Dance Entertainment

The Man within the Sequined Tuxedo Who Constructed a Dance Group

21JOE LANTERI 11 jmvp facebookJumbo

The Oscar winner Ariana DeBose. The “Dancing With the Stars” decide Derek Hough. The ballet luminaries Catherine Hurlin, Tiler Peck and Taylor Stanley. Eleven forged members of final 12 months’s Broadway manufacturing of “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’.”

These are just some notable alumni of New York Metropolis Dance Alliance, a dance competitors and conference celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this winter. It’s additionally the sort of identify parade that makes Joe Lanteri, the group’s founder and government director, uncomfortable.

“After all I’m so happy with all these dancers,” Lanteri mentioned. “However I can’t take credit score for his or her success — for the work that each dance instructor and studio proprietor did with them within the trenches, for the entire neighborhood that helped them.”

Lanteri’s impulse to deflect consideration may appear at odds with the look-at-me power that defines a lot of the aggressive dance world, a profitable business that to outsiders can really feel a couple of half-step faraway from magnificence pageants. In some methods it’s even at odds with the Lanteri who M.C.’s most New York Metropolis Dance Alliance occasions: totally comfy onstage in a sequined tuxedo, unscripted and unruffled as he declares award winners.

However showbiz polish apart, Lanteri’s conventions — at which dancers take a sequence of grasp courses — and competitions mirror his community-oriented method. Moderately than emphasizing trophies and celeb college, Lanteri has prioritized longer-term investments in younger dancers, getting ready them for and infrequently connecting them to skilled alternatives.

Remarkably, that features faculty funding. New York Metropolis Dance Alliance’s affiliated basis has instantly awarded almost $5,000,000 in faculty scholarships and helped facilitate a whole bunch of further admission and scholarship presents since its founding in 2010. At the moment, there are 28 New York Metropolis Dance Alliance alumni enrolled in Juilliard’s dance program.

Karen Schupp, a former aggressive dancer who’s now an affiliate professor of dance at Arizona State College, mentioned New York Metropolis Dance Alliance occupies a particular place within the traditionally insular and more and more commercialized competitors scene.

“What Joe has completed, versus the extra kind of company competitions, is to help the pursuit of dance exterior of the very particular aggressive framework,” she mentioned. “It’s recognizing that the competitors weekend is only one half of a bigger dance ecosystem.”

All people appears to know Lanteri. Because the chief of New York Metropolis Dance Alliance — and the proprietor and government director of the dance studio Steps on Broadway, a place he’s held since 2018 — he performs a putting function in shaping the dance panorama. However he stays a reluctant impresario.

“Joe’s not clout chasing,” mentioned the faucet dancer and choreographer Chloé Arnold, a veteran of New York Metropolis Dance Alliance’s college. “I’m at all times saying to him, ‘Do you even know that you simply’re iconic?’”

Lanteri, who laughingly however firmly refused to offer his age — “Clearly, we’re celebrating 30 years, so I can’t be 42” — took a roundabout path to bop. The son of Italian immigrants, he grew up in small-town Pennsylvania, watching his dad and mom work a number of jobs to make ends meet. “They remained very previous world,” he mentioned. “I didn’t style ketchup till I used to be 16.”

His first formal dance class additionally got here late, after he enrolled within the College of Southern California’s theater program. Jazz dance, particularly — which he studied on the Dupree Dance Academy in close by Hollywood — struck a chord.

Within the early Nineteen Eighties, Lanteri moved to New York Metropolis and booked something and every thing, from Snickers commercials to cruise ship gigs. Quickly he was additionally engaged on the manufacturing aspect of the business, placing collectively dwell occasions and appearing as dance supervisor for “Membership MTV” and a dance expertise scout for “Star Search.”

Lanteri saved up his coaching at studios round New York, discovering a specific dwelling at Steps on Broadway on the Higher West Facet. Steps provided him a educating job, and for greater than 30 years his jazz class was a staple of its lineup.

Lanteri’s fashion — a mixture of slinky New York jazz and the West Coast’s extra athletic, industrial sensibility — drew a variety of expertise, together with the ballet phenom Desmond Richardson. Early on the Broadway performer Michael-Demby Cain, now Lanteri’s husband, attended day by day, and helped usher in a musical theater crowd.

“You didn’t take my class to dissect your tendu,” Lanteri mentioned. “You got here to work in your efficiency.” And, possibly, to land a job: He would typically rent dancers out of his courses for choreography and manufacturing initiatives.

Lanteri additionally started educating at dance conventions, during which a gaggle of instructors would tour to totally different cities providing workshop courses to college students. A younger and rising business on the time, conventions — “kind of the dance world’s model of Comedian Con,” Schupp mentioned — uncovered younger dancers to a wide selection of artists and kinds.

