Senior Spotlight: Hannah Dagen

Current Favorite Song: “Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific

Favorite Dance Scene: Another Day in the Sun from La La Land!

Hannah Dagen is graduating from Professional Children’s School this spring, and will be attending Vassar College in the fall to study Art History!  Before she heads off to college, Hannah hopes to make the most of her time in New York City spending it with her friends and family, especially her twin sister (and fellow SHUFFLES senior!) Alexandra before they part ways!  “I will definitely miss the excitement of being able to explore a city so rich in culture, arts, food, and natural beauty,” says Hannah.  “In college, I will have to learn how to fall asleep to a calmer environment, as opposed to the constant honking and music coming from cars on the city streets at midnight!”

Hannah has been a SHUFFLES student for 16 years, since she was two years old!  Of her many performances with SHUFFLES, her favorite was “Cell Block Tango,” which she did as a member of The Company in 2019’s No Place Like Home.  Talking about the May Shows, Hannah fondly remembers that every time the curtain goes down at the end of the performance, “the entire backstage erupts into laughter and cheer.  It is the best feeling of accomplishment and togetherness.”  What wonderful memories you can keep with you as you head off to college!

The biggest lesson Hannah learned while at SHUFFLES is to “never say no to yourself.  Whether it be a tap step that is particularly difficult, or a long rehearsal, I was taught that challenging yourself is the only way to reach your true potential as a dancer.”  When telling us what she will miss most about SHUFFLES, Hannah said, “I will miss the sense of community, encouragement, and excitement that I feel when walking into a studio at Studio Maestro. I have developed such close relationships with my classmates and teachers that I consider each one a part of my family. SHUFFLES offered me the perfect combination of artistic expression, teamwork, and sisterhood.”

When not at SHUFFLES, Hannah is taking photojournalism classes, drawing, painting, tutoring at her local community center, and going to see musicals on Broadway.  She plans to pursue a career in journalism or art history, but says she will always continue her passion for dance alongside her career!  Finally, her biggest inspiration is her mother, who pushes her to be the best version of herself, follow her dreams, and to work hard to achieve her goals.

We miss you already Hannah!  Congratulations!

Senior Spotlight: Marlee Kitei

Current Favorite Song: “I Know the End” by Phoebe Bridgers. Basically anything Phoebe Bridgers!

Favorite Dance Scene: Singin’ in the Rain!

Marlee Kitei will be graduating from The Dalton School this spring, and will attend Tufts University this fall double majoring in Drama and another yet undecided major! She loves studying politics, and has an interest in Tufts’ Film and Media major, so she has potential options on her mind for her second major. Before she heads off to college, she’s prepping her dorm room and will be working as a camp counselor at a day camp this summer.

Marlee has been a student at SHUFFLES for 7 years; her first May Show was Le Grand Cirque! She remembers starting around 10 or 11 years old, and was terrified of the older kids. From her time at SHUFFLES, Marlee has learned that “in order to improve you have to find the right balance of believing in yourself and your potential, but also not taking yourself too seriously.” Marlee says she will miss her SHUFFLES family when she heads off to college, as well as the constant support and learning in weekly classes.

Her favorite SHUFFLES performance was her first showcase in The Studio at SHUFFLES. “I looked up to everyone so much and was so honored to have been a part of the showcase,” Marlee says. “I remember being so proud of all the hard work we put in.” Coming in at a close second is her favorite dance number,  “Our Favorite Son” from The Will Rogers Follies in our 2018 May Show, Meet Me At the Plaza! Her favorite memories at SHUFFLES are all from waiting backstage at the Kaye Playhouse before the annual May Show. She felt she really got to bond with the other members of Studio and Studio AP, and had so much fun being together in their free time before going on stage. She even remembers having a huge dance party right before places were called before the 2019 May Show, No Place Like Home, to shake everyone’s nerves away! What a great energy to start a show with!

