I met Bekah through the first photo shoot I had in the city back in February. We met at my photo studio in TriBeCa / Lower Manhattan to get some headshots and dance shots done and moved over to Union Square for the subway shots. Bekah shared her life as a full-time student at NYU and a full-time dancer at Broawday Dance Center. Below is the full interview with Bekah Howard.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was about four years old. My mom taught dance lessons in her basement back in Missouri. When we moved to Florida, she found a tiny dance studio--small at the time. Now it has like 400-500 students now. She enrolled us there. Ballet, tumbling and tap. And added a class every year. Here we are.
What are you up to now?
I am at NYU studying communications. Also studying at Broadway Dance Center. I take like eight classes a week. I am just there as much as I can. I have classes in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And then I go to dance those evenings and then I try to go to auditions on Thursdays and Fridays because I don’t have class. And then in the evenings I just go to the studio and take classes.
That sounds like a very busy life. How do you juggle dance and school?
Just struggling all the time. But it’s great. It’s a great struggle. I do my homework, go to bed at like 12:30 generally, and get up at 6:30, and go to school. I do my homework when I get back from dance, which is usually around 11. And throughout the little breaks during the day, I’ll take a nap or do homework, or study for a quiz. Getting it done.
Eight dance classes a week sounds like a lot. Is dance something that you want to pursue as a professional career?
Definitely. Dance is the number one ‘This is the goal.’ Studying communications at NYU is ‘just in case, backup situation.’ I feel like it’s good to have a degree in something I could do if dance doesn’t work out because it’s so hit or miss as far as auditions and stuff.
Are you involved with any dance activities at school?
Not really. There is the dance major, which I didn’t audition for, and I could minor in dance, which is something I might take up, but I’m struggling to balance everything already, so potentially that will happen, potentially it won’t. I did a thing called So You Think NYU Can Dance competition at school and got second in that, so that was cool. I know there are some dance programs and clubs. But again, it’s just trying to balance when I am at BDC and when I’m at NYU and I have to do the commute from BDC to NYU and vice versa.
Is there a curriculum you follow at BDC? Or do you pick classes based on what you like?
They’re open classes. I am not in any of the training programs. I decide what I take each week. I have certain teachers that I know and know me so I try to take them every week. I also take a ballet every week. I take ballet, jazz, contemporary, theater, tap, and hip-hop every week and make sure that I take one of each genre. Depending on who is there, I’ll switch up the teachers or the classes.
Is there a special pricing for that?
It’s $20 per class, but I get a 20 class package, so it ends up being $17 per class. It’s good for like three months.
What type of dance do you see yourself doing in the future?
I don’t know. I don’t feel picky. Just anywhere I could be on a stage or be in front of a camera and just be dancing. I would be fine with that. When I was younger, I was like, ‘I love lyrical. I love contemporary. That’s my thing.’ But being here now, I am so much more into theatre and more commercial work, I guess. Just not specified to one genre. When it’s so selective already, you can’t be selective about what you want to do, especially me being 19 and being like, ‘I want to dance!’
Did you grow up doing competitions?
Yes. 2005-2015. Competition kid.
What was that experience like?
I was lucky. I came from a studio that was really nurturing and focused more on the training than winning the competition. That wasn’t the goal. Both my dance teacher and her husband, my studio directors, were both on Broadway and they have a great background in performing and coming up with storylines. All of our dances had crazy themes and really focused on performing and not like, tilt-drop, quadruple pirouette to a split--which was nice. Because here, that’s also the focus. I got to Broadway Dance Center and I was like, ‘No one really cares if I can do this ten pirouettes into a leap.’ People care if you can perform and portray the storyline which is great, because I got that training from competitions. So it wasn’t like a stereotypic competition kid who were there 100 hours a week and stuff. It was a positive experience.
What are the names of your teachers and your studio?
Amy Wright and Kevin Wright. The Wright Step School of Dance.
This is your first year living in the city. How do you like it?
Love it. Everyone told me it was going to be a huge change and super stressful. I wasn’t that stressed out. We’d come several summers before. My dance studio comes and takes classes and sees shows. It wasn’t my first time in New York City. I came from a tiny town. My graduating class had 11 people in it. Very small. So it was a big change in that way. But I’d built it up so much in my mind that it was not that scary. I’d made such a big thing in my head. I love it. Nothing too terrifying has happened. Had one scary subway incident.
