RHS Dancers Enjoy Star Treatment at Broadway Master Classes and Matinee

RHS dance students attend a matinee performance of the Broadway hit “Moulin Rouge at the Al Hirschfeld Theater in New York City on March 8, 2023.

Jessica Ackerman, Arts Editor

The talented dancers in the RHS dance program got the star treatment when they traveled to Broadway to take musical theater dance classes taught by cast members of the Tony-award nominated musical “Moulin Rouge” and attend a matinee performance of the show on Wednesday, March 8.

“The whole trip was absolutely amazing,” senior dancer Penny Cerenzio said. “Everything about it was so exciting, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for dance.”

Accompanied by RHS Dance Teacher Michele Adriano, the dancers traveled to the city on a bus that truly buzzed with excitement about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that clearly did not disappoint.

The Broadway Dance Center hosted the RHS students’ late-morning classes in the city, with male swing Cameron Burke teaching the intermediate- and introductory-level dancers, and female swing Lauren Celentano teaching the advanced-level dancers. Both classes offered dancers a way to explore the distinctive style of musical theatre dance specific to “Moulin Rouge” and created by renowned Broadway choreographer Sonya Tayeh.

“We learned all about how every movement has a purpose, and how the choreographer of “Moulin Rouge” wants their dancers to dance,” said junior dancer Brett Shuster of her master class.

Burke’s class focused on storytelling through dance. Students learned original choreography phrases from the songs “Shut Up and Raise Your Glass” and “Backstage Romance,” both of which conveyed the high-energy showmanship that is unique to “Moulin Rouge.”

Burke also offered up plenty of insider information about being a swing on Broadway, such as having to know all of the intricate, male ensemble tracks in the musical. He also talked about life as a Broadway performer, including attending auditions and the rehearsal process.

“I learned so much about confidence and expressing myself,” senior dancer Sofie Tepperman said after her class.

Celentano’s class focused on the physical choreography of “Backstage Romance,” a number from the show. “For a lot of us it was our first time in a heels-type class, and it was interesting to experience a new style,” attendee Shuster said.

After class, the student dancers traveled to the famous Al Hirschfeld Theater to watch the choreography they had just learned come to life on a beautiful Broadway stage. As soon as the curtain rose, the students were transported into the whimsical world of “Moulin Rouge,” not only by its dazzling set and breathtaking lighting, but also by the ensemble’s incredibly strong pre-show dance performances that set the stage for a stunning, signature Broadway performance.

“The moment the show started, I knew I would enjoy it,” junior dancer Cecilia Madjor said. “I know that most people, me included, didn’t want it to end.”

The students were also delighted to learn that their teacher, swing Lauren Celentano, had, in fact, been called to perform that afternoon. Sure enough, just an hour after their class ended, she appeared onstage as part of the ensemble. “Seeing Celentano in action was the most memorable aspect of the day,” Shuster said.

The RHS dancers agreed that another truly memorable aspect of this experience was seeing the choreography they had just learned in class being performed around an hour later by the glamorous Broadway dancers. Watching the newly familiar choreography onstage, “made me feel part of the show,” Madjor said.

For some attendees, “Moulin Rouge” was the first Broadway musical they had ever seen, and for others, it immediately became a new favorite, as evidenced by the gasps of amazement from the students’ mezzanine seats that lasted throughout the performance

“I absolutely adored the musical and I wish I could see it again,” junior dancer Kaitlyn DiCataldo said. “The talent in this show was incredible, including the singing, dancing and even the set design.”

Members of the RHS Dance department plan to draw on the invaluable Broadway lessons they learned as they prepare for their annual Dance Showcase, which will be performed on June 8 and 9 in the high school auditorium, and which will feature a “Moulin Rouge”-inspired jazz piece.