When not at SHUFFLES, Marlee loves to play piano and sing along to whatever she’s playing! She also enjoys painting, being a part of the mock trial team at school, and watching Netflix. Her absolute favorite thing to do, however, is spend time with her friends and explore the city. On leaving New York City, Marlee said she will miss Central Park, the community of people she has here, and the convenience of being able to walk anywhere and everywhere!

For her career, Marlee said, “I feel like I’ve never just had one dream for my career. I think one of my dreams is definitely to keep acting and see where that takes me, but I would also love to do something entrepreneurial and creative in a business sense.” Her biggest inspiration is her grandmother, who is also one of the biggest supporters in her life. Speaking about her grandma, Marlee said, “She’s been through so many challenges in her life and has always come out of them positively and found incredible success. She also constantly gives back to everyone around her.” 

Congratulations, Marlee!  We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next!

Senior Spotlight: Caroline Cahill

Current Favorite Song: “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift

Favorite Dance Scene: “Moses Supposes” from Singin’ in the Rain!”
“Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor left it all on the floor. That number never fails to bring a smile to my face. Their explosion of intricate rhythms and joie de vivre demonstrate that tap is more than its parts. The movement and sounds come together to express joy in ways beyond language’s reach.”

Caroline Cahill, who is currently in her gap year, graduated last year from Professional Children’s School with the highest academic award. This fall she will be heading to Brown University, double concentrating in Theatre Arts and History, with a feminist focus! Before she heads up to Rhode Island to perform in Brown’s new performing arts center, she’ll be working this summer at a clothing store in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Caroline has been a SHUFFLES student for 10 years! She had the time of her life performing “Dancing Through Life” in our 2019 May Show, No Place Like Home

“It was so exhilarating,” says Caroline, “I looked forward to it the entire show!”  She also has a fond memory of playing Tiger Lily in PETER PANtomime. One of the younger students gave her a drawing of Caroline in her costume, and she was so surprised and touched that this student took the time to do that. Caroline thoroughly enjoyed cheering on her and the other younger students during the show, and she still has that drawing to this day!

SHUFFLES has taught Caroline “how to truly be a part of a team”. While many people envision New York as a cold and cutthroat environment, at SHUFFLES, Caroline found “a place of collaboration, rather than competition.”  She also learned “that it’s always okay to be strong and wrong! It’s better to go full-out and make mistakes than to hesitate.”  We couldn’t agree more!  

Caroline said  she will miss her ”wonderful SHUFFLES teachers” most as she heads off to college.  “They have pushed me to not only be the best dancer I can be, but the best version of myself. I’ll never forget the encouragement and kindness they have shown me over the years. SHUFFLES has really become a second home to me. I’ll also miss the extraordinary atmosphere of support that makes me feel safe taking risks.”

While not at SHUFFLES, Caroline likes to eat at The Smith with her friends and spend time with her family. She also likes heading downtown to NYU Tisch to visit her sister, and SHUFFLES alumna, Patrice! Caroline says she will miss the vibrancy and the “delightfully bustling energy” of New York City, with the millions of different people with different stories living in the same place as she does.  Though she didn’t like the city when she was younger, after seeing her first Broadway show, she said “Broadway became my destination, and New York my North Star.” Though she’s ecstatic to discover Providence over the next four years, we know that the big, bright, North Star of Broadway will always guide you home!

Finally, when it comes to her career, Caroline has big plans. Here’s what she had to say: “My experience as a performer is not outside of my intellectual endeavors, but rather it informs them. It would be a dream to be on Broadway one day, but I want to weave theatre and academics together in and after college. I plan on studying history through a feminist lens, writing about women who have been left out of the dominant narrative of history.”  Her career aspirations certainly coincide with her inspiration, Jessica Vosk, one of the most recent Elphabas in Wicked on Broadway. On Vosk, Caroline said, “She went to college for academics and had a career on Wall Street before ultimately deciding to become an actress. She has shown me that I can fully explore both avenues before making my choice.” 

