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Performing arts camps for kids

Kids with a creative side get to express themselves freely through theater, dance and music programs at these top-notch performing arts camps

Photograph courtesy Downtown Dance Factory
Downtown Dance Factory Camp

Future DJs, Broadway stars and ballerinas can really hone their talent when they spend their summer at one of the area's best performing arts camps. Led by industry professionals, youngsters get high-caliber training from acting classes, jam out with fellow music-lovers and perfect their technique in dance classes. Next thing you know, they'll be starring in their own plays and performances on NYC stages.

RECOMMENDED: Summer camps for kids

Performing arts camps

A Westside Experiment—Young Actor's Laboratory at IRT Theater

In this alternative summer theater program, tweens work with a real company in residence to produce a wacky, totally original, experimental play. This year’s batch of campers are mentored by members of the Vampire Cowboys, an award-winning troupe that produces quirky, comic book–inspired shows. The progressive Young Actor’s Laboratory program still covers all the theater essentials, like physical-acting technique, improvisation, voice and the ever-popular stage combat, but with a decidedly downtown twist. This is a great choice for kids who are interested in theater but eager to try something more offbeat than, say, Oklahoma. Ages 12–18.

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BAM Youth Summer Programs

These multidisciplinary creative workshops put kids center stage at renowned performing arts center Brooklyn Academy of Music. BAM partners with several city institutions, including Museum of the Moving Image and the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, for their match of courses. In the Creative Writing workshop, kids see their original plays performed by professional actors, while in Musical Drama and Dance, they participate in a production of Agamemnon & Clytemnestra: Special Victims Unit. Budding thespians (ages 11 to 13) might consider the Bard in Brooklyn, a workshop in which they learn about various elements of theater (including stage combat, clowning and improvisation) by studying Shakespeare. At the end of the two-week workshop, they put on an abridged (read: kid-friendly) version of a Shakespeare play for an audience of their families and friends. Ages 8–18.

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Fort Greene

Bandwriting Collective

Guided and inspired by professional songwriters and recording artists (like Stuart Klinger who worked with Dean and the Weenies, Fred Norris and Friends), Jesse Krakow (Shudder to Think, John Zorn) and Rob Taube (James Taylor, Hank Williams Jr.), young musicians sharpen their technical skills in this series of two-week intensives. Whether they sing or play guitar, bass, drums or piano, kids collaborate with fellow campers to write original material, then lay down their tracks at a professional recording studio. Everyone gets a mixed and edited CD of their tunes to take home, and each workshop ends with an onstage concert at the Slipper Room. Ultrasound Studios, 251 W 30th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves· Shelter Island Sound, 40 W 27th St between Sixth Ave and Broadway. Ages 11–17.

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Midtown West

Broadway Bound Kids Camp

This summertime song-and-dance program at Bridge for Dance offers kids of all ages the chance to really ham it up. They produce an original minimusical from start to finish, writing the script and songs and choreographing dance routines in Create a Musical. Fans of Glee will love forming their very own New Directions–esque troupe, singing solos and choreographing accompanying dance moves during Gleek Week. Participants in Broadway Bound Players are cast in a full junior musical production of Shrek, featuring eye-popping costumes, sets and props, and they receive acting, singing and dancing lessons from real-deal theater pros, take master classes with stars of the Great White Way and, for the grand finale, put on their production on a professional stage. Ages 5–16.

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Brooklyn Music Factory Camp

Little ones rock out in two ways at this mash-up camp, combining programs at Brooklyn Music Factory and Brooklyn Boulders. They’ll strum guitars and bang on drums with their fellow campers (a.k.a. bandmates) at the fully loaded music studio, then blow off steam at the epic indoor climbing gym across the street. Kids show off their chops in a rockin’ concert at the end of each week. Ages 5–15.

