Oren Korenblum is a performer, a choreographer, and a dance teacher. Find out more about his work
How did you start dancing?
I started when I was 13. I am originally from Israel. When the Irish dance company, Lord of the Dance, came to Israel, I went to see them. I don’t have any dancers in my family, but there’s a lot of interest in art in my family, so we went to see the show. I fell in love with the energy, the rhythm, and the music. I was fascinated by Michael Flatley, the director and choreographer of the company. He really inspired me to achieve my goals, think about my dreams, and not giving up.
I started with tap with my teacher, Yuval Beck, in Israel. He basically taught me most of the things I know. He’s one of the biggest reasons why I am doing what I do. His passion to dance was inspirational to me. Then I started to get into musical theatre and asked him what I needed to do to be a musical theatre performer. He said that I needed to study ballet, jazz, acting, singing, and everything. In high school, I knew that I wanted to study abroad. After high school, I started performing in dance shows and companies. Five years ago, I moved to New York to study at AMDA.
How did you audition for AMDA?
I was in The Aluminum Show that had the national tour in United States. We had a break for two weeks in a three-month long tour. Some of us went home, and some of us went to New York. I stayed in New York. Within those two weeks, there were auditions for AMDA. I went to the dance program audition. Before I went in, I had a friend who told me, “Everything they ask you, just say yes. Never say no.” At the audition, they asked me if I sang, and I said yes, although I felt more comfortable dancing than singing.
AMDA was amazing. AMDA, for me, is home. Everything I wanted to learn and study in my dancing was there. Right there in New York City. After AMDA I started my dance company, which was something I always wanted to do.
How was starting your own dance company?
I think you just have to go for it. It’s not about money. In AMDA, with every choreography opportunity I had, I started to get to know people. I didn’t have any friends or family in the city, so I built my new life here. Every time I had an opportunity to show choreography, I took it. People started liking my work and believing in my work, and I saw that some people wanted to work with me. Eventually, I ended up having a small group of people who liked working with me. Immediately after AMDA, one of my choreography was accepted to a showcase in American Tap Dance Foundation. I was so thrilled. It was something I couldn’t even imagine before.
Right now everyone is a volunteer. The company has been here for three years. What’s amazing is that last month, I was asked by AMDA to represent AMDA in NBC’s Red Nose Day programming. When they asked me to choreograph a number and do a solo,. I asked NBC if I could present my dance company, and they said yes. So my dance company was on NBC, and I have chills when I think about it. It’s something that I never thought my dance company would be able to do.
What are you up to now?
I’ll be doing South Pacific at Allenberry Playhouse. I am happy to go back. I performed there last summer. I am going back in October to choreograph the Christmas show there. I also teach. Jazz, lyrical, tap, ballet, in New Jersey, Queens, the Bronx, basically all over the place. It’s not easy because there are a lot of teachers. I am also a performer, so it’s hard to teach somewhere and be in a production and then go back to teach. I am thankful that there are studios that let me teach and go do a show, and then come back.
What do you want to do?
My goal is to be a choreographer and a dancer on Broadway. I know I will get there. It will take time and take a lot of patience. I believe that you need to go step by step. You also need to look around you and see if you’re doing it right. If what you’re doing isn’t right, you need to start over or do something that works for you. You need to look at yourself and think about how you could be a part of that world without comparing yourself to anyone. I am different. Everyone is different. You also have to learn how to be a part of a community. Performing is working with people. You can’t work by yourself. You have to be open and show that you love what you love. Be open. Come with a question mark instead of a period.
What was it like to dance in Israel?
Israel is not an easy country to live in. We had wars and fights. It’s easier watching it on TV, but when you’re living there, it’s different. When I was on a bus, I would be scared that maybe there was a terrorist on the same bus. Dancing was a way to escape reality and create my own world. I didn’t want to follow this routine of fighting, because I didn’t believe in that. I started dancing when I was 13, but I drew cartoons and played the piano as a kid. All my life I’ve tried to create my own world.
Were your parents supportive of your dancing?
Yes. They were basically telling me that I needed to stay here. Every time I think about it, I want to cry about it. I am their only child. They love me and support me. I see them every year or every year and a half. We’re very close. Every time we skype, they say, “Oren, it’s hard for us. We miss you and love you, but New York City is the right place for you.” There’s nothing else I can ask for more than that. I know it’s not something that everyone gets. I really adore people who believe in themselves without having support. I think it’s important to believe in yourself and to feel out what’s right for you.
What was the toughest time you’ve had as a dancer?
Sometimes the teachers or people that I knew told me I couldn’t be a dancer. But it doesn’t matter. I am not angry. I don’t think about them. I think about what I need to do. If I concentrate on other people, I won’t have the energy to concentrate on myself. If you say that I can’t do it, fine. You get those notes everyday when you go to dance classes or auditions. People will say that you’re doing it wrong. I remember going to a ballet school. The teacher came to me and said that I didn’t get a callback because of my height. I took it really hard. It was my first time trying to get into the performing business in Israel. I will never forget the day when she told me that. It wasn’t’ even for a performance. It was for a workshop--to learn more. She basically told me that I couldn’t be a dancer because I am short. It just gave me the drive to prove that I can be a dancer at other places. I can do it. If you tell me no, I say yes. It’s something that I’ve developed in my personality. If you tell me that I am doing something wrong, I’ll make it better in my own way. As a performer, I have to remember that not every place is right for everyone. Not every director or choreographer is good for everyone. And this is what I love about the theatre community. Everytime I see a Broadway show, sometimes I see a short guy, or a different person you wouldn’t normally see on stage. It makes you realize that there is a place for everyone on the stage. It encourages me to move forward and know that it’s the right thing to do.
Is there anything you want to share with the world?
It doesn't matter where you are from and what your past is like. Always believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams and never give up.