We will miss you, Caroline! We can’t wait to see what you create!

Senior Spotlight: Jared Klein

Current Favorite Song: “august” by Taylor Swift

Favorite Dance Scene: The final dance in Dirty Dancing to “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”!

Jared will be graduating from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts as a Vocal major.  This fall he will be attending Cornell University studying biology in pursuit of his goal to be a neuroscience researcher!  Before he heads up to Ithaca, he will be working this summer as a counselor at URJ Camp Harlam. 

Jared has been with SHUFFLES for 7 years!  During his time with us, he learned all about professionalism, rehearsal practices, punctuality, hard work, and respect.  In our 2019 May Show No Place Like Home, Jared’s favorite SHUFFLES performance, he got to put everything he learned to use, saying “it was my first time performing with one of SHUFFLES’ pre-professional programs, and I started playing a bigger role in the May Show.” He also cherishes the memory of his StudioAP showcase in 2019, because his class loved performing together and worked really well as a group. We’re happy to know that all of those lessons you learned came in handy!

When not at SHUFFLES, Jared spends his time performing music in choirs, solo performances at school, and singing with friends.  He will miss the community of friends that he has made throughout his years at SHUFFLES.  Finally, Jared is inspired by his great-grandfather Barry, who helps him “to live with lots of kindness and empathy for others.”

Congratulations, Jared!  We are so proud of you!

Senior Spotlight: Wyatt Florin

Current Favorite Song: “She’s Always a Woman” by Billy Joel

Favorite Dance Scene: The Audition Sequence from A Chorus Line

Wyatt Florin will be graduating as a dance major from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.  He will be attending University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance earning his BFA in Dance, and is also planning to minor in Business Administration!  This summer, he plans on continuing to take classes to keep up his training before heading off to USC. He says he will miss his dogs the most when he heads to college (sorry Mom and Dad!)

His favorite SHUFFLES performance and memory coincide with the first time he played Peter Pan in our annual Peter Pantomime!  Speaking of Peter Pantomime, Wyatt told us, “That show is so magical, and being Peter had a huge impact on my mindset as an artist.”  Further speaking on his artistry and career goals, Wyatt believes that dance makers are change makers, and that through the use of dance, powerful narratives can be told.  He hopes to continue to use dance as a form of storytelling, and use dance as a way to make change in the world.

Inspired by Twyla Tharp, he was captivated by the energy of shows like Movin’ Out, Come Fly Away, and West Side Story as a young dancer, mesmerized by the frenetic movement combined with the dramatic theatrical elements. “To me,” Wyatt says, “dance is a form of narrative itself – and I want to help re-establish its formerly dominant presence on 42nd Street.”  His goal is to blend modern techniques, such as Horton and Graham, with the contemporary and commercial dance styles, and bring them to the Broadway stage.

Wyatt has been a student at SHUFFLES for 12 years.  When not at SHUFFLES, Wyatt likes to hang out with his friends and family, and take photos!  Check out his work on Instagram @wyattflorinphotos!

When looking back on his time here with us, he said, “Being at SHUFFLES is magical. When you walk in you can feel the bold spirit of the people who came before…the people who are currently doing what you dream of, and what you will do. It is a space that has pushed myself and my peers to new limits. It has taught me to be vulnerable, opening me up to new ideas. It has made me eager to show who I really am. Without this vulnerability and this eagerness, I would not be the artist I am today.”

Way to go, Wyatt!  We miss you already!

Senior Spotlight: Alexandra Dagen

Favorite Dance Scene: Singing in the Rain!

Current Favorite Songs: “More Than a Woman” by The Bee Gees and “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane

Alex Dagen will be graduating from Professional Children’s School.  This fall she will be attending Boston University’s School of Theatre as an Acting major!  She is excited to relax with her family and friends in the city this summer before heading off to college!