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Buck's Rock Creative and Performing Arts Camp

With more than 30 programs to choose from, tweens can always find a satisfying new way to express themselves at this 70-year-old performing arts camp. Located in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains in central Connecticut, this bucolic spot offers older kids the chance to get creative through music, dance, improv, theater or stand-up comedy. In the theater program, campers audition for several plays and take classes from professional actors. Young dancers study a variety of disciplines, from ballet to hip-hop, and help choreograph pieces for the final performance. Music students have access to Studio 59, the camp’s professional-grade recording facility, where they can record, mix and edit their own songs. It’s practically impossible to get stir-crazy here, with off-campus field trips to see concerts at Caramoor and Tanglewood and dance performances at Jacob’s Pillow, plus visits to local museums, art galleries and theaters. There are spelunking (cave exploring) trips at nearby state parks and overnight camping excursions for a change of pace, and kids can try other arts, like metalsmithing, glassblowing and cooking. The final day of the season culminates in a festival, with performances and demos by campers, a picnic lunch and dinner. Parents and kids from earlier sessions are welcome to attend. Ages 9–16.

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Camp Kids 'N Comedy

Budding jokesters practice comedic acting and improve, providing them with the tools to write and perform their own personal stand-up comedy routines. Each session ends with a live show at Gotham Comedy Club for families and friends. Ages 10 to 18.

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Chelsea

Child's Play NY

MFA grads and Broadway performers help dramatically inclined tykes bring classic children's tales to life. The youngest campers (ages 3 to 5) focus on imaginative play (sessions include Superheroes on Stage, Ocean Adventures, Fairy Tale Theater and Gruffalo and Co.), while older kids (ages 6 to 11) delve into musical theater, performances of Shakespeare and Roald Dahl, improvisational acting and other theater genres. Campers ages 4 to 6 can warm up their voices in mini musical sessions featuring the whimsical stories of Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and more. Cobble Hill Ballet, 193 Columbia St between DeGraw and Sackett Sts, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.  Adventure series camp runs Aug 3–28, Mon–Fri 9am–noon. One-week session $335. Ages 3 to 5.  232 Court St at Baltic St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (For additional Fort Greene locations visit childsplayny.com). Mini musical series camp runs Aug 3–28, Mon–Fri 9am–noon. One-week sessions $335, one week July 13–17 at Dillon Child Study Center $400. Ages 4 to 6.  St. Francis College,180 Remsen Sts between Clinton and Court Sts, Brooklyn Heights. Players series camp runs Aug 3–21, Mon–Fri 1:30–5pm. One-week session $435. Ages 6 to 11. The Corlears School, 324 W 15th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves. Camp runs June 22–July 2 and July 6–17, Mon–Fri 8:30am–3:30pm. Two-week session $1,450. Ages 5 to 8. (347-406-2177, childsplayny.com)

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Downtown Dance Factory Camp

Dancers of all levels polish their pliés and perfect their jazz hands before showing off their skills in a weekly showcase. Full-day campers dabble in jazz, hip-hop, break dancing and musical-theater classes. Younger kids (ages 3 to 5) can try a mixed bag of dance-related craft projects (banners for recitals or costume accessories), storytelling, dress-up, singing and drama, in addition to classes in modern, tap and hip-hop. Parents are welcome to come early on Fridays and watch their kids get down, performing what they’ve practiced all week. Ages 3–12.

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Joffrey Ballet School Children's Summer Dance Camp

With tutus, fairy godmothers and glass slippers in the mix, no self-respecting little ballerina or danseur could say no to this youth dance camp. Tiny dancers (ages 3 to 6) can sign up for weeklong programs with a final performance like Sleeping Beauty, in which wee ones follow feathered Odette across an enchanted lake, or Cinderella, in which the princess’s fairies come to life through creative dances to Prokofiev’s score. Older kids ages 7 to 9 can dance through two-week sessions, trying on ballet, folk, hip-hop and jazz-contemporary techniques that culminate in a final performance for families, complete with group and solo numbers. Ages 3–9.

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