Senior Spotlight: Myah Segura

Myah graduated from LaGuardia High School this past spring and will be attending Drew University in the fall.  She’ll be traveling this summer to the Dominican Republic to visit family, and then will join fellow Shuffles alum Isabel Kingston in California to take dance classes.

Myah graduated from LaGuardia High School this past spring and will be attending Drew University in the fall.  She’ll be traveling this summer to the Dominican Republic to visit family, and then will join fellow Shuffles alum Isabel Kingston in California to take dance classes.

Myah is very proud to be the first Hispanic person to graduate from the Company at Shuffles. We asked her what she’ll miss about New York City and Shuffles when she heads to college.  “I will miss going to my favorite restaurants with my friends after a dance class, and the supportive students and faculty at Shuffles. I’ve made my best friends here and the teachers are more like friends as well.”

Myah’s love of the arts will continue as she will be studying performing arts administration and management at Drew.  And her love for performing will also continue.  “I will continue to take many different styles of dance while in college… tap, jazz, ballet, and modern. I love to sing and act, but dancing is definitely my favorite. At Shuffles we learned to sing and act as well as dance, and we even learned to play the violin while tap dancing.”

We asked Myah to tell us one of the best lessons she’s learned at Shuffles and a little bit about her favorite Shuffles performance.  “I’ve learned that even in the studios, you have to perform full out because how you practice in the studio will reflect on the stage. My favorite number was Swan Fake in Le Grande Cirque because we elevated our tap technique with ballet and I was so excited to combine my two favorite genres of dance!”

We always love to know what our seniors are watching and listening to.  Myah loves Disney Musicals and Marvel movies.  “I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all and could sing along to every song. The detention dance scene from “Hairspray” is my favorite dance moment in a movie. I love how Tracy is willing to try new styles of dance and makes new friends by doing so.”

Myah has a clear vision of where she wants her university studies to take her.  “If I could have anyone’s career I would love to have Gail Crutchfield’s. I’d love to be cast in a dance heavy broadway show and then go off to be a director of a pre-professional dance studio.”  

We look forward to seeing Myah shine on as a performer, teacher and entrepreneur! 

Senior Spotlight: Isabel Kingston

Shuffles Senior Spotlight shines today on Isabel Kingston, who just this month graduated from The Chapin School.

This summer Isabel, 17, will “tap” into her Shuffles training to teach at a summer dance camp for children in New York City. She will also be continuing her own dance training when she travels to Los Angeles for several weeks of dance intensives.

A singer, actor, dancer (and violinist!), Isabel tells us she’ll miss the vibrant bustle of everything here in New York when she heads to the quieter campus of Princeton University this fall. “I’ll miss all the amazing performing arts opportunities that are right at my fingertips, though I hope to continue to pursue the arts in college by joining a dance company and a capella group at Princeton.” She is also considering getting a certificate – similar to a minor – in dance!

As she enters college in the fall, Isabel hopes to study journalism, public policy and foreign affairs. “I love to write and learn about issues related to global health”. It’s no surprise then that Isabel cites Michelle Obama as an inspiration, and artistically, the dancer/choreographer Brian Friedman.

We asked Isabel to share with us what she’ll miss most about Shuffles. “I’ll miss the incredible friends I’ve made at Shuffles— though I know we’ll stay in touch for many years to come. I’ll miss the incredibly positive yet challenging learning environment, and the amazing teachers that have pushed me to grow as a tap dancer and performer each year. I’ll always remember the feeling of adrenaline and camaraderie during the opening moments of 42nd Street, when the curtain first comes up during the time-step section. It filled me with so much joy to be doing such a lively and joyful dance surrounded by some of my best friends.” She tells us one of her favorite roles at Shuffles was being a sparkly rat and dancing in the big group number “Dance dance dance” choreographed by tap legend Harold Cromer and taught to her by Shelby Kaufman!

We never let our seniors take off without sharing their favorite dance scene on the stage or screen; for Isabel it’s “Cool” from the movie/musical “West Side Story”. We also love to learn something about them that we didn’t know. “I have perfect pitch…which means if you name a note I can sing it on demand, or if you sing a note I can tell you what note it is without checking!”

