observed, he practiced and patiently waited.  Then he jumped right in when called.  Ready to work.  Can't wait to see what is ahead - thanks Charlotte, Jack, and a hard working cast.


Saturday January 20

Storytelling through movement is multi-layered.  It is not as simple as stringing together a series of steps and movements into a piece of choreography.  It is sort of like building a house.  You have brick, stone, lumber, shingles and such, which are your building materials.  You have the architectural designs, which guides the building.  You have the building supplies of nails and mortar, which hold the materials together.  But, ultimately it is the craftsmanship of the carpenter that gives it form and makes it a home. 

The same is true of choreography.  Jess has taught all of the steps and now we give it form - we create the look, the feel - the story of the music through the dance.  It is the movement that connects the steps and the quality of the dance of the steps that weave the story. 

Take a look at "Step in Time".  When our chimney sweeps enter they have been directed to move from a point offstage to the point on stage where their choreography begins.  Simple.  Or is it?  Just walking.  But, how does a chimney sweep walk - well, with a confident, deliberate attitude.  Watch Megan Spencer.  She is petite in stature but grande in attitude.  There is the essence of our chimney sweep.  And - then - the choreography begins. 

The Making of a Musical (part 2)

Tuesday January 9


The triple threat - actor, singer and dancer - defines a complete performer. In the making of a musical the production numbers are the backbone and at BYPC are the key to our success.  The dancer is gold.  Several years ago I met a member of the auditioning team for the Beauty and the Beast Broadway revival.   He recalled stories of over 1500 hopeful performers attending one day's audition.  (Can you imagine standing in that line or sitting to watch all of those auditions - yikes!)

 So I asked him how they are able to whittle the crowd down to a more manageable number.  I assumed - singing. His answer - dance.  Dance is the first cut.  Easy - pirouette right, pirouette left. And half or more of all auditioners are sent packing.

It is not enough to execute each move each step with stability and fluidity but an adeptly trained performer is able to nuance each of the moves with the understanding that each head, arm, and leg position has meaning as they serve as the building blocks of our story.  They create the texture, the depth, and the embodiment of that story drawing in each audience member as in a virtual reality experience that only live theater can provide.

Watch as a group of our top performers enunciate their movements in sharp deliberate postures careful of the connecting movements as well.  They are coached by Rockette precision dancer, Jess Davison - lucky ladies! Watch and you might see a hint of The Toy Soldier March in these dancers - the goal - precision, sharp, deliberate.  Enjoy.

Friday January 12

Ingenious, imginative, vivacious, sparkling,

I love the ensemble.  In fact, I would say that the success of any performance depends upon a vibrant ensemble.  Grace Steward exemplifies the power of ensemble.  At the beginning of "Supercalifragisticexpialidocious" our cast is directed to react to Mary Poppins who is introducing them all to her unusual word.  My eye goes right to Grace.  She is animated, vivacious, and totally committed to her character's story. She just makes me smile. And then there is Gabrielle Souther, who just giggles with delight each time the music starts and she is called to perform. And then I smile again.  The ensemble brings sparkle and dimension making a stellar performance shine bright. Sure to make you smile.

Saturday January 13

Building choreography is like making sausage - a bit messy but the ending result is pure delight.  Our choreographer, Jess Davison, structures her pieces in layers.  Each layer is designed to challenge the skill level of our cast members.  So whether a cast member is a trained dancer or a beginner performer, they are challenged but in a manner that insures success.  The choreography is energetic, dynamic, and just plain fun.  Teaching the same choreography or blocking to the entire cast would be simpler but not as interesting.  And our mission is always to teach, to challenge, to grow stronger performers - so we make sausage.  Check out "Step in Time" - first the dance corps with our most experienced dancers...

...and then our musical theatre performers.


The Making of a Musical (part 1)

Friday January 5, 2018

And curtain! The rehearsal run of BYPC's Mary Poppins Junior is underway.  We started rehearsals today but our production truly began with auditions back in December 2017.

Auditions - a word that can make grown men and women weep.  It is nerve wracking for all concerned.  For the performers it means working hard to put their their best performance forward as they strive to land their dream role.  For the directors it will set the fate of the production.  It is a task that defines daunting for all concerned.

At BYPC it runs deeper.  Our mission is to grow the gifts within each of the students that we have the honor of working with.  What we can teach these performers.  Who is ready to learn and at what level?  What role will be their key to growth. We are also burdened with the thought that we will disappoint some of our actors and that is always heartbreaking.  So the casting decisions that we make are done with deliberate care.

But, cast we must and here they are - our cast.  They are a great, energetic, and diverse group of actors, dancers, and singers.  Can't wait to watch these performers learn and grow and we look forward to sharing the journey in Making of a Musical - Mary Poppins Jr.

MaryPoppins Cast Photo.jpg

Saturday January 6, 2018

Jess Choreo (1).jpg

Here she is - our mighty choreographer - Jess Davison.  We are so lucky to have her expertise, creativity, and passion in every step that she choreographs.  And what the kids who come back each year will tell you is that she is also just plain fun.  Her goal is to let every one of our performers shine - challenging each performer to reach a bit further building confidence and skill - to be their best selves. 