On what inspires her, Alex had this to say: “My teachers at SHUFFLES and at acting school inspire me to be the best version of myself that I can be.  I will definitely miss tap dancing with the people and teachers that have been a part of my life for such a long time.”

Having been a SHUFFLES student for 16 years, Alex has done many shows with SHUFFLES, but her favorite performance was No Place Like Home.  She also has fond memories of her early years at SHUFFLES of bringing coloring books to the dressing rooms backstage, laughing, talking, and eating snacks with her friends.  Alex says that one of the best lessons she learned while at SHUFFLES was “that hard work pays off in the form of practicing!”

When she’s not at SHUFFLES, she likes to take walks in the park with her dog and family, or go out in the city with her friends.  Alex says she will miss the busy atmosphere of the city, and the ability to always find something new and exciting to do.  She hopes to one day be an actress or an interior designer, but says that she will always dance in her free time no matter what!

Congratulations, Alex!  We will miss you!

Senior Spotlight: Camilla Phillips

This year at SHUFFLES is certainly different, but we are continually inspired by the joy, motivation, and professionalism of our students! As we prepare for Spring 2021, we are thrilled to share an interview with Studio AP member and Advanced Tap student Camilla Phillips about her experience with ShufflesOnline this semester!

Camilla is currently in Shenzhen, China, where she attends a British International School. She moved to Shenzhen last summer for her mom’s work. After some time back in New York, she returned to China at the end of March and has been taking her classes over Zoom. Join us in celebrating Camilla’s hard work and dedication! 

1. What inspired you to stay in your SHUFFLES classes even though you’re dancing with such a large time difference?

I love dancing at Shuffles (I have been taking classes since I was 5) and I have been missing it for the past year and really wanted to get back to classes. I was so glad to have the opportunity to do classes with Zoom. Even though I have to wake up really early 4 days a week, it’s totally worth it.

2. What has your experience been in your classes this semester so far?

The classes have been challenging, but very motivating. I always want to try to do my best. Sometimes I stop and think how crazy it is that I’m on the other side of the world dancing and singing with my Shuffles family. 

3. Do you feel like your approach to your classes has changed?

It definitely takes more effort to pay attention and learn through zoom. The experience of not being in the studio is very different and harder to follow along.

4. What are you most looking forward to this dance season at SHUFFLES?

I am looking forward to seeing my friends and teachers in person and learning new combinations in both tap and musical theater. I am super excited to be a part of Studio AP and work on the showcase. 

We are lucky to have you as a part of the SHUFFLES family, Camilla, and can’t wait to see you back in the studios!

All photos are all taken in Shenzhen. Special thank you to SHUFFLES parent Angela Butler! 

Senior Spotlight: Margot Krauss

SHUFFLES Senior Margot Krauss is graduating from LaGuardia High School and is headed to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to major in acting in the fall! She is excited to be staying in New York City and exploring the Washington Square Park area as her new home.

Margot’s goal is to pursue a career in the theater industry. While acting is her passion, she is also looking forward to learning about other jobs in the theater world. She loves comedy and she would like to write and perform comedy sketches or stand-up one day.

Margot notes that she will miss the creative and supportive environment SHUFFLES provided.

“I was able to find my passion in performing because of the amazing community that allowed me to take risks everyday. Every teacher supported me, challenged me, and most importantly believed in me. Whether it was learning a tricky tap combination with Kat or Shelby or singing my best in Studio with Cyndi, I always felt safe and ready to put my all into anything and try my best. I will also miss the amazing friends I made and the PETER PANtomime shows every year.”

Margot’s favorite SHUFFLES performance was one of her first shows at SHUFFLES called Make A Wish. She was chosen to play a younger version of one of the older girls, and remembers being so excited to be featured for the first time in a SHUFFLES show. Margot’s favorite SHUFFLES memory every year was doing the studio run before each May show, when she had an opportunity to see everything come together!