Isabel told us that Shuffles has taught her an important lesson that she will carry with her to college and beyond. “Confidence is so important both on and off the stage! It’s so much better to be “strong and wrong” than timid and lukewarm. “

We wish Izzy the best of love, luck and support for her new adventure at Princeton.

Senior Spotlight: Emma Brafman

This week Shuffles’ Senior Spotlight is on Emma Brafman.  A senior at The Birch Wathen Lenox School, Emma, 18, is a lifelong New Yorker and has been dancing at Shuffles for 12 years!  She tell us how grateful she is for what this city has taught her.  “Growing up in New York has forced me to be independent…I’ve walked to school since I was 12 and done all kinds of things here on my own – it makes other places seem less scary and daunting.”  She also shared that growing up in New York gives you access to so many unique experiences such as taking classes with teachers who are Broadway professionals, seeing shows and meeting so many open and expressive people. “I’m going to miss New York – the non-stop energy and how everyone has their own thing going on.  I’m also going to miss Shuffles so much…my friends, the comfort of those conversations…it’s been a safe space for me for so many years…I love coming here and knowing everything about this place and these people.  Working in a new environment next fall will be scary, but also exciting.”

Emma will to be attending Tulane University in the fall and anticipates that her studies may eventually focus on either psychology or communications.  “I also want to continue to dance – after being at Shuffles for so many years, I can’t imagine not performing and at Tulane I don’t need to be a dance major to participate in their shows.  Continuing to do musical theater will help cushion my landing as I transition from high school to college and live in a new place for the first time.”

This summer Emma will embark on a month-long tour of Europe, her first summer in many not attending sleep-away camp.

We asked Emma to tell us a few things that she is interested in these days other than school and dance. She said she loves country music and has also been listening to a lot of Jason Robert Brown.  She is also kind of obsessed with the food at Gyu Kaku, a popular Japanese barbecue place on the Upper West Side.  But one of her other really important loves is writing.  Emma is the editor of her school’s magazine called “Range” and is particularly proud of a continued feature called ”The People Around Us”.  “It’s about appreciating all of the interesting people in our lives that we may not think to speak to every day at length…the barista, the cab driver…they all have an interesting story to tell.”

Lastly, we asked Emma to share with us her biggest takeaway from all of her years at Shuffles.  “I would have to say that a turning point for me came when I was cast in the role of “Mother” in Peter Pantomime last year. I had watched Cyndi and the older students play that part for many years.  All of a sudden I realized that I was the older student, the seasoned performer – it made me realize that I had the maturity, experience and ability to do well in that role.  The magic of Shuffles is that they give you the training, and then a structure, an opportunity.  Then they push you to create something in that space – it’s like they say to you, ok, you have the role, now what are you going to do with it?… we trust you to go make something great out of this.”

We have no doubt that Emma will also make something great out of her time at Tulane and all of the performances that lie ahead for her.

Senior Spotlight: Kellan Harrod

Spring is finally here so it’s time for Shuffles to celebrate our soon-to-be graduates with our Senior Spotlight.  We start this year with 19-year old Kellan Harrod, who has been dancing singing and acting at Shuffles since the age of 12.  Kellan will graduate this spring from Special Music School (SMS), New York City’s’ only K-12 public school that teaches music as a core subject.  Although Kellan is a vocal major at SMS with classical training which includes lots of opera, he is also a gifted dancer and actor who loves to cross musical genres and disciplines.

Kellan says that his Shuffles training has given him the opportunity to perform in a variety of roles and musical styles and has taught him perhaps the most important lesson for any performer – don’t be afraid to try anything.  Likewise, this Oklahoma native who has now lived in New York City for 12 years, says that living here has given him an appreciation for diverse cultures, points of view, artists and music.  “I know I want to be and do lots of things….last summer when I was part of the Eugene O’Neil program I sang the Bee Gees and Aerosmith – I never thought I would do that and I loved it!”

