From Shuffles to Broadway: Molly Jobe

Molly Jobe is a former Shuffles student who is currently on her second Broadway show Waitress. She is one of the swings and covers the lead role of Jenna. We were able to sit down and ask her a few questions about her childhood and what it is like to cover such a large role.

Can you speak a little about your childhood and what got you into musical theatre and dance? 
I am the youngest of three children from Columbus, Ohio. Growing up, my older siblings were always listening to musical soundtracks and dancing around our living room so I naturally followed suit. When I was 4 years old, we came to New York to visit some family friends and were immediately hooked on the energy of the city. My parents took my older siblings to meet with an agent to see what it was like to be a professional actor. It was simply for fun but then the agent fell in love with them, submitted them for a new Broadway musical, which they ended up booking. So, we moved to NY and the crazy Jobe family adventure began. I was addicted to musicals from that point on. It was what I was going to do with my life forever. I never questioned it.
What was the biggest adjustment coming from Ohio?
I moved to New York at such a young age that I think the transition was much more seamless than it would’ve been had I moved here as an adult. The energy of New York is not for everyone. It’s fast, ruthless, and unforgiving at times. Growing up here, I was able to find my own pace, which I really benefitted from when I graduated from college into “the real world”. I felt like I had a leg up on those who were coming to NY from conservatory programs outside of the city. It’s a tricky city to navigate and there’s definitely an adjustment period that I got to skip.
How many years were you a student at Shuffles?
I think I started taking classes full time at shuffles when I was 11 and I continued through my senior year of high school so, 7 years?
Gail and Molly Jobe after a performance of “Waitress”
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Shuffles? If so, what was it?
I think my favorite thing about my time at Shuffles was meeting the girls in my class. Lucy, Amanda, and Madison were in my class all 8 years and we were all really close. It is a special experience to be able to grow up in a creative environment, spending time learning and growing together. Every memory I have from Shuffles has them in it. I am so grateful to have had their friendship as a constant source of joy and inspiration during my formative years. I also cherish the time I was able to spend with Gail and the other Shuffles teachers. They were always the perfect balance between encouraging and challenging.
Can you tell us about your time between Shuffles to Waitress? Where did you go? What did you do?
Molly backstage during NEWSIES

After graduating from Shuffles and LaGuardia Arts High School, I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I graduated from the New Studio on Broadway at Tisch in 2013 and shortly thereafter joined the Broadway company of Disney’s Newsies! I spent seven months in the Broadway company before going out on the Newsies 1st National Tour for several months. Touring was a crazy, wild experience I will never forget. I saw so many cool places, so many awful places, and learned firsthand what it’s really like to live out of a suitcase. After finishing my time on tour, I spent a couple of months auditioning for various projects before landing in Waitress.

Where were you when you got the call originally to join Waitress
I was in my apartment when I got the call that I would be joining the cast of Waitress! A call like that never gets old. It’s always equal parts surreal and exciting. Shortly after opening they decided they needed more female coverage so I cover 4 ensemble tracks and 2 principal tracks, including the lead role of Jenna.
What is it like being a swing?
Being a swing is extremely difficult. It definitely takes a special person with a special brain to do it. You have to be extremely disciplined with yourself and make sure that you’re organized and keeping all of the tracks fresh in your brain. It took me several weeks to have all of the tracks down and now it’s a piece of cake. Though there are some times when I’m onstage when I have to think “Oh my god, who am I playing tonight?!”

For more information on what a “Swing” is, TDF (Theatre Development Fund) made a short video to explain. The video can be found here.

What has been your favorite part of Waitress so far?