Jessica's impact is best exemplified by what we witnessed on Saturday from Sarah Dobbins, we call her Dobbs.  When Sarah first came to BYPC two years ago she was paralyzed by the mere idea of dancing.  It shook her to her core. But, she faced that challenge with humor and determination and she persevered. So, imagine our great surprise on Saturday when Sarah volunteered to coach another student in the choreography that was being taught. Dobbs stepped up to teach dance! Well, of course, that immediately earned her the coveted title of "Dance Captain".  Well done Dobbs and Jess. 

The entire rehearsal was simply Supercalifragisticexpialidious!  Here your first peak at the Making of Musical - Mary Poppins, Jr.

How Do You Teach a Preschooler to Dance?

My career as a Mom in a Waiting Room began about 28 years ago when our oldest daughter, Kate, took her first dance class.  Little did I know that my waiting room residence would continue for more than a decade and that I would eventually be upgraded to a front and center seat at Radio City Music Hall where our youngest daughter Jessica would be cast as a Rockette.  

As you can imagine, I have seen my share of dance classes where I’ve met my share of dance teachers and through the years I have learned a lot about dance and the building blocks that comprise a well executed dance skill.  There was a definite learning curve for me because, unlike my daughter, I am not a dancer - I am a teacher with a specialization in Early Childhood Education, so I have an understanding of the unique ways that a preschooler learns. 

Over the weeks and months and years I observed little dancers of all shapes and sizes through glass doors and windows.  I delighted in their giggles and squeals as they twirled about the dance floor trying to make sense of tendus, plies, and first position.  For a little one still figuring out right from left, it was clear to me that some of the skills being asked of them were simply not possible at that stage of their cognitive, physical and emotional development.  Their teachers were loving, kind and enthusiastic with a passion for dance and an understanding of the methodology of teaching dance.  As an educator it seemed to me that what was missing most often in these preschool level classes was the understanding of the unique ways in which a young child learns.  

So how do you teach a preschooler to dance?  You blend a mastery of pedagogy with the expertise of child developmental psychology to produce a perfectly balanced and age appropriate curriculum.  About ten years ago I set out to find such a program to best teach our young BYPC dancers.  

Much to my surprise such a program did not seem to exist.  Music educators had developed programs such as Musikgarten and Kindermusik that were founded in developmental psychology but there was nothing for dance.  It started to seem that the best answer was to write our own curriculum until one day I saw a promotional ad for a preschool dance pedagogy workshop being held at the Alvin Alley School of Dance.  I didn’t have to think twice.  I booked my trip and was thrilled to find a perfectly packaged dance program all wrapped up with a shiny bow - The Leap N Learn Dance Curriculum.  


Over the course of that weekend I would learn that the Leap ’n Learn Dance Curriculum is written by Ballet Master Beverly Spell and Child Psychologist Dr. Annie Spell.  The classes are broken up into a series specific for each age group beginning with children three years old, then four, five and so forth through the age of twelve.  Each yearly curriculum is comprehensively designed with hundreds of pages of lesson plans carefully crafted for the young dancer at their specific stage of development physically, emotionally and cognitively.  

Leap ’n Learn IS how you teach a preschooler to dance and BYPC is proud to be a leader in teaching the curriculum that is now employed in dance programs around the world.    

Journey to Radio City - Part 2

On Thanksgiving morning my alarm went off sharply at 5AM. It was a quick night's sleep (or should I say nap) because we had an 8PM show the night before.  But, it was Thanksgiving morning, which means the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!  It was my third time performing with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes but it was actually my fourth time performing in the parade. Long before I dreamed of kicking eye high at Radio City, I marched in the Thanksgiving Day parade with BYPC! 

It was another warm Thanksgiving Day in 2002 when I joined my BYPC family as we marched down Broadway right in front of Santa - a position of such honor!  We were all sweating in our winter costumes complete with white gloves and even whiter sneakers - yuck!  But we didn't care because we were marching down Broadway where thousands of parade goers lined the sidewalks and draped the walls of apartment buildings taking festive to a whole new level.   We had a blast. I was hooked and I wanted more.  And more is what I got.

In my years at BYPC I performed in musicals, concerts, musical revues, dance recitals and on the professional stages of Disney and Royal Caribbean.  I danced in pieces choreographed by Broadway performers, attended workshops by professionals who I now audition for and I was even coached by a LA casting director. I believe that the wide variety of performances staged by BYPC was invaluable to my training but it is more than that.  It is what I learned about performing and about myself as a performer that has made such a difference for me. I was recently reminded of that when I ran into to an old friend and fellow Boston Conservatory alum, Alison McCartan.

Alison was in between shows having completed the Shrek tour and about to start a new show in Boston.  Lucky for me she was taking her break in NYC to take class and to catch up with friends.  Over lunch we reminisced about our days at Boston Conservatory and Alison talked about her days at BYPC.  After her sophomore year Alison accepted an internship at BYPC to teach in the Circle of Giving Outreach Program and to perform in BYPC 's Summer Family Theatre in the Park. 

