Ryan Steele's Big Leap

9.3.2013

By Daniel D'Addario

The Broadway dancer on physical demands and downtown love stories.

Now 22, he’s spent half his life onstage, starting with a Detroit production of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular when he was just 11. He moans, recalling the debut, which eventually led to Broadway spins in Billy Elliot and West Side Story, his breakout role in Newsies, and his current turn in Matilda. “I’m getting old,” he says.

Not quite. Steele is part of a new generation of rising Broadway demi-stars obsessed over on theater blogs, not least because he and his partner, fellow thesp Matt Doyle (The Book of Mormon), make such a handsome couple. “Once I knew I was in, he bought me a first edition of Matilda for Christmas,” Steele says, referring to the classic children’s book by Roald Dahl that serves as the source material for the show. He insists there’s no competitive tension between the two: “What we’re doing is so different — I’m a dancer on Broadway, and he’s an actor–singer. It gives us something to talk about.”

Steele has ambitions beyond just dancing — or, at least, he’s open to the possibility of leaving that world behind—but he won’t get too specific about his goals. “I’ve learned not to count anything out,” he says. “That’s a silly move in this business. There’s something special about having your work cemented forever in movies and TV; it’s a nice scrapbook. But there’s also something really special about live theater.”

One of Steele’s recent live performances may still be on your DVR: He danced at the Tony Awards in June with the rest of his cast, before the show picked up some hardware (it netted four trophies from its 12 nominations). He’s modest about the exposure, though. “I wasn’t there for people to watch me dance,” he says. “I was there to represent the show.” But with Five Dances, Steele finally gets his chance to step out of the ensemble — and to clear up one lingering question about his identity. “I get teased a lot,” he says. “People say my name sounds like a porn star’s.” But that doesn’t seem to faze him much. “It’s valid. It completely does.”

Watch the trailer for Five Dances, out Oct. 4, below:

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