My favorite part of Waitress so far has been the people I’ve met. Every time you do a show, it’s like joining a new family and Waitress is no exception. The cast and crew of Waitress are so special and we have so much fun playing with each other every night. I truly look forward to coming to work every day. I also love getting to sing/listen to Sara Bareilles’ music every night. She has always been one of my favorite artists and she has a real knack for writing for musical theater. Given that she’s now joining the show as Jenna, it has also been such a joy to get to work with her and witness her process firsthand. She’s going to blow everyone away.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
I hope that the audience comes to our show and finds a sense of empowerment. Jenna’s story is one of courage and strength. Strength that she finds both within and from the other two women in her life. She has the courage to imagine a better life for herself and the strength to bring it to fruition, which I find to be a very inspiring story. I hope that it inspires others to dream and make the change they wish to see in their own lives.
If you could instill one piece of advice to a current shuffles student, what would it be?
Listen to your teachers, always be professional, and be nice to everyone you meet. That’s three things but they’re all very important!

Senior Spotlight: Sabrina Sternberg

  Our first Senior Spotlight of 2017 is Sabrina Sternberg who has been with Shuffles since 2010, and has made a lasting impression on many of us at the studio.
“Sabrina is a teachers dream! I have had the honor to teach her and watch her  grow into an incredible Actress and most important a confident young woman. She is ideal because she is fearless. She is a giver…always giving of herself to others (and sometimes the “others” don’t even realize it). That’s what is fantastic about observing …she doesn’t ask for anything in return. She is a born leader and a motivator for Studio and all her classes. She is hungry to learn and wants it to be the most positive experience for everyone involved. I know she will continue to soar in college and in life. I can’t imagine Shuffles without her…no one can. But deep down I am excited for the rest of the world to meet her. Note to the rest of the world Watch Out! “ – Cyndi Steele-Harrod
We had a chance to chat with Sabrina about her time at Shuffles and what the future holds.
How long have you been part of the Shuffles family?
I joined Shuffles in 2010, when I was in the 6th grade, and have been a part of it every year since. 
What has your experience been like?
I have loved every second of my Shuffles experience. I am so grateful for the skills I have been taught, and the incredibly fun environment I get to be a part of. 
What’s your favorite Shuffles Memory?
I think my favorite Shuffles memory was playing Olga in Stagedoor. It was the first time I had a featured part in a Shuffles show, and it was an absolute joy.
I love playing odd and funny characters, so it was amazing to be able to play such a hilarious character. I still often get asked if I am Russian.
What was your favorite Shuffles performance?
I have loved every Shuffles performance I’ve been a part of, but I have a special place in my heart for the Studio performances. Every year, I love getting to pour my heart out with the rest of Studio—this year may be my favorite showcase so far. I’m very excited to perform “Some Things are Meant To Be” with Frankie as our senior goodbye to Studio. 
What do you think you’ve learned the most?
Although there are so many skills I have learned at Shuffles, I believe that the ability to create a full backstory for your character is essential. From my first semester at Shuffles, we have always been expected to create backstories for our characters, and breath life into them. 
“Sabrina is one of those rare students that really makes an impact on everyone she comes in contact with at Shuffles- teachers, peers, younger students who are inspired by her, and certainly the audiences who watch her. She is talented, funny, a true triple threat, hardworking, and a complete joy.  Her excitement as she learns new steps and dances, or reads a new script is contagious. We will all miss her so much but we also know she will always make us proud to call her a Shuffles kid!” – Gail Crutchfield
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to younger Shuffles students?
Work hard, and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way; every single day is an opportunity to grow and learn. The teachers at Shuffles have wonderful insight, so do not throw away a single class with them, because the work that you put into classes will pay off in spades when look back at your time at Shuffles.
What’s next?
I will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall, as a part of the Class of 2021! I will continue studying theater there, while also discovering new academic passions. 

Shuffle it Forward with A BroaderWay

Shuffle It Forward has teamed up with A BroaderWay Foundation for the third straight year to bring tap dance to urban communities.

A BroaderWAY (ABW) was founded in 2010 by Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs as a way to offer opportunities for girls from urban communities an outlet for self-expression and creativity through arts-centered programs. This weekend marks the largest event ABW has had at ShufflesNYC (involving over 20 participants!)

The Studio @ Shuffles will share numbers from last month’s showcase, and this year AP Studio has also been invited to participate.

