My name is Brittany Shinay and I am a classically trained dancer pursuing a musical theater career in New York City. I am very happy and honored to have this opportunity to share a bit of my background as a professional with you – my journey to date – and where I am looking to go.
To give you a brief glimpse into my performance history, after graduating high school, I started as a freshman at Juilliard. It was a very heady experience to be accepted into a world-famous BFA program and I enrolled eagerly.
Although I had been offered both corps and studio company contracts in the U.S. and Germany after winning a YAGP Finals gold medal and performing principal roles at a very high level, I turned them all down to study with the legendary teachers of Juilliard.
As it happened, I would stay there for only a short while because although I had always identified myself as a ballet dancer who could “move,” ballet was not encouraged at the same elite level and I missed it tremendously. It was the basis of my training growing up and I didn’t know going in that I might have to give it up.
When the artistic director of my home company, Rochester City Ballet, offered me the chance to dance the role of Firebird, I made the difficult but essential decision to leave Juilliard. The school was incredibly gracious and understanding of my decision and I will always cherish the friendships and community of dancers I found there.
A year later, I accepted a traineeship with the Boston Ballet season, and following that, I returned to RCB for a few years, both performing and teaching. I was then recruited to dance with The Georgia Ballet in Atlanta, GA, a fabulous opportunity in which I performed several principal roles.
Following the artistic director’s departure to teach full-time, however, I joined her in this endeavor, additionally teaching ballet at a well-known school. I wasn’t performing very much at this point except for a couple of wonderful guest performances each season. I also missed my family and friends in New York.
I had some decisions to make..should I continue to guest/freelance or take the time to complete my degree? I had lived in Atlanta for two+ years and would be leaving behind some very close connections.
I also knew that if I was going to switch paths entirely and go back to school, I should be in my hometown where the support would never be stronger and more sincere than that of my parents.
My decision to move back to Rochester was not an easy one, however, I truly thought I was done performing when I moved home this past March. It was quite a difficult fact to contemplate, all the while looking into what I might like to study in college.
In the midst of this, something happened that would alter everything. I had the chance to accompany my mom one month later on a two-day trip to NYC. On a lark, I decided to take two classes while in the city at Broadway Dance Center – one ballet and one theater. I had never taken class at BDC but immediately had a good feeling while being in their studios.
I was not in dance shape and therefore took beginner levels in both styles. Within minutes, my love of dance and technique came flooding back. Following the theater class, a beautiful dancer told me to audition for BDC’s professional semester. I didn’t know what that was. After some research, I discovered that I was eligible to apply for the semester, which included dance classes in all styles: ballet, jazz, theater, hip-hop, voice, tap, etc.
I would learn all of the tools needed to transition from a ballet career to musical theater. I would meet and work with some of the very best directors, teachers, and choreographers currently working in the industry.
I hadn’t thought about auditioning for theater during my years performing with ballet companies, despite the fact that I loved singing the Rogers & Hammerstein and Jule Styne standards from the time I was four (and still do!) Long story short, I returned to NYC two weeks later to audition for BDC’s professional semester and had the time of my life.
I found out the next day that I was accepted into the program, which would begin in August and go through mid- December. Since I still had most of the summer at home in Rochester, however, I enrolled in a college math class. I was reminded of how much I love learning and academia.
Someday I will complete of that degree, but not now. Now, I have to dance. From the first moment I arrived in NYC, I knew that I was finally “home,” and that I am in the right place. I’m currently a little over halfway through with my “pro semester” as we call it at BDC, and I would recommend it to each and every dancer pursuing a career in musical theater, commercial dance, or just wanting to learn exactly what it takes to make it in this industry.
Every one of my teachers is phenomenal with professional credits yards long. The opportunities that we have been given in this program are nothing short of extraordinary. I am living and loving my life, taking multiple classes daily and rediscovering a passion that reminds me each moment that I am a dancer through and through – it is who I am – and I have never been more grateful for this art form and the gifts I have been given than I am now.
I look forward to the rest of this program and to what will come next.
So what I’d like to leave you with is this: So much in life is about timing and taking chances, and I encourage all of you to take those chances even when you’re scared, or maybe especially when you’re scared.
BDC’s professional semester has changed my life in ways that I could not have imagined. The people I am meeting, the lessons learned, the amount of dancing I’ve done in such a short time – is all a gift that I could never have dreamt up myself.
I am now ready to jump onto that Broadway stage, the national tour, the company position where I will embrace any and all of it! Good luck to all of you, God Bless, and know that we are all in this together!