Jeff Shade is a staple in the Steps on Broadway faculty. His tap and theatre dance classes are filled with his high energy and positive attitude. Jeff's dedication to the dance and his classes has generated quite a student following of all ages, styles and levels. His resume is filled not just with teaching but performing and choreographing across the country. Gaby Mervis, who spent the summer in New York City on an internship took his class and fell in love. She was once again kind enough to chat with Jeff about his work and to share some of her conversation.
GM: How and/or why did you start choreographing?
JS: CHOREOGRAPHY was always part of my family! I am the youngest of six - - and I have four older sisters, who are all dance teachers. It just seemed like we were always "making up dances." I started choreographing professionally, as I started to perform less - - and when opportunities came up - - I happily said YES!!!
GM: Do you prefer performing or choreographing?
JS: When I was younger - - I loved performing much better -- for sure. Now - - I love having "something to say" - - and creating dance to say it!
GM: What was it like working with Bob Fosse?
JS: Working with Bob Fosse was a DREAM COME TRUE! As a youngster growing up in Pittsburgh - - I was fascinated by the sound of this name, his movies, and any touring company that came through the city. His work resonated with me - - and I appreciated his attention to detail and theatricality. Mr. Fosse was a father figure to me - - for sure. His approval was important - - and his support of my love of the dance remains with me today.
GM: Do you prefer to choreograph tap pieces or theater pieces and why?
JS: I love choreographing the wide-spectrum of dance pieces. Sometimes, a story or feeling is best told with the percussive sounds of tap shoes - - and other times - - well - - it's bare feet for a concert/contemporary feel or jazz or character shoes for a more traditional jazz or musical theater dance feel!
GM: When is your birthday?
JS: My birthday is June 29th! The best gift I ever received..............THE DANCE!
GM: Where did you grow up?
JS: Pittsburgh, PA - - in the inner city!
GM: Besides working with Fosse, what was your early training like?
JS: I was lucky that my four older sisters were dance teachers - - by the time I was born. They taught me all I know about tap dancing - - and certainly instilled the LOVE OF THE DANCE!!!!! I learned to twirl the baton and to acrobatics, too! Please check out "twirling me" at www.jeffshadedance.com. You will have a good smile!!!!
GM: What were the pros and cons of going to college for dance?
JS: I think there are many ways to explore the art of dance. I think each person needs to evaluate his/her interests and where he/she will blossom best - - in the dance. Of course - - many people have interests that go beyond dance. I, for one -- LOVE SCHOOL - - and never majored in dance. I have a BS in business from Duquesne University, an MBA is marketing from Columbia University, and an MA in dance therapy from Lesley University! School is cool!
GM: How has your tap background influenced your theater dance and vice versa?
JS: Tap certainly has given me a rhythmic appreciation for music. Theater dance has given me a great appreciation for dance-based story telling. Combine them - - and LIFE IS GOOD!
GM: How do you record your choreography?
JS: If there is time - - I video the choreography. With some productions - - I am only permitted to video tape a rehearsal - - with no music - - and only counts. Those are the rules of several unions.
GM: In general, do you show your work to people while you are developing it?
JS: It is impossible not to show work "in progress" when working with a director, musical arranger, and producers. It is part of the collaborative process. When it comes to concert or "all dance" work -- some times I do - - and some times I don't. When I do - - it's usually to give the dancers the feeling of performance – that "Oh - - someone will be watching this!"
GM: Can you tell us about "Cagney?"
JS: CAGNEY is a new musical based on the life of James Cagney! It was conceived by Bobby Creighton -- who is currently in THE LITTLE MERMAID on Broadway! I had a great time working with director, Bill Castellino, to create the many dances for CAGNEY! The styles of the dances ranged from vaudeville-esque type dances to full out hoofin tap dances! I think the show is great! It is a wonderful story of a son of an immigrant family making good in tough times -- and there are three scoops of red, white, and blue!!!! YANKEE DOODLE!
GM: Of all the projects you have worked on, which was the most enjoyable for you?
JS: The show that I wrote, directed, and choreographed, called PLAYGROUND: THE ADVENTURES OF A RESTLESS SPIRIT is certainly the most valued. The process was rich, and the product is one that is provocative - - taking people on the journey of a person on the verge of ending his life - - but presented with "options" for making life rich and creative.
GM: What classes do you teach at Steps on Broadway?
JS: I love teaching - - or as I call it, SHARING THE DANCE! I teach theater dance at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels - - and I teach all levels of tap (mostly Broadway styles).
GM: Do you prefer choreographing short exercises for your students in class or full-length dances for the stage?
JS: Both! I think the "practice" of choreographing short combinations in class helps hone my creativity muscle for creating a full-length piece. Teaching also helps me to be a better communicator! I love SHARING THE DANCE!
GM: What exactly does a dance therapist do?
JS: DANCE THERAPY uses dance and other art forms to foster the process of psychotherapy. Allowing the embodying of a process is the final frontier in growing towards full personal fruition. Dance therapy has influenced my teaching style and my choreographic approach greatly!
GM: How do you think dance builds self-esteem?
JS: If dance is delivered in a loving and accepting environment -- one that reflects back to the dancer a sense of I AM HAPPY YOU ARE HERE, YOUR SPIRIT IS BEAUTIFUL, AND YOU ARE A UNIQUE ENTITY IN THIS WORLD - - that will build self-esteem - - how a person feels about him or herself in general. BEING A GOOD DANCER or SUCCESSFUL may be useful in building self-confidence in the "category" called dance or profession! SELF-ESTEEM is the much richer sense of a healthy I AM.
GM: What was your most memorable moment as a dance therapist?
JS: Oh! There are so many, and it has been a humbling privilege to be a collaborator with people in the mix of making their lives better. ...and, if not a collaborator, a true honor to witness someone grow through what are often very rough times.
GM: Can you tell us about "House of the Roses"?
JS: "House of the Roses" is very cool volunteer dance company that does outreach to VERY ENERGETIC YOUTH! Sometimes the youth are part of a community center, or in homeless shelter, or have a mom or dad in prison. Dance volunteers go ON LOCATION to some really life affirming dance and drumming with these amazing young people! The goals are to build self-esteem and self-confidence, foster a sense of community, and give opportunity for positive labels (I am a dancer, I am creative, I am a performer, I am a team player, I AM HERE!). "House of the Roses" is inspired by the simplicity of Saint Therses the Little Flower -- who invites us all to "do the ordinary with extraordinary love." That is quite an invitation! YES! I started the program several years ago -- but left when I went home to Pittsburgh to be the primary caregiver for my mother. The organization goes on today - - and the WORK continues to be done!
GM: Who are some of your favorite choreographers?
JS: Mmmmmmmmmm Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett, Jerome Robbins, and Ohad Naharin.