Kellan has applied exclusively to conservatories for the fall because he is anxious to dive headfirst into a more arts-driven curriculum.  “I want to fall in love with theater even more than I already have”.  He said his dream rolls include Macbeth, Billy Bigelow in Carousel, and Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy – “Chris Pratt is a huge idol of mine”.

For anyone lucky enough to have watched Kellan perform over the years at Shuffles, they’ve seen him make us swoon singing a ballad, dance across the stage in a tap number and have us belly laughing with his campy, over-the-top interpretation of Tinkerbell in Peter Pantomime.  “I’ll miss high school and of course all of my friends, but I’ll miss Shuffles the most. It’s given me that confidence to audition at equity theaters – it’s pretty rare for a 19 year-old to get equity jobs, Shuffles is the reason I feel conformable enough dancing and acting to do this before college…tap/acting/singing, they’ve made everything go with each other, it’s seamless.”

He said he is also inspired by Shuffles faculty:  “I’ve loved getting to know the teachers and I’ll carry with me their words of wisdom…it’s been the best part of my training, learning all these different types of performing styles”.  Kellan tells us that one of the best pieces of advice was from Shuffles teacher Kat.  She told him: “Yes, think about the steps but enjoy the actual dancing because why would you be dancing if you weren’t enjoying it”.

With an eye towards having a diverse and multifaceted career, It’s no surprise that Kellan admires the careers of genre-busting actors such as Brian D’Arcy James and Patrick Wilson.  “I want to do everything and embrace everything” he tells us.

So Kellan, two more questions:

What’s on your playlist?  “My guilty pleasure is Maroon 5 – I just love what Adam Levine does with his voice…and I love Michael Buble”.

If you couldn’t be a performer what would you be? “I’d be an ESPN sports broadcaster”.

Good luck, Kellan!  We’re so excited to see what the next year and beyond holds for you!

Shuffles student to shine as composer and vocalist in Lincoln Center Performance!

Shuffles is very proud to feature our student, Paloma Dineli Chesky on our blog this week. This April, 11-year old Paloma will be singing an original orchestral piece of music that she composed for the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center.

Paloma’s incredible moment comes after two years taking part in the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composer’s Program which is available to 4th and 5th graders in the New York City public school system. The program mentors young artists and teaches them musical composition and how to broaden their pieces to accommodate a full orchestra.

Last April, Paloma, now a 5th grader at the Professional Performing Arts School in New York City, performed as vocalist with the NY Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra on her composition “Peace in All Worlds”, created through the Philharmonic’s Musical Postcards Initiative, which allows students from different countries to share stories and musical ideas.

Seeing the wonderful potential and talent in their student, Paloma’s mentors in the Very Young Composer’s Program asked her to once again compose a piece for the full orchestra, and sing with them as well, which she will do at David Geffen Hall on April 4th-6th. Paloma told us how much she appreciates that her mentors in the program strive to respect each student’s vision for their piece by giving them creative control while also guiding them to understand how to incorporate the full orchestral selection of instruments.

Paloma explained that her new piece, “Rising”, is about “people going thru challenges and difficulties and having the power to overcome and come out of it stronger”. She said her mentors gave her great advice and guidance on expanding her original composition, initially written for just piano and voice, to include added emphasis on violins, as well as the rest of the ensemble.

Paloma has been a student at Shuffles since she was 4 years old and feels fortunate to live in the shadow of Lincoln Center, the backdrop to her neighborhood and her dreams. “I know so many people that have travelled from all over the world to study and perform in New York City…I feel so lucky that I get to live here and walk by there every day.”

Music is definitely at the heart of Paloma’s family life; her Brazilian-born mother, Patricia, is a dancer and guitarist, her brother sings, dances and plays the cello, and her father, David is a professional musician . When Paloma was just 9, he brought her up onstage at Jazz at Lincoln Center to sing and scat her way through a version of “Georgia on My Mind”.

Paloma is inspired by legendary performers such as Ella Fitzgerald and explained that she admires both her style and also her strength. “She was so strong…nothing stopped her, even though she couldn’t watch her friends sing in the clubs she was performing in because of the racism at the time…she still went up there and performed her best and never gave up.”