“Some might compliment the studio and say ‘What a great thing you are doing’ but to be perfectly honest Studio gets ‘way more out of it.’ It is a great way to remind ourselves as actors how much more we have to give. Also, how much we have in common with others using  music theatre and storytelling! It is so hard to grow up in this fast paced city and for two hours we get to make new friendships and get to know the ‘strangers’ we ride the subway with. A Broader Way is an incredible organization that is lifting up these incredibly talented young ladies. It is an honor for Studio @ Shuffles to be a part of this. ” – Cyndi Harrod, the instructor for Studio and Musical Theater at Shuffles

Not only will ABW spend the weekend with learning and collaborating with our talented Studio @ Shuffles students, but remember all those tap shoes we have outgrown over the years? A bag of those will also be donated to ABW!

For more information including how you can donate to A BroaderWay: http://abroaderway.org/

Shuffle it Forward is a division of ShufflesNYC whose main goal is to enrich the lives of children by providing opportunities to experience theater to those who otherwise would not have the opportunity. For more information on the other organizations Shuffle It Forward collaborates with: http://peter-pantomime.com/shuffle-it-forward.html

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Richard Riaz Yoder

We continue ShufflesNYC Faculty Spotlight with Richard Riaz Yoder. Richard comes to New York from The Gateway City (St. Louis, Missouri) and teaches Musical Theatre and Tap. He is recently finished performing as Cosmo in Singin’ in the Rain in Chicago, and is in rehearsals for Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce. He took a few moments out of his crazy schedule to answer some questions for us.

Richard Yoder

Can you talk about your childhood and how that may have influenced your pursuit of dance and musical theatre? Well I started dancing late around 17. I have always loved the stage but one day I saw a friend tap dancing and I was like wow I wanna learn how to do that! So I started lessons and the rest is history.

What did you do for fun growing up since it wasn’t until 17 that you found dance? I was in show choir and a jazz choir in high school. That and I played a lot of video games haha.

Who inspires you today? My students! I have been away for a while but I always keep thinking about what I will be able to teach them from all the new theatre experiences I am having when I go back. Also the entire cast and creative team of Shuffle Along. It was a short experience but I have grown as a performer and tap dancer so much because of it.

image2What are your favorite shows to have  worked on? On the Twentieth Century, Shuffle Along, Sophisticated Ladies, 42nd Street, and Singin’ in the Rain!

You are recently played Cosmo in Singin’ in the Rain, can you speak a little about playing such an iconic role?  It has been amazing. I am a huge fan of comedy and I honestly and always trying to make people laugh so this is a dream role of mine.

Was this the first time you played Cosmo? I have done the show 2 times before and with a director and choreographer that worked on the original Broadway production so it was great to get a lot of background work with them. I have been the dance caption for the production twice but never playing this role. It has been such a great learning process and simply wonderful. They even hired a professional clown that has worked all around the world to come in and fine tune my timing and learn clown tricks. I get paid to take class!!!

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You gained a bit of a following during On the 20th Century with the 4 tapping porters and even received the Astaire Award. Can you talk about that show and experience and how it differed from others? Did it feel special when you were working on it? It was such a special show for me. I hadn’t been on Broadway in 6 years. It was like I was making my broadway debut all over again. I was so nervous. Everyone was so kind and welcoming. Warren (Carlyle) our choreographer was perfect. He was funny but very firm on what he wanted us to do. We worked really hard and it was worth it because we ended up being one of the highlights of the show. I am forever proud and humbled by that experience I will always remember it fondly.

You are in rehearsals for Hello Dolly on Broadway, can you tell us what you are most excited for with that show? I am excited to do a more jazz and ballet oriented show for a change. It will really push me as I haven’t done a show with much of that in a while. I’m looking forward to being back on Broadway for sure. I also couldn’t wait to meet David Hyde Pierce!!! I am such a fan of his…also Bette…I think we are going to be best friends haha.

What is it about Shuffles that you think makes it so unique? I think it’s that they really try to teach stagecraft there. It’s not just dance class but really teaching people how to perform and perform well!image5

What excites you about dance and musical theatre right now? Seeing how things are ever changing! You never know what is going to come a new season in NYC.

