#HousemateAdvice comes from a current or past Our Place Housemate. Jet, from the Netherlands, shares her advice for dancers coming to New York City.
New York City: a true heaven for dancers. From age 14, my biggest dream was to go to New York and experience the dance scene I had been watching in my favorite dance movies like Honey, You Got Served, Step Up, Fame and so on and so on…
My name is Henriëtte Robert and in the summer of 2017, after graduating with my Bachelor of Dance Education in The Netherlands, it was time to make this dream come true. My plan was to visit New York for 4 weeks. It was going to be my first trip alone, ever. Are you about to do this too? Well then here are 10 tips to help you make the best out of your trip to Dancers Heaven aka the Greatest City in the World aka New.York.City.
1. Find good and stable housing
You have found this website, so I guess you’re doing a good job on this one already. When you travel alone, good housing is the foundation of a pleasant stay. At first, I struggled with finding the right housing in New York. I was able to arrange an apartment in Manhattan, but although it would be in a hot spot location, it didn’t feel right to be there all by myself, in a big city I didn’t know. So I started searching every website I knew and eventually found the advertisement of Our Place. As soon as I read it, I thought: this is perfect!
Our Place seemed to be a house where people want to connect with other new people, the international vibe and, of course… there was the cat. The cat convinced me that there must be very sweet people living inside that house! And it turned out to be true. As soon as I arrived, I immediately felt at home. What a beautiful and nice place. I remember lying in bed the first night, Bowie (yes, the cat) laid by my side and I just knew: This is going to be the best trip of my life so far!
2. Join a dance program so you get to meet other dancers
But of course, even with how much I liked spending time with the cat, I was there with the goal of dancing as much as I could.
Because I was there on my own, I wanted to meet new people. I thought it would be helpful to join a dance program. This way, I could train with the same group of people for a whole week (or more) and therefore get to know them much better than if I was just taking random drop-in classes. While still in Holland, I had applied for a short summer intensive at Gibney Dance Center in Manhattan. For one week, it gave me a structured day-to-day routine and I was surprised how little time it took me to feel as if I had been living in the city forever. I met the most amazing people, mostly dancers that were also traveling alone and staying in New York for the summer. So even when the intensive was finished, we kept meeting up with each other.
3. Arrive a few days early before your program starts
This way, you can explore the neighborhood, and practical things like the supermarket, the laundromat, the route to the dance studio and how much time it takes you (or the train) to get there. This way you won’t be late on your first day, which is always my biggest fear when I am new as a dance student. Luckily, Our Place is located right next to a train stop that will take you to downtown Manhattan in 30-45 minutes. If you need to get to mid- or uptown it can take you a little longer, so be aware of that!
4. Drop-in Classes
When your summer intensive is finished, you should take the chance to explore the rest of the dance scene in New York City. There are so many exciting dance studios that offer daily drop-in classes in every dance style. If you like the more commercial dance world, you should definitely visit Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway. If you are a little less outgoing, you might like Peri Dance, which I found to be a little more quiet & easygoing. At Gibney Dance they teach all kinds of contemporary styles. And of course there’s Alvin Ailey…! So.Much.Choice!
Finding teachers that are right for you is always tough. So ask around among people that have been dancing in NY before and see if they know nice teachers you should go to. But also, don’t be afraid to try something new or to pick ‘the wrong’ teacher. You will always learn something, right?
Don’t feel the rush to do it all, it’s better to dive into one or two schools and get the chance to really explore it. Leave something to explore for when you come back to New York next time (because you probably will).
5. Don’t forget to also play the tourist-role
Of course you want to dance as much as you can, but I definitely recommend to combine your classes with doing touristy stuff. It’s so easy and fun! For example, visit a museum and afterwards take the train to one of the dance studios. Or start the day with a morning class and spend the rest of the day exploring the city. That’s what I did most of the time, and the freedom I felt was so amazing! Make a list of things you want to see or do, and of course don’t forget to see a Broadway Show!
6. Easy going days to give your body some rest
You may feel tired from all the dancing or the busy city-life, so don’t forget to take a break. Here are some restful considerations:
Stay in Brooklyn. There are so many nice areas in Brooklyn where you can walk around, visit shops and drink great coffee.
Visit Prospect Park. (also huge! And not so crowded when I was there) and read a book or fall asleep. (Great tip if you feel hangovered after doing #7).
Have a beach day. There is a beach where you can go by train (I didn’t know that, but I was so happy when I found out about it!) Relax on the beach and give your body some rest. Governor’s Island is also very quiet.
And if you really need to get away from the city, it’s perfect to make a 1 or 2 day-trip to another city nearby. Just take the bus and you’ll be in Washington in 4 hours, or another great place!
7. NYC, the city that never sleeps
Of course, you love dancing so you HAVE to experience the New York party scene. There are so many nice bars, clubs and you know what the best part is? EVERYBODY DANCES! Or at least, in the places where I went.
I’m from The Netherlands so I’m used to people doing the husband-step or people throwing one fist in the air the whole night. But New York is FILLED with talented people and they are not afraid to show it on the dance floor. So dancers… show them what you got! You can ask around what nice bars are, or if you like silent disco there is an app called Silent Clubbing that shows you the upcoming parties in New York.
8. Let the city decide
One thing I can definitely recommend you doing: don’t make a plan. Take the train to somewhere in Manhattan, and start walking around. This city is so full of interesting and inspiring people, locations and events, that the city will take you to amazing experiences and sights, without you having to plan it. There really never is a dull day in the City. Let the city take you to where you should be in that moment and have a little adventure!
9. Have lots of great (ice) coffee
Finding good coffee is important! And in New York you typically don’t have to search long as great coffee is usually right around the corner. And that’s certainly the truth for Our Place! There’s a great coffee spot called Stonefruit that has the most delicious muffins I ever had (seriously) and the greatest coffee I still miss ‘till this day. So check it out! Laura also knows many other great spots for you to try.
10. Dare to connect
If you are a dancer and aspire a professional career in the dancing field in New York, then don’t forget to network while you are here. Put yourself out there, also during classes. Dare to ask questions, show them your motivation, and be open and fearless. Speak with as many people as you can about your dreams and don’t forget to bring your business card (if you have one)! You never know where it will take you… I found New York dancers to be very open, interested and willing to connect with other dancers around the world. So don’t miss out on that opportunity!
ENJOY YOUR SUMMER IN NEW YORK!