Alison wanted me to know how much that summer meant to her and to her professional career.  The work in the Circle of Giving Outreach Program was so meaningful and life enriching but it was the performing that she talked about.  She remembered the rehearsal schedule as intense and fast paced.  And that the cast was so well trained that they were prepared to handle any mishaps causing last minute changes to the performances.  She talked about one show in particular.


We were performing "Bye Bye Birdie" in Greeley Park in Nashua before a few hundred theatregoers lining the lawn with lounge chairs, blankets and picnic baskets.  It was the end of Act One when calamity struck.  A stage punch missed or should I say hit its mark blooding the nose of our Conrad Birdie.  The stage was now dotted with blood and our Birdie was out of commission.  Our director was filming and unaware of the mishap so we had to jump into action.  A small group of BYPC cast members went out onto the stage posing as lovesick fans cleaning up the blood of their idol, Conrad Birdie ending our first act and giving us intermission to figure out a plan.  Our director gathered us all together to tell us that we could go on with the show.  She reassured us that we were trained and well rehearsed and that we could make this happen. Alison was stunned but our cast quickly brainstormed alternatives to our original staging and completed the show without our main character, Conrad Birdie, who went home to an evening of ice packs.

It was an accident but the show had to go on and on it went.  And you know, our audience did not even realize what had happened.  They all went home happy eagerly awaiting the next weekend's performances.  But, we knew that we had stepped up and that we had done something special. Alison confided that the experience had best reflected her time on the Broadway tour of "Shrek”.  She landed the role of understudy and she was the go to person when things went wrong and she was ready and up for the task.  It was heartwarming to learn of her gratitude.  And that is another thing that we have in common.


So when I fell flat on the Radio City Music Hall stage I jumped back up and kept on dancing, or when I lost my balance on national TV (luckily not on camera) I kept going, and when I was squeezed into a costume that was obviously two sizes too small I literally sucked it up and I kept going.  I kept going because I believed that I could because all those many years ago someone believed in me. For me it has made a difference. 

It is a four-show day today.  And I am ready.  Radio City here I come.

-Jessica Davison


Journey to Radio City - Part 1

The date is Friday November 13.  The place is Radio City Music Hall.  It’s opening night for the Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes.  And just left to center is BYPC’s own Jessica Davison shining bright and ready to kick eye high.
With long rehearsal hours of endless kick lines about to come to an end with opening night, Jess has taken some time to reflect on the road that has led her to Radio City Music Hall.  And in particular in this three-part interview she looks back on the pivotal role that BYPC played in her journey.  

First - The Teachers

When I think about BYPC I think about the people who have became family to me. For me, BYPC is filled with people who have touched my life in such a meaningful and loving way. Not only have they helped me to develop the skills that I needed to build a professional dance career but they have been there every step of the way believing in me.  So as I step out onto that stage my BYPC family will be with me. 

Jana Pond launched BYPC's dance program and was my first dance teacher. She brought a joy of dance by creating a fun and welcoming environment in a structured class. It was a place for all of us to belong, to learn, to grow, and to be a part of a dance community exploring a wide variety of dance styles.  For me that is what BYPC is all about. Jana now lives in Connecticut. 

Julie Smith brought musicality to dance for me and she focused on the playfulness of performing.  Julie introduced me to the practice of Floor Barre and sent me on the quest to learn how my body moves and how to produce a high quality of movement.  I think that above all else Julie opened my eyes to the possibility of a professional dance career.  She continues to mentor me with the insights that she has from her own experiences as a Broadway performer. Julie encourages me to reach for the stars and has helped me each step of the way. Julie now lives and teaches in Florida but returns to guest teach at BYPC whenever possible because she believes in what BYPC stands for. 

Dee Keri Mattox, who also currently lives in Florida, taught me to go for it - to dance big.  Dee taught lots of fast moving choreography at an equally fast pace building stamina and the ability to pick up choreography quickly.  Her ability to tell a story and to bring character into a piece of choreography is one of the elements that sets BYPC’s dance training apart from the others and has been key to my success on stage. We are after all - storytellers. 


Melissa Desrosiers and Janet Armstrong reinforced the importance of professionalism and helped me to build a solid ballet foundation for my dance.  They are masters of technique. I also appreciate the time and care that these teacher take to teach the vocabulary necessary to be successful in dance and are often overlooked.  Their attention to detail is exceptional. 

Allyson Kachanian provided me with insights into how my body moves and where movement comes from, concepts that I learned at Boston Conservatory, but first learned at BYPC.  I continue to be impressed with the detailed approach that Allyson takes in teaching the very fundamentals of dance, breaking it down to its core so that her students are able to understand how to move. I remember returning from Boston Conservatory on vacation to take Allyson’s level III jazz class and I was challenged.

Over the years, BYPC provided me with the opportunity to study with a variety of guest artists. Some guest artists traveled to BYPC but we often traveled to attend master classes in such places as NYC, Orlando, college campuses and even cruise ships.  Always striving to provide students with excellence in dance and performance training is the hallmark of BYPC. 


So Friday the curtain will rise on my fourth season with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and as I look out over that vast sea of faces I will tell my story and kick eye high.  Thank you BYPC. 


Radio City
-Jessica Davison