If you could instill any piece of advice onto your students, what would it be? Have fun and work hard. Life is too short to not have fun and be lazy.

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Megan Kelley

Today’s Faculty Spotlight is living a dream many of us hope to live. Megan Kelley, who is in her second year teaching at ShufflesNYC, is a Radio City Rockette! Megan is performing in the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes. Originally from Stratford, CT, Megan teaches/assists Tap and Musical Theatre at Shuffles. We were able to sit down with Megan and ask her some questions.

megan-kelley-85-edit-2Can you talk about your childhood and how that may have influenced your pursuit of dance and musical theatre: My mom always told be that from the moment I was born, and even before that, I never stopped moving and dancing. When I was four years old, my parents brought me into the city to see the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes! From the moment the Rockettes started dancing, something inside of me clicked and I knew I wanted to be a dancer and ultimately a Rockette. The following year, my parents enrolled me in dance classes at my hometown studio. I never looked back! Later on, when I was in middle school, my family and I went to see my first Broadway show, 42nd Street. That was another eye-opening experience for me. It was in that moment I realized another dream. I wanted to sing and act as well! I wanted to be Peggy Sawyer. After seeing that show I started taking voice lessons and eventually had some acting lessons to prepare me for College auditions. I was accepted and attended Wagner College for Theatre Performance. I believe it all began with I was four years old staring up at the glorious Radio City stage and watching those beautiful Rockettes kick!

As a child, who or what inspired you to pursue this career? The Radio City Rockettes were my first inspiration. I also had two dance teachers growing up would inspired me and helped me along the way. Both of them are former Rockettes as well! Other inspirations include famous movie stars from the 1930s, 40, and 50s, such as Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller, etc…

megan-rox-pictureWho inspires you today? All of the people listed above still inspire me today. They are the greats! I am also inspired by all of the up and coming performers! They are who helps keep theatre and dance alive. As long as there are children with a passion for the arts, we will always have art and theatre. I feel that each of us has the responsibility to pass down our knowledge to the next generation of performers… It’s one of the parts of this business I love the most… passing on my passion and knowledge and watching the kids soak it in and develop that same passion. It’s inspiring to me to watch as they come to realize the big picture of what performing does for those who are the performers and for those who are the audience members.

What are your favorite shows to have worked on? I always love working on 42nd Street! I have done that show about four times. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is another favorite of mine and I have done that show four times as well. Those two shows are ones that I never grow sick of. I love tap dancing and these two shows are the best for that in my opinion!

img_4668What is it about Shuffles that you think makes it so unique? Shuffles is a wonderful school that combines singing, dancing, and acting. When you are taking one of their dance classes, you are not only training your body to move, but you are also training your voice and training your acting skills. These kids that come in here are training to be triple threats. It’s something I wish I had had growing up. With this process of putting all three skills together, Shuffles is also giving it’s students a confidence in themselves that they can take with them for the rest of their life! It’s truly inspiring!

What excites you about dance and musical theatre right now? It’s excited to see how dance and musical theatre is becoming more and more accessible to people all over the country and all over the world. Having shows come to Broadway that teach you about our nations history, or shows that make you think about important topics and current events. Also, having shows that have the sole purpose of pure joy and entertainment! We have a wide range of shows out there right now and it’s pretty amazing to hear how each show isimg_4300 impacting not only regular theatre-goers but also the general public! It’s also a wonderful thing that we are having so many more live television broadcasts of various shows. It is not always easy for people to get to a Broadway show or get to a National Tour. These live television events allows those people to still be a part of it!

If you could instill any piece of advice onto your students, what would it be? My biggest piece of advise is to never stop dreaming and never stop trying. Find what it is that makes you happy and do it. It’s not always going to be an easy road but if you have the desire and the determination, anything is possible!