Paloma began studying piano at the age of five at Kaufman Music Center’s Lucy Moses School and said that as her piano playing has improved, her ability to write on a more complex level has also grown; she loves composing and now has hundreds of songs in her notebooks. “I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember”. She feels one of her greatest strengths is improvisation and the comfort she feels onstage, both evidenced at a school performance last year when her partner got a last minute case of stage fright and couldn’t go on. “I made up a new song on the spot and just sang it myself- it was fun!”

Tickets for Paloma’s show with the New York Philharmonic go on sale on March 1st! See you there!

Shuffles Student Kellan Harrod Shines in National Spotlight!

Shuffles is thrilled to announce that our student, Kellan Harrod, has been nominated for the Presidential Scholar in the Arts award. Kellan performed in Miami earlier this month as part of the National YoungArts Foundation’s program, and as a result, was selected for this prestigious nomination.  The winners will be chosen in the spring.  Kellan, we are bursting with pride and sending tons of Shuffles love to you and your family on this wonderful news!  To read more about the National YoungArts competition and the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, check out their website:  https://www.youngarts.org/presidential-scholars

And if you’d like to watch Kellan’s beautiful performance in Miami, please click here.

A photo from Kellan’s performance

Kellan Harrod named a 2019 National YoungArts Foundation Finalist

Shuffles is excited to congratulate Kellan Harrod on being named a 2019 National YoungArts Foundation Finalist.  Kellan was selected from thousands of applications, and has been recognized for his outstanding artistic achievements, joining 710 of the nation’s most promising young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts from 44 states.  As a classic triple threat (actor, singer and dancer) Kellan was selected in the theater category;; the 2019 winners represent the top 10 percent of applications and are in Miami this week to take part in master classes and workshops with internationally recognized leaders in their fields. Kellan will also perform for further award opportunities.  Break a leg, Kellan!  Your Shuffles family is SO PROUD of you and wishes you all the best in the week ahead!!

National YoungArts Foundation describes its program as follows:  “YoungArts’ signature program is an application-based award for emerging artists ages 15–18 or in grades 10–12 from across the United States. Selected through a blind adjudication process, YoungArts winners receive valuable support, including financial awards of up to $10,000, professional development and educational experiences working with renowned mentors—such as Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rebecca Walker, Frank Gehry, Jeff Koons, Wynton Marsalis, Salman Rushdie and Carrie Mae Weems—and performance and exhibition opportunities at some of the nation’s leading cultural institutions, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Museum of Modern Art (New York) and New World Center (Miami). Additionally, YoungArts winners are eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic and artistic excellence.”

Shuffles Alumni and Teachers Shine on Stage and Screen This Year

Shuffles is thrilled to share news of the exciting things happening to some of our alumni and teachers!

Dalton HarrodDalton Harrod, former Shuffles student and teacher, is filming a new series for AMC.
Dalton can also be seen next month in “Second Act” playing opposite Jennifer Lopez, Leah Remini, and Milo Ventimiglia. To round out Dalton’s trifecta of great news this year, he is also in “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” currently in theaters, playing Jamie. This film was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival last year and has received huge critical acclaim for the both the cast and the story about a girl forced to undergo gay conversion therapy. About his recent successes, Dalton tells us “I am internally grateful for the opportunities I have received. To work with such incredible filmmakers, and artists is an honor and a dream. I can’t express my gratitude enough. And it couldn’t have happened without the inspiring people who have always believed in me and kept pushing me to be the best artist I could.


