Best friends April Giangeruso, Courtney Lavine and Katie Williams go way back—so far back, in fact, it’s a surprise they didn’t become close until they were all dancing together in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre.
Their paths crossed repeatedly before ABT. All three grew up in the Washington, D.C., area—Courtney in Fairfax, VA, April in Ellicott City, MD, and Katie in Woodstock, MD—and they ran into each other occasionally on the competition circuit. (“We stood out at competitions: We were the tall, lanky girls with big feet!” April jokes.) Courtney and Katie went on to be suite mates at a School of American Ballet summer program when they were both 12, in 2001. Later, all three girls were high school students at NYC’s Professional Children’s School.
But it’s ABT that has turned these casual dance acquaintances into BFFs—and their friendship just keeps getting stronger.
Getting to ABT
Things started to fall into place when April and Courtney joined ABT II a month apart—April in December 2007, and Courtney in January 2008. They quickly began to bond.
Meanwhile, Katie had been promoted to the main company and was adjusting to the shift from the small company and competitive atmosphere of ABT II to being one of a multitude of dancers at ABT. “When I joined the company, most of the dancers were a lot older than me,” she says. “It’s a different vibe working with dancers who are your peers but aren’t at the same point in their lives.” So when Courtney and April were promoted into ABT in early 2010, Katie naturally gravitated toward them.
For April and Courtney, having a friend in Katie meant having someone who knew the ropes to guide them through the transition. “When I joined ABT, it was so daunting,” April says. “I felt like I didn’t know anything. But Katie was there to say, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.’ ” The girls got through their adjustment period by watching performance videos together to help each other learn choreography quickly. Katie pitched in when April and Courtney were learning ballets she’d already danced.
Katie also shared the lessons she’d learned since becoming a corps member. “I told them to stand back and watch—a lot of joining the company is figuring out what’s going on,” she says. “You have so much time when you’re in the background instead of in the thick of things, but you can’t let it get you down. It won’t always be like that.”
Friends Onstage and Off
April, Courtney and Katie took the stage together regularly during ABT’s 2010 spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC. Among their favorite memories from that season are dancing “Kingdom of the Shades” from La Bayadère—“That one’s a total community effort. Everyone’s in it together,” Katie says—and Act II of Swan Lake.
“Katie really helped me get through Swan Lake,” Courtney says. “Standing on the sides is hard on your feet! But Katie knew what was coming. She stood in front of me and hummed to remind me to breathe, so I’d forget about the pain.”
On tour, the three are each other’s extended family. “It can get lonely on the road,” Courtney says. “It’s nice to have someone to call for dinner.”
But their time together doesn’t only revolve around ballet. “We hang out with non-dancers,” April says. “We’re in dance mode from 10 am until 7 pm every day. It’s good to have a life outside of the studio.”
Though they aren’t roommates, the three girls spend a lot of time at each other’s apartments. They watch movies. They go shopping. They watch—and argue about—sports. Last summer, they all spent a week in Ocean City, MD, and they’re planning to visit Hawaii this year.
Support, Trust—and Fun
Though the girls are close, their dancing styles and tastes are very different. April has a fondness for adagio and turns, while Courtney loves grand allégro. Despite their differences, Katie points out that, “having similar body types and heights lends itself to our sharing some roles.”
You might think that vying for the same spots onstage would lead to a friendly rivalry, but that’s not the case.
“We’re nothing but supportive,” April says. “Ballet can get in your head, so it’s nice to know that people have your back. We’re completely honest with each other.” That policy covers everything from telling each other when a leotard is unflattering to offering advice about personal issues. “We have an underlying trust,” April says. “If we talk to each other, it’s only between us.”
That trust is the cornerstone of what takes April, Courtney and Katie from being colleagues who hang out together to being true best friends. They have fun together, both at work and in their free time, but they also genuinely care about each other, and each girl wants her friends to succeed. All of that support, plus top-notch technique and stunning stage presence? Sounds like a recipe for long careers spent dancing side by side.
On Common Ground
Ballet isn’t the only thing Katie, April and Courtney have in common. They also…
…are all Aries: Courtney’s birthday is March 22, April’s is April 12 and Katie’s is April 14.
…love sports: Courtney roots for the Washington Redskins, while Katie and April are die-hard Baltimore Ravens fans. Now that they’re New Yorkers, the girls enjoy Yankees games, too.
…have Maltese dogs: Courtney’s dog Oopsie lives with her in NYC, while April’s dog Pebbles and Katie’s dog Mo live with their respective parents.
What You Should Know About Katie
Training: Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland in Columbia, MD, and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT. Joined ABT II in December 2006, and ABT in December 2007.
As a Dancer: “Katie has the most amazing petit allégro,” April says. “I admire that, because it’s one of the harder things for me. She has such a natural spring—it looks like she’s on a trampoline!”
Outside the Studio: “Katie’s a math whiz!” April says. Courtney adds, “She really is a genius. She even brought her Kindle to the beach.”
What You Should Know About April
Training: The Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C., and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT. Joined ABT II in December 2007, and ABT in January 2010.
As a Dancer: “I enjoy April’s freedom onstage,” Courtney says. “She’s very honest with the audience, very real. It doesn’t look at all forced when she’s dancing, and that’s beautiful to watch.”
