Dancing across a hotel ballroom in small-town America seems a world away from performing on Broadway, but for some students, competitions and conventions are an important step toward realizing that dream. Skills honed at these events—the ability to quickly learn choreography in a wide range of styles and perform it immediately afterward—are valuable in securing work in musical theater. Three former comp kids now dancing in Broadway shows or on tour explain how their competition experience helped propel them toward careers in musical theater.
Currently in Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’, Ida Saki was a member of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and has choreographed and performed for film, television and off-Broadway shows.
How competing impacted her career path: “I feel grateful to have met so many incredible choreographers. I have continued working with a lot of them, and the majority of my jobs have come from connections I made through the competition world!”
The skills she learned: “Taking classes at conventions helped me learn quickly, perform diverse styles and gave me audition experience. It taught me to be a good teammate, proper class etiquette and learning from the other dancers in the room.”
On staying open: “As a student, I was encouraged to embrace my love for contemporary dance and to dance in Europe. I’m grateful that I was open to all avenues. My career has taken me in places I never imagined as a student, and each job has given me another tool to add to my tool box.”
Currently a swing on the North American tour of Disney’s Aladdin, Maya Kazzaz competed as a student with Broadway Dance Center.
How competing impacted her career path: “When I started taking classes with musical theater choreographers, I fell in love with the mixture of storytelling and technique and the joy of it. I think those experiences ultimately gave me the assurance I needed to pursue it professionally.”
The skills she learned: “The importance of being able to pick up any style of dance and make it your own was emphasized in the convention and competition world. The idea of always ‘performing’ was definitely instilled at a young age. To this day I think that helped me excel at auditions by delivering a semifinished product quickly in the audition room.”
Advice to students: “Put yourself out there before you feel ‘ready.’ When we wait to feel good and secure, we are often too late. Don’t be afraid to be messy or bad—we are often our worst critics. Also, explore and learn other things—it’s okay (and healthy!) to have other interests.”
Currently in Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’, Kolton Krouse has worked in the theater, television and film industry, and was a four-time National Outstanding Dancer for New York City Dance Alliance.
How competing impacted their career path: “Competitions helped me explore performing. Being able to step on a stage whether in a group piece, solo or duo/trio helped me
find my stage presence.”
What drew them to musical theater: “Truthfully, what pulled me to musical theater was CATS. I remember being 6 or 7 running around the house pretending to be Victoria, the white cat. And the revival was my first Broadway show! What I love so much about musical theater is that it incorporates all of my major loves: dance, singing, acting and music!”
What they wish they’d known: “Always warm up! I took my youthful body for granted and would not warm up when I was younger. But that is also how I tore my meniscus at 16 years old.”