On Stage: From Broadway to Pittsburgh

It’s that time of year when local dance studios unveil the fruits of their labors. When I can schedule it, I like to visit a couple of new locations to better assess the quality and quantity of the Pittsburgh area dance scene. After all, I still assert that local dance studios are Pittsburgh’s hidden treasure.

The first I was able to attend this year was Karen Prunzik’s Broadway Dance Studio recital at West Allegheny High School. Karen has strong Broadway roots (“42nd Street,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”) and plays to her strengths, as does staff member and Pittsburgh theater icon Lenora Nemetz (“Cabaret,” “Chicago,” “Gypsy”).

Students at BDS volunteer to be in the recital and all rehearsals are conducted outside of technique classes. Led by Karen, the staff sets up a theme, this year called “Lights! Camera! Action!,” and produces a night of entertainment that includes theatrical sketches, song and, of course, dance.

“Lights!” focused on the history of film, though, and it was a choice extravaganza. The students actually participated in a history lesson, from Mack Sennett to Ann Miller and . As for me, I was delighted to see actual film clips — “42nd Street,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “American in Paris” among them.

Karen also showed Gene Kelly’s acceptance speech at the American Film Institute, where he said he wanted to be a Pittsburgh Pirate baseball player — a real slice of local dance history!

The tap numbers, in particular were, well, tip top. Two of her students, Natalie Sciulli and Gabriela Zueckero (only 11 years old!) took off on a Fred Astaire and  Eleanor Powell number, “Begin the Beguine” from “Broadway Melody of 1940.” The duo was spot on the original choreography, echoing each other in swift succession.

Karen and friends also took the Mack Sennett idea to another level with a silent movie based on a Keystone Kops scenario and filmed on local train tracks.

All I can say is that I was continually intrigued by the inventiveness of the show. Karen and company bring a real sense of professionalism and dedication to the Pittsburgh dance school scene.


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