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Jessica Azenberg

There are several important people at SHUFFLES that make the magic happen in the classroom. One of them is Jessica Azenberg who teaches Ballet, Tap, and Theatre Jazz, and she even started off as a SHUFFLES student herself!! We caught up with her to find out some fun facts and tips to share with the rest of our SHUFFLES family! Jessica spent her summer at Arkansas Repertory Theatre as the Associate Choreographer for Spamalot.

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Role at SHUFFLES: Tap, Ballet, Jazz, and Musical Theatre Instructor

Career Highlights: My favorite shows that I have performed in professionally are West Side StoryThe Will Rogers Follies, Alan Menken’s: A Christmas Carol, and Spamalot!

How long have you been at SHUFFLES? As a teacher I have been at Shuffles since 2011. I was a student at Shuffles in 2003 and 2004!!

What’s your song & dance journey in through the arts? What’s your story? I was born and raised in Manhattan and I believe that I have had some of the best dance training growing up. I was a very serious ballet dancer and attended ballet class 6 days a week. I loved it! I also studied tap at Steps on Broadway before moving to Shuffles! I attended the Boston Conservatory receiving a BFA in dance and then after graduating went on to pursue my professional career.

Who inspired you growing up? My parents inspire me. I admired them growing up and I admire them today. They both have had very successful careers on Broadway but a lot of that is due to the fact that they have always been hard-working and ambitious people. They have taught me that discipline and perseverance can get you anywhere. More importantly, I have always admired the way that they behave in and outside of the business. A large part of my father’s success is based upon the way that he treats and respects everyone that he has worked with. I thank my parents for my success in life and for the built-in value systems that I learned growing up. They have shaped the dancer, teacher, and person that I am today.

Who inspires you today? My favorite choreographer is Jerome Robbins. I think he is an absolute genius. I love to dance his work and I also love to teach his work. Many of my students know how much I love Jerome Robbins, as I teach his choreography quite a lot! His work really speaks to me and I also believe his work transcends generations.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching at SHUFFLES? Shuffles is such a unique place. I believe there is no other school like it in the city. Theatre is such an important part of my life and I love that all classes at Shuffles are taught with a theatrical base.

What’s an interesting fact about you that no one knows? I come from a theatrical family! My mother was a dancer and a stage manager on Broadway and my father is a Broadway producer. Both of my parents worked with Gail when she danced in  Little Me on Broadway.

(Wow! Small world!!)

Jessica "In Action" as Associate Choreographer of "Spamalot"
Jessica “In Action” as Associate Choreographer of “Spamalot”

What excites you about theatre today? A show like Hamilton makes me excited about theatre and for the future of theatre! I was fortunate enough to see a workshop of it. The first act was staged and the second act had not been staged yet. They were all sitting in chairs for the second act, like it was a reading. After the first act, I remember turning to my father and saying “Wow! This is really good. For the first time in a while, I feel like I’m in the room with a genius!” (referring to Lin Manuel Miranda of course). Hamilton makes me hopeful for the future of the theatre!

What’s your #1 piece of advice you hope to pass along to your students? Hard work, discipline, and perseverance always pay off! If you want something, go for it with everything you have. Believe in yourself and also have fun! I love to dance and I try to share that passion in all of my classes at Shuffles.

Meet Peter and Wendy!

Every year when it’s time to do Peter Pantomime again, the holiday music starts, the magic floods in, and and we watch the show come to life with fresh faces in each part! Thankfully it’s that time of year again! We’ve put together our 2016 cast for our 9th Annual Production of Peter Pantomime and started rehearsals.

One of our joys at Shuffles is to watch each of our students grow and achieve their dreams. That’s why we are particularly excited to reveal this year’s Peter Pan and Wendy! Peter Pan will be played by Wyatt Florin and Wendy will be played by Margot Krauss. Both of these students have played so many different parts in Peter Pantomime, either starting as a Little Indian or Lost Boy and working their way up, and we are thrilled to be able to have them as our leads! Congrats!!