Marla LouissaintMarla Louissaint a former Shuffles student, is currently on the second national tour with the cast of “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”. She joined the first national tour in November through June 2017 and rejoined the second tour when they reopened in August.In addition to the thrill of playing Lucille and the Lead Shirelle, Shirley for audiences around the country, Marla has also enjoyed traveling around the U.S., discovering local cuisines, sightseeing, and nightlife in each city. She tells us “Performing in front of an audience 8 times a week is always a joy. But our company is very good at finding a balance between work and fun. For example, we try to have family dinner once a week at a famous restaurant in the area so we have shared memories to look back on – and they’re always a great time. Another staple each week is going out to see a drag show in every city. While living on the road with this fabulous group of people, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what it takes to be a professional in a traveling company. I’ve also been able to see plenty of cities I can see myself living in, other than NY, like Chicago, Knoxville and Providence, and I already know that I’ll be retiring in North Charleston. I’ll be leaving the tour in January to return to school for the spring semester, but I’ll be taking all of my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned with me in the next chapter.


Molly ModelMolly Model, Shuffles teacher and alumnus, is going to be starring as June in the Weathervane Playhouse (Newark, Ohio) production of “Gypsy” this holiday season. Molly is incredibly excited to join an amazing company of performers. The first song she ever performed at Shuffles as a very young girl was “Everything’s Coming up Roses” which is a song from Gypsy. She spent her summer working on the production team of “42nd Street” Associate Director/Choreographer to the amazing Christine O’Grady. They created all new, original choreography for a production that was called “mesmerizing” in a Broadway World review. Molly goes into “Gypsy” rehearsal very soon and could not be more delighted. She sends all her love and gratitude to Gail and her amazing shuffles family for sending her so much love on her journey!

Shuffles Debuts its New Bravo! Company @ Shuffles

This fall begins a new chapter at Shuffles with the addition of a new dance group, Bravo! Company @ Shuffles, a Pre-Professional Tap Company for SHUFFLES students ages 14-18.  Bravo Company was designed specifically to prepare students who aspire to eventually join The Company @ Shuffles.  Our premiere Bravo Company is comprised of six students: Caroline Cahill, Patrice Cahill, Lena-Marie Demayo-Stoger, Wyatt Florin, Maia Handwerker and Margo Krauss; this talented group was chosen last spring from auditions and will be led by Director Gail Crutchfield along with Artistic Directors Shelby Kaufman and Katharine Ponza.  Bravo Company will provide these dancers with a more intense classroom experience as well as additional opportunities to strut their stuff onstage (performance dates to be announced soon!).

Caroline Cahill and Patrice Cahill
Caroline Cahill and Patrice Cahill

 

Lena-Marie Demayo-Stoger
Lena-Marie Demayo-Stoger

 

Wyatt Florin
Wyatt Florin

 

Maia Handwerker
Maia Handwerker

 

Margo Krauss
Margo Krauss

Shuffles Students and Faculty Spread Their Wings Over the Summer

Shuffles students and faculty have been traveling, exploring and enjoying all kinds of adventures this summer. We’re excited to share their stories with you in their own words:

Shelby Kaufman – Tap Teacher & Choreographer

I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to travel and teach tap all over the world this summer!  I started off with a wonderful trip to London and Prague followed by a stop in Barcelona to teach a workshop at Luthier Dansa.

Back here in the States I taught a studio intensive in Phenix City, Alabama, theatre jazz and tap at the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters summer convention, my 6th summer at Motor City Tap Festival, which culminated with a performance at Music Hall in Detroit, and right now I’m in Troy, Michigan teaching an intensive at Next Level Dance.

I’ve also been able to sneak in some time to relax with family and friends in the Hamptons and also here in Michigan, which is where I grew up – Dorothy was right…there’s no place like home!

I’ll be back in NYC soon to teach a tap intensive at Shuffles – I can’t wait to reconnect with my students and meet some new ones too!


Isabella Ciriello – Student

“I play classical guitar and a few weeks ago I traveled to Italy to take part in the Lanciano International Guitar Seminar.  This one-week festival gave me the chance to study in master classes during the day with some of the best classical guitarists in the world.  We performed in various towns for four nights in the most beautiful locations, including a medieval castle!  I was able to play as a soloist and also in an ensemble with some of my teachers.  It was a great experience and it forced me to really up my game by learning a new piece in a short amount of time and then playing it for an audience the next night.  I’m much less intimidated to step out onto that stage now; preparation if everything!”