As anyone in the performing arts will tell you training is expensive. Even after you pay hefty sums to receive a college degree in theatre you still must keep your instrument in shape. And if you're in musical theatre that means voice lessons at $100 a pop, acting seminars or coachings, and finally dance classes where the drop-in rates are inching up towards $20 a class. There is a definite need to change the stereotype of the “starving artist” by creating environments where artists can thrive.
So...last fall, two established performers and teachers, J. Austin Eyer and Mike Kirsch, set out to find a way to provide musical theatre artists, of any financial background, the continued training that is required of them to succeed in this very demanding, competitive and expensive career. It is called “Broadway Donation” and, as you might have guessed from the incredibly creative title, they are offering affordable donation-based musical theatre dance classes, to the Broadway and theatre community. Classes are taught by guest and rotating teachers that include some heavy hitters like Andy Blankenbuehler, Christopher Gattelli, JoAnn Hunter, Richard Stafford, Christopher Bailey, Sarah O’Gleby and Dan Knechtges...just to name a few. Later this year they plan to offer Voice, Acting and Casting workshops as well. One loyal Bro-Do Teacher from last fall is Broadway veteran Lisa Gajda who says, “Now, anyone who wants to grow and submerge themselves in their craft can do it no matter what their financial situation. That's what the arts community is all about. You shouldn't have to have a lot of money to participate in the finest creative atmosphere. I believe in this project fully.”
Kirsch (co-founder of Bro-Do), who is a musical theatre performer/director/choreographer and also the owner and creative director for Unique New York Productions, says “It’s always been such a struggle financially to continue to grow as a musical theatre professional. When you are working, you have the money but not the time and when you aren’t working, you have the time but not the money. How are struggling artists supposed to afford class? Let’s give any artist who has the desire the opportunity.”
Eyer (co-founder of Bro-Do), who has been seen in six Broadway shows including The Secret Garden and Evita and also has been teaching dance for CAP21 for the past 10 years, says “I’m am constantly asked for recommendations by my students for cheap places to take an extra dance class, or which teachers they should take from. With Broadway Donation, not only can they just pay $10 for a great class but they are also being exposed each week to the top teachers and choreographers working in New York City. For instance some of my students had never taken from Al Blackstone or Richard Hinds, but after taking one of their classes some of my students will continue taking from one of these teachers and this instructor may have found a new and loyal follower for one of their regular classes around the city. It’s a program that benefits our community in a number of ways.”
Another thing that is unique to Bro-Do is the non-competitive atmosphere of every class. They encourage a relaxed and supportive environment by beginning each class by quickly reminding students and teachers that this class is not an audition, it’s a place where you can try something new, make mistakes and enjoy the process instead of worrying about the outcome.
Madison Eastman became a Bro-Do groupie last fall, “Thanks to Mike and Austin, I have spent the last few months taking class from the most amazing teachers in the warmest, non-competitive environment. As a struggling artist, Broadway Donation is a hidden gem.” Nick Kenkel, who has been an associate with Jerry Mitchell for years, teaches Intermediate/Advanced Theatre Dance with a hip hop twist and says, "I saw a girl seize up a bit and admit, ‘This is not really my thing.’ And I said, ‘Great!’ That is what this type of class format is for….getting out of your comfort zone in a safe place with no judgements."
Teachers are announced for each week every Friday via their mailing list and social media. Be sure to join the mailing list on their website www.Broadwaydonation.com where you can also find more information on Broadway Donation and their classes.
If you are interested in supporting Bro-Do, they have started a GoFundMe campaign so that dancers and non-dancers alike can help keep Broadway Donation alive. The money raised will go towards paying for studios and their generous teachers if they have an “off night” and don’t break even with their students’ donations. http://www.gofundme.com/broadwaydonation
If you’re looking for an affordable place to continue your training and stay in shape take a class in a judgement free atmosphere with your peers at Broadway Donation. All classes are a suggested donation of $10, no reservation required. Performer and teacher Sidney Erik Wright says, “Take class while you can, before the secret gets out..."
"When you dream about the perfect dance class, you think of a few things. You dream that it is taught by a great teacher, it creates a supportive environment, it challenges you and validates you, and that it is affordable. Miraculously, Bro-Do dance has made this dream a reality. Having taken many dance classes at many dance studios for many years, Bro-Do has reinvigorated my desire to go to class and has consistently offered enjoyable and insightful classes. It is such an incredible program for all dancers. In a short amount of time, Bro-Do has become a true home for dancers, and I look forward to returning home for many years to come." -Kory Geller
"Actors are not rich people, and still somehow most dance classes are quite expensive. That's why Bro-Do makes so much sense- great teachers at a great price. YES!" - Chrissy Albanese