Check out more about these amazing Shuffles Kids, and mark your calendars for Peter Pantomime on Nov. 27th! (Tickets go on sale Nov. 1st) (link and date and site)

“She is beyond thrilled! It has been her dream to be Wendy since she was a Little Indian when she was 8 years old! She has already taken out last year’s script and started to memorize Wendy’s lines!” – Margot’s Mom

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“Each year I participated in Peter Pantomime,  I would always be inspired by the actress who played Wendy. I loved the character more and more every year. It is so exciting to play the role I have been dreaming of ever since I was a Little Indian in Peter Pantomime!” – Margot Krauss

Margot as John with Molly as Wendy
Margot as John with Molly as Wendy

And our man, Peter Pan, started off a little “Slightly Soiled” and then got a leg up!

Wyatt as Slightly Soiled, the lead Lost Boy
Wyatt as Slightly Soiled, the lead Lost Boy
Wyatt as Tiger
Wyatt as Tiger
“I have worked for the past 6 years to play Peter Pan..I started as a lost boy and have aspired to this role from day 1. I am beyond excited to finally be Peter!” – Wyatt Florin
We couldn’t agree more!! Don’t miss this show!!! peter-pantomime.com 

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Emma Kantor

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Last, but certainly not least, we celebrate our third graduating senior from 2016, Emma Kantor. She’s been an absolute joy in the studio and we know she’s got many years in the spotlight ahead of her. Check out her SHUFFLES journey below!

“Emma has been a part of the Shuffles family for many years.  It almost seems like the end of an era to see Emma, Athena, and Hannah graduate. Since the beginning, Emma was always a talented, focused, and hardworking student.  She would always happily do anything I asked of her.  It was fun for me to create kooky fun parts for Emma.  Once, I asked Emma to do a tap number with the young students where she would be dressed in a 2 piece bathing suit and a scuba mask..  Not to my surprise, Emma grabbed it, made it her own and stole the show. When Emma was nine, we cast her as the first Peter in PETER PANtomime.  She handled this like a pro and really proved what a true triple threat she is.  I am so excited to see what happens to Emma as she goes into her more adult career.  I know great things are going to happen for her, and I will be cheering her on!” Gail Crutchfield, Director of SHUFFLES

 

SHUFFLES: How long have you been part of the Shuffles family?

EMMA: I started tap at Shuffles when I was 5 years old and have been part of the Shuffles family ever since. I have been at Shuffles for 13 years total.

S: What has your experience been like?

E: My Shuffles experience has been truly life changing. I came to Shuffles as a young girl who thought dance would be a fun activity to participate in after-school with my friends. I left Shuffles with a positive understanding that my passion for dance and theater will guide me throughout the rest of my life. I’ve had stressful experiences like adding in a new dance or changing choreography days before the final tap show. These experiences have prepared me for the real world and have given me an understanding of what it will be like on Broadway, learning a complicated dance and performing only days later. However, I’ve had more experiences laughing with my friends when we made mistakes and then finally feeling deeply proud after fixing all those mistakes so we could have a dance that was exciting and clean. All the hard work we did in class always paid off.

S: What’s your favorite Shuffles Memory?

E: My favorite Shuffles memory was learning the “stop time” combination from Shelby on her first day teaching class. When I first met Shelby I was young and thought it would be funny to tell her my name was Oprah, and she continued to call me that for the rest of the class. “Stop time” was very challenging but we all immediately fell in love with the combination and worked extra hard to make it perfect. Parts of “stop time” have been in our dances every year since then; it has become a Shuffles tradition. I can proudly say I was present when the tradition was created.

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S: What was your favorite Shuffles performance?

