Named The Godmother of Burlesque by Vogue Italia, Bonnie Dunn has led troupes of pasty-wearing burlesque dancers for more than two decades. In nightly shows, her daredevil performers perform acrobatics on the ceiling, gulp swords, and spit fire. Dancers also venture out to parties to reveal the secrets to their art, and in-studio classes teach students how to shimmy and shake like a pro. The class ends after students make their first set of pasties, then incinerate them so foreign agents never learn how to duplicate our burlesque technology.
Stepping into New World Stages is like stepping into a cultural retreat. Outside, Times Square bustles with international energy, but inside, away from the travelers and giant screens, an oasis of blue and yellow waits. From a lobby that speaks strongly of industrial architecture, five stages branch off to host Tony- and Pulitzer-winning performances as well as spectacles outside any expectation. Before or after each show, the Time Out New York lounge quenches thirst and conversational cravings with a full bar.
It's hard to tell what's going on behind the metal grillwork covering the windows of the building that still bears the name Union Square Savings Bank carved into its stone. That's because of the blackout drapes—the vintage 1840 Greek Revival monolith with 40-foot ceilings has been a theater since 1996, when Daryl Roth took it over and got rid of all the dusty old money inside. The theater producer, who has staged seven Pulitzer-winning plays, has since opened up the unobstructed space to an array of other spectacles.
In the 60 years since Robert Joffrey founded his school, graduates have gone on to dance in major ballet companies as well as modern and contemporary troupes. And it's easy to see why they'd have such diverse careers: Joffrey pioneered modern music in ballet with his 1967 opus Astarte, for which he commissioned original rock and roll, and then with Billboards, which was set to the sweet funk of Prince. With teachers ranging from a veteran of the National Ballet Company of Guatemala to the ghost of Gene Kelly, the school continues to blend multiple dance styles into its balletic training, building well-rounded dancers versed in jazz, contemporary, character, and hip-hop. All of the training tends to pay off; graduates of the Joffrey Ballet School frequently go on to shine in companies including the Joffrey Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, the New York City Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and foxtrot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
Founded by 25-year music- and dance-industry veteran Safi Thomas, The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory instills the values of professionalism and hard work through the art of hip-hop dance. The instructors hold an encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop history and technique, which means they can fill the intensive conservatory program with sessions in everything from choreography to kinesiology to the technical aspects of production. Weekly open classes extend the teaching staff?s knowledge to the community, ensuring that everyone can at least follow along once all political debates have been replaced with dance contests.