I took a class at BDC and then I got to the subway station. It was like 11. There was no one down there and that should’ve been my first clue. You go back up. Of course, I was like, ‘I’ll be fine. Whatever.’ I was leaning against the pole and on my phone, and this older guy came down and he was like, ‘Are you Iggy Azalea?’ I was like, ‘No. I’m not.’ So I am being very conscious of this guy and he’s like, ‘Your hair is beautiful, your eyes are beautiful.’ It was getting little creepy. He was like, ‘You go to NYU?’ because I was wearing my NYU sweatshirt. Nothing good ever comes from wearing your school sweatshirt. I should know. He ended up--he had his hands on my stomach and I was against the pole. Just terrifying. That was in October, so I had just moved. So I was like [pretending to sob] dying. But other than that, everything has just been great.
How did you get out of that situation?
He had his hands on my stomach and talking for a while. I had no idea what he was saying because I was just freaking out and planning my escape. His friend came down and he was like, ‘Dude, get off of her--I’m so sorry.’ And I was just sobbing. I made it though. I am here. We’re here.
That must’ve been so scary. It’s not really similar, but on the way here, I saw a train car that was totally empty and got in--and obviously there was a guy who smelled really bad. Learned my lesson.
Avoid the empty parts [laughs].
Definitely a lesson that people should learn. There’s a reason why places are empty. So what’s been your favorite part of living in the city?
In a dance sense, anything that I want to do is literally a train ride away. In Florida, I had to drive an hour to maybe take this class or go to this audition once every eight months. Here, I could go to three auditions in a day so easily. I could take a class--I could take five classes in one day for a ten minute train ride. Just the convenience of everything. And now it’s on me, because everything is in front of me. Whereas before, it was like the blame game. Now if I am not doing things, I’m like, ‘That’s you. You absolutely have every opportunity to do things. So if you’re not, that’s on you.’ That’s just motivating, which is my favorite part. I am more motivated.
What’s been your least favorite part?
I am going to say the weather in the winter is pretty awful. I knew it was going to snow and rain. But when it was like negative 2 degrees and it was snowing and I had an 8 a.m. class, it was not great. I had to walk to class.
And all the sludge.
Yeah. Definitely. Grand jete-ing over the sludge.
That would be a great photo. I had a really bad experience where I thought I was stepping onto a flat surface, but it--
So many times that have happened to me. You have no idea. So naive.
You gotta look twice for those. Make sure you step over it. Otherwise you’re going to have a very bad day. Did you bring jackets when you first came over?
I came to New York with no coats or jackets. Just sandals, flip flops, a pair of Keds, but other than that, open-toed shoes. But it was October, and I was like, ‘it’s getting a little chilly.’ So I went to Forever 21 and bought all these sweaters and was ready and then it got even colder. So we ordered Bean Boots for my feet so that if I stepped in the sludge puddle, we would still be okay. So I got those and I got a coat that’s good to sustain like negative 30 degrees--that’s what it said. I am here and I survived.
How do you like the NYU experience?
Ups and downs. I love my friends, I love the dorms. Everyone is great. It’s just trying to balance everything. It’s not like, ‘I don’t like NYU.’ I just don’t like to have to worry about failing a class because I am so stressed with dance or worry about not getting to dance because I am too stressed with school. I like school by itself and I like dance by itself but it’s hard to combine the two into a manageable schedule. School’s great.
What’s your dream role / part to play?
A year ago, before I moved here, it would’ve been a Rockette or being on Broadway. Those would’ve been the two cliche answers I would have said. Now that I am here and I see all the fun stuff you can do that are not well known. There are things like small stage theatres putting on cool productions and new projects. I don’t have a dream role. I am trying to find it now that I am in this new atmosphere. There are so many dancers here and they’re not all Rockettes and not all on Broadway but they’re getting paid to do what they love. That’s the goal for all of us. The goal is just to have a role at all. That would be the dream.
Anything else that you’d like to share with the world?
Once a week, when I come home from dance, I get a carton of ice cream and eat it after. Which isn’t great. I don’t know why I said that as my fact, but that’s the only thing I can think of...[silence]. End scene [laughs]. Not like a big carton. One of the little mini Ben and Jerry’s. Not even the pints. The little baby ones. But still. Once a week I eat ice cream after dance. Not great, but it keeps me sane. That’s my leaving. Eat some ice cream after you dance. It’s going to be great.
Strawberry Cheesecake. Everytime. Super good.