Conventions, which frequently additionally had competitors arms, weren’t geared towards long-term growth. Dancers would fill an area lodge’s ballrooms for a weekend, take a bunch of courses on carpeted flooring, and return dwelling.

“I used to be the instructor going, ‘Does anyone see how extremely proficient these children are?’” Lanteri mentioned. “Shouldn’t we be doing greater than displaying up, educating some steps, getting the room screaming, and saying goodbye?”

These questions spurred Lanteri to discovered New York Metropolis Dance Alliance. Suzi Taylor, who has taught on the conference since its inception, remembers the early days as each thrilling and chaotic.

“It began as a kind of bus-and-truck tour with simply 5 of us, plenty of trial and error, plenty of comical little venues,” she mentioned. “However from the beginning there was this nice power round making these children from all around the nation into one huge, related neighborhood. You would see why he wished to name it an alliance.”

Lanteri leveraged his dance-world connections to supply alternatives at New York Metropolis Dance Alliance occasions. He invited a Broadway casting director, for instance, to the group’s nationwide finale in 1999; the following spring a number of college students appeared in Susan Stroman’s revival of “The Music Man.”

New York Metropolis Dance Alliance expanded from its preliminary four-city run in early 1994 to a nationwide tour that this season contains 28 stops. Because it grew, Lanteri thought of methods to advertise schooling past the conference classroom. He was educating jazz courses at Juilliard, and observed that faculty dance departments didn’t at all times know what to do with “comp children.”

“I believe the preconception is that these are self-centered present offs,” Lanteri mentioned. “Deans suppose that our youngsters can’t be taught, that they really feel like they’re soloists. And people are precisely the issues we preach towards each weekend. I began pondering, effectively, possibly faculty is the following door we will open.”

In 2010 he established the New York Metropolis Dance Alliance Basis, which raises funds for dancers to pursue faculty levels. It additionally hosts auditions the place they are often seen by representatives from a number of faculty dance departments, who typically award scholarships of their very own.

The ensuing inflow has helped change the best way colleges understand aggressive dancers and the best way these dancers — who beforehand would possibly’ve jumped proper into knowledgeable profession — take into consideration larger schooling. “For college kids with a contest background, going to school for dance was once going towards the grain,” Schupp mentioned.

Lanteri’s knack for forging connections makes him a savvy businessman. Diane Grumet, the inventive director of Steps on Broadway, mentioned he was a pure selection for the studio’s government director function although he had no formal enterprise coaching. “His present is bringing the correct individuals into partnership with him,” she mentioned. “On the enterprise aspect or the inventive aspect, he chooses very effectively.”

The enterprise aspect has turn into increasingly central to competitions and conventions, the uncommon dance occasions that may flip actual income. The sector is even attracting personal fairness funds: Final fall, the TZP Group introduced that it was investing in two aggressive organizations to create a single huge brand, DanceOne. It’s not unusual for conventions to woo college from rival occasions with giant charges.

In an more and more money-driven business, New York Metropolis Dance Alliance has stayed its course. “Actually, I’ve been provided more cash from different locations through the years,” Arnold mentioned. “I’m nonetheless right here as a result of I’m dedicated to Joe Lanteri — as a result of I do know that he cares, and since I do know that the children at N.Y.C.D.A. are cared for.”

Pupil care has been an pressing concern all through the sphere after recent allegations of sexual misconduct by celeb college at one other aggressive dance group. Lanteri declined to touch upon that. However each Arnold and Taylor mentioned that Lanteri’s affect has made the New York Metropolis Dance Alliance college a self-weeding backyard.

“As a substitute of choosing academics as a result of they’re in style or as a result of they received a TV present, he’s in search of academics who’ve optimistic, wholesome practices,” Arnold mentioned. Those that don’t match that mould, Taylor mentioned, have a tendency to not keep lengthy.

Those who do stick round actually stick round. A number of present college members got here via the conference as college students. Tiler Peck first met Lanteri as a preteen jazz prodigy — “essentially the most ferocious jazz competitors dancer I’ve ever seen,” Lanteri mentioned. She continued to check with him at Steps even after becoming a member of New York Metropolis Ballet, the place she is now a principal dancer.

“Everybody would suppose I used to be taking class with Willy Burmann” — the beloved Steps ballet instructor — “when actually I used to be taking jazz with Joe!” Peck mentioned. She now typically teaches the New York Metropolis Dance Alliance Basis’s ballet audition class: “Each time Joe reaches out, I say sure.”

Lanteri is aware of the phrase “household” is thrown round rather a lot in dance, however he thinks New York Metropolis Dance Alliance has earned the correct to make use of it. “It’s completely what now we have grown into and what we aspire to be,” he mentioned.

If it’s a household, Lanteri is the dad — although he groans a bit on the comparability.

Parental values, nonetheless, appear to use.

“Dancers love him due to course he desires that can assist you as a dancer,” Peck mentioned, “however he additionally appears to be like out for us as human beings.”