E: I have multiple Shuffles performances that stand out in my memories. Playing Peter in the first ever Peter Pantomime was an incredible honor. I remember auditioning when I was nine years old, hoping to be cast as a lost boy or hopefully as a supporting role. I wasn’t expecting much, as I was considerably younger than the other kids auditioning. But after my audition, I felt very confident, and I was anticipatory for the next morning when the cast list came out. At 8:00 AM my mother walked into my room and said, “Good morning Peter!” and I will never forget how ecstatic I felt in that moment. Playing Peter was difficult for me – a girly girl with an undeveloped soprano voice. But I took on the challenge and devoted my next couple of months to work-shopping this show alongside a talented cast and an incredible production team. I am so thankful Gail and Buddy gave me the opportunity to play Peter not only for the first but also the second year of Peter Pantomime. It was a magical experience and I am grateful to know the tradition of the show continues today. Another one of my favorite Shuffles performance was “Busker Ally” in “Keep Calm And Tap On”. This was the year The Company at Shuffles was first created and we were all honored to be a part of the original Company. This dance was the first number of the show and it introduced each of our characters individually. I played the crazy Busker who thought she was the Queen of England. My favorite part of the dance was the acapella section where we used only spoons and our taps as percussion. It was really hard to learn all the tricky rhythms, so when we finally got it down it felt amazing!

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S: What do you think you’ve learned the most?

E: At Shuffles I’ve learned the importance of having stage presence and truly engaging in whatever it is I am doing on stage. No matter how talented a tapper you are, you must find a way to connect with the audience. Learning to be comfortable on stage came simply from spending as much time on a stage in front of an audience as possible. Shuffles gave me amazing opportunities to perform every year, but I also took advantage of any other performance opportunity I could find.

S: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to younger Shuffles students?

E: The advice I would give to younger Shuffles students is to not give up when you are having trouble learning a combination or you are in a class that is challenging you. I’ve learned that a challenge is a good thing because that’s how you improve, and with time and practice, something that once felt difficult will come with ease. Everyone has trouble with a step or combo, and it’s a different one for everyone. Just because you have difficulty with a step at first, does not mean it’s impossible to learn!

S: What’s next?

E: This upcoming school year I will be attending the University of Southern California. I am beyond excited to study Dramatic Arts and Dance at the school of my dreams. To top it all off, my best friend and fellow Company member, Athena Ripka, will be studying alongside me at USC, a dream we have shared since we were five years old. I will be auditioning in LA whenever I have free time, and I can’t wait to experience the Hollywood scene and learn new techniques for camera while auditioning in LA. However, I know NYC and Broadway will always be my home after college. In my opinion, NYC is the greatest city in the world, and I am blessed to have grown up here.

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SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Hannah Rowen

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“In all of my time teaching at Shuffles, I have never seen Hannah walk into a room with anything but a wonderful, positive attitude! She is smart, determined, sweet, talented, and always an absolute joy to teach! Hannah exudes her energy on stage as well as off, and has become a truly fantastic tap dancer and performer!  Whatever Hannah chooses to do, I know she will succeed. Although I will really miss having her in Company, I am very excited to see what this next chapter holds for her!” – Shelby Kaufman. SHUFFLES Tap & The Company Instructor

SHUFFLES: How long have you been part of the Shuffles family?

HANNAH: I started dancing at Shuffles when I was three years old, making this past year my fifteenth year of Shuffles and tap.

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S: What’s your favorite Shuffles Memory?

H: Some of my favorite moments at Shuffles were practicing a duet, which was choreographed by Shelby Kaufman, with Molly Model. We were always in the oddest moods when class rolled around on Monday. We would start giggling and not be able to stop, and Shelby would roll her eyes and say, “Let’s just learn this one step,” but she loved it.

hannah and molly

S: What was your favorite Shuffles performance?

H: I cannot pinpoint one show I enjoyed more than others but I hands down loved performing the routine, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” with Gaby Niederhoffer and Molly more than anything I have ever done at Shuffles. It was the type of dance that we never got tired of doing. Also, that class with Molly, Gaby, and Kat (Katharine Ponza) was hilarious and one of the best parts of my week.

S: What do you think you’ve learned the most?

H: I have never planned on being a professional tap dancer or performer. But my years at Shuffles have ingrained in me, among other things, a life philosophy of sticking with activities I love doing, even if they have no tangible benefits or the reward is uncertain. The teachers at Shuffles have made tap worth it for me by effusing enthusiasm and kindness.

S: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to younger Shuffles students?