Margot explains that the best lesson she learned from SHUFFLES is to give everything she has to each run of a performance.

When not at SHUFFLES, Margot can usually be found at school rehearsing for a show or in an acting class or practicing piano. If she isn’t in any of those places, she is usually practicing her tap steps on her dance dot in her apartment!

Margot’s biggest inspiration is her mom.

“Her hard work and dedication to everything she does pushes me to keep working and never give up. Her dedication to the arts and endless support inspires me to pursue a career in what I am truly passionate about: theater and performing. Without her support and bobby pins on hand backstage for the May shows, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Congratulations, Margot! We are so proud of you!

Senior Spotlight: Maia Handwerker

Maia Handwerker is graduating from The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, and then is taking a gap year next year where she will spend half the year in Israel (working, learning and spending time with family) and the other half in Costa Rica (teaching and improving her Spanish). After her gap year, Maia is heading to the University of Pennsylvania! Maia’s goal is to be a correspondent at 60 Minutes.

She will miss walking down the streets of New York and seeing places that are strongly connected to incredible memories she has made throughout her life!

“The familiarity and the business are two things that I will miss so much!”

Maia also says she will miss the people and the teachers at SHUFFLES as it has been such a big part of her life for as long as she can remember. 

Maia notes that it is hard to choose her favorite SHUFFLES performance, but her favorite part of every performance is when your number is about to start and you have practiced the choreography thousands of times, and the only emotion running through your veins is excitement! Her favorite memories are rehearsals to get ready for the show.

“The SHUFFLES community is unmatched and as we get closer to the spring, the community further tightens and grows!”

SHUFFLES taught Maia that “the show must go on” under any circumstance.

“This is such an important part of life as well, whether it be presentations at school or running the TV station—I will always think of performing and Shuffles!

When Maia is not at SHUFFLES, she can be found working on her blog and an app, and spending time with her family and friends.

We will miss you, Maia! Congratulations!

Senior Spotlight: Kate Louissaint

SHUFFLES Company Member Kate Louissaint is graduating from LaGuardia Arts High School and then headed to the University of Michigan to pursue her BFA in Musical Theatre. Kate’s future goals include “performing, sharing, and indulging in the arts”! She hopes to be able to perform on Broadway or the West End in addition to creating a company or program that exists in different countries, including developing nations, that specializes in training multifaceted youth.

“I want to make space for people who haven’t been as fortunate as I was to dance at SHUFFLES for so long and build off of what I learned as I moved through schooling,” Kate explains.

Kate notes that she’ll miss several things about SHUFFLES.

“I will miss sitting around the costume book with my class and making signals about which costume we preferred. Nothing quite brought us together more than our opinions on specific show costumes! I will also miss when show time came around and as a group we would look out for each other’s props, share food, and help with make-up. A big loving family!”

Kate says that at SHUFFLES, she learned that building a strong and close relationship with peers is all about offering support when people need it.

“I cannot stress this enough to younger SHUFFLES kids—help each other out! A class is strongest when the dancers work together to retain material and move forward instead of constantly reviewing, so it is beneficial to everyone, despite their level, to look around and see who needs help or who can help you.”

Kate’s favorite SHUFFLES memory was when she was new to Company and during one hard class, Ben Vereen walked in and listened to them, and complemented their rhythm and articulation as they did a combination.

“It felt like we were being noticed as hard workers and special tap dancers, and brought us even closer as a group!”

When Kate is not at SHUFFLES, she can be found writing poetry, turning the poetry into songs and accompanying herself on the guitar or piano. In the rare moments where she is not training, she loves baking new desserts and spending time with her cat Lola!

Kate’s biggest inspirations are her mother and grandmother because of their fearlessness and drive, in addition to being gracious, loving, and giving! They also inspire her to be innovative and self-loving.

We will miss you and your tapping feet, Kate!