H: The weeks surrounding the May Shuffles show are always hectic and stressful. The teachers expect a lot from you—they expect you to know your lines, your cues, and to be professional. It is easy to get caught up in the intensity of these few weeks and be overwhelmed by the show. But just remember that you come to Shuffles not only to learn but also because performing is thrilling, tapping is fun, and you have great friends at Shuffles. So, take the show seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously and just have fun.

S: We heard you did your Senior Project at school on tap dance and incorporated Shuffles into your research and presentation. Please, tell us more! 

H: I dedicated this past spring to making a documentary about the history of tap dance, spanning from the genesis of tap to its modern forms. I interviewed four Shuffles teachers (Shelby, Katharine, Gail, and Richard) and supplemented their insights with research of my own.  The documentary was screened at my high school, The Brearley School, and included live performances by several Shuffles students (Molly Model, Gaby Niederhoffer, Kate Louissant, Myah Segura, Isabel Kingston, and Julia Kingston).  They all danced beautifully, and I’m so grateful to them for being willing to help me with the project, which actually turned out better than I ever could have imagined!

S: What’s next?

H: In the fall, I am heading off to Stanford. While I’m excited about the new experiences I will have there, I’m slightly concerned about continuing with the old ones; my college does not have a tap program.  Regardless, I definitely want to keep tapping in some way because I do not ever want to live a life without tap. Beyond tap, I plan on pursing the Classics and creative writing (employment may or may not be a part of my future) and I guess I will take it from there. I hope to find many new interests during the next four years and plan on frequenting Studio Maestro when I’m home for break!

hannah on stage

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Athena Ripka

athena headshotAnother year has come to a close, and we are so proud (and sad) to say farewell to our Seniors this year! They were fantastic dancers and “A” students, and we will be closely following their journey ahead! Hear a little more about Athena’s Shuffles story and what’s next!

“I have been teaching Athena at Shuffles since she was 3 years old. From the beginning, she was a very special student. Athena has always had talent, focus, instincts, and an incredible work ethic and drive. Athena was always the student who raised the class level as she inspired her peers as well as her teachers. I have so many memories of her solos from her playing the violin and tapping to her tiki solo high on a bench and of course her iconic elevator dance in Eloise, Wild West, Phantom of the opera to her incredible Circus Ringmaster. She has always been a passionate performer and hard to NOT watch her when she is on stage. Athena always told me she would graduate from Shuffles but I never thought that day would come so quick! I will miss her, but I am so excited to see how her career will develop. Her performance as Emily at Radio City this week is a good indication that Athena has big things ahead.” – Gail, Director of Shuffles

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SHUFFLES: How long have you been part of the Shuffles family?

ATHENA: I started dancing at Shuffles at 3 year old

S: What has your experience been like?

A: It has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life. It is part of who I am today. The experience I got at Shuffles undoubtedly helped me book my Broadway jobs. Gail has been a mentor.

S: What’s your favorite Shuffles Memory?

A: Every time I was on stage is a favorite memory. There are too many special ones to choose only one.

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S: What was your favorite Shuffles performance?

A: Le Grande Cirque was my favorite Shuffles show, Swan Fake was my favorite class dance, and Lion Tamer was my favorite recent solo. I also will always have the fondest memories of my solo in Oh The Places You Go; I was 6 years old and popped out from behind a Dr. Suess book playing my violin and kept popping out with new “surprise.”

Athena in TAPerella       Athena in Le Cirque

S: What do you think you’ve learned the most?

A: How to be a skilled tap dancer and entertainer.

S: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to younger Shuffles students?

A: Practice!

S: What’s next?

A: I’m  currently working in the Radio City New York Spectacular until the day I have to leave for college where I’ll be attending The University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts. I have a two year contract with Nickelodeon so I will be flying into NYC  monthly to record my role of Princess Annabella. Additionally, I will be releasing my second single, Mavericks, through Sony Red and going to London to do some cowrites with producers. I will continue to audition both in NY and LA so hopefully there will be some more things on my calendar soon. For updates follow me @athenaripka!

Athena in NY Spectacular
SHUFFLES Director Gail with students after seeing Athena in the NY Spectacular.