Outside the Studio: “April is only 19, but has 50 years of life experience!” Katie says. “I’ve always thought of her as much more mature than her age.”
April was the first winner of the Dance Spirit Cover Model Search contest! She appeared on the cover of the October 2006 issue.
What You Should Know About Courtney
Training: Washington School of Ballet in Washington, D.C., and the School of American Ballet in NYC. Joined ABT II in January 2008, and ABT in February 2010.
As a Dancer: “I love the way that Courtney uses her feet,” Katie says. “She has a really good wing that I’m jealous of, because I’m a sickler! Her feet are so articulate—maybe it’s her Balanchine training.”
Outside the Studio: “Courtney’s so outgoing,” April says. “She’s brought both me and Katie out of our shells. She has a nothing-to-lose personality.” Now that you’ve met April, Courtney and Katie, turn the page to meet 10 more dance best friends.
Kalani Hilliker made "Dance Moms" fans sit up a little straighter when she first appeared on "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition" back in 2013. The then–12-year-old ballerina had charisma, she had sass—and, wow, did she have technique! Abby Lee Miller, the show's infamous host, saw Kalani's star potential from the start, saving her from elimination and ultimately inviting her to perform alongside Maddie Ziegler on Season 4 of "Dance Moms." "I was never supposed to be on 'Dance Moms' beyond that one performance," says Kalani, now 16, but she ended up staying on the show for the whole season—and the following three. "It was my first time, but not my last time, causing drama. And it was also the first time I got to meet the other dancers, who have become like sisters."
We're on somewhat of a dance photography kick here at DS, so we figured we'd keep it going in a very big way: an exclusive interview with Rachel Neville, the photographer responsible for all those absolutely drool-worthy dance photos on your Instagram feed. We caught up with Neville at PurePoint Financial in NYC, where her new show, "A Command Performance," is up on display (and we highly recommend you check it out).
Acupuncture has proven benefits for reducing pain and getting dancers back on their feet, but it's also a way to treat your overall well-being—in both mind and body. "Acupuncture works very holistically," says Cassandra Krug, licensed acupuncturist at the Acupuncture Clinic of Boulder, in Boulder, CO. "Even if you come in because of ankle pain, we're looking at your whole body. We're trying to return you to a place of homeostasis, or balance."
Peter Schmidt, a licensed acupuncturist who works with Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers, thinks that acupuncture—when combined with the work of dancer-friendly Western doctors, physical therapists, and orthopedists—results in a higher success rate for his patients. "Acupuncture can't address everything," he says. "But for things that are bothering you that don't show up on an X-ray or MRI, acupuncture could help." Is acupuncture right for you? We talked to the experts to find out what dancers should know before going under the needle.
Before we get into this week's recap, let's all show some love for Travis Wall, who had a day yesterday. Just hours before "So You Think You Can Dance" was set to air, Wall was at Disneyland (with friend and "Modern Family" star and aspiring Shaping Sound member Jesse Tyler Ferguson, NBD), where he found himself at a bit of a standstill—literally. "Not gonna be able to make 'So You Think' tonight...because I'm stuck on Indiana Jones," Wall shared on Instagram yesterday afternoon.
But hooray! He eventually did get off the stalled ride, and was in the audience alongside Mandy Moore. We're glad you made it, Travis!
On to the show:
This week, the Top 9 performed solos and duets with their All Stars. You know the drill. As always, we'll skip the solos and get right to the good stuff. (Though the solos were, like last week, so good.) Here's how it all went down.
To say that three-time-Emmy-nominated choreographer and dancer Stacey Tookey is in demand is an understatement. One glance at her resumé says it all: She's worked with artists like Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Bublé; performed with R.A.W. (Mia Michaels' dance company), Parsons Dance Project, and Ballet British Columbia; choreographed viral music videos like Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts" and Ingrid Michaelson's recent "Celebrate"; presented full-length works for Los Angeles Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet; and formed her own contemporary company, STILL MOTION. She's currently marking her 10th season choreographing for and judging on "So You Think You Can Dance," which is where she racked up those Emmy noms.
Tulle is the common thread (or should we say fabric?) that has woven its way through the course of Janay Robison's life: She's handled the delicate netting in one way or another since the age of 7. Once a soloist on her university's ballet company, she's now an emerging designer in the wedding dress industry, and has seamlessly transitioned from tutus to big-day gowns.
Robison is currently one of Utah's leading ladies in fashion. She launched Utah Fashion Week, an event that has grown to incorporate over 50 local designers and hundreds of models, make-up artists, and hair stylists, in 2014, and has had her gowns featured in several magazines. But she's found ways to pay homage to her past life as a dancer—and to use her dance knowledge in her new business. From her work ethic to her designs, Robison says ballet has given her a solid foundation from which to launch a successful wedding dress line. Check out our interview with this talented artist, and discover how she's combined her passion for dance and her love of fashion.
Yesterday, Chrissy Teigen posted an Instagram video of her trying out a pair of pointe shoes, with a hand from husband John Legend.
Yes, Teigen is obviously not a trained dancer. Yes, she looks pretty awful in the video. Yes, she could've hurt herself. Dancers and dance fans have been quick to point out all of these facts in many a comments section.
But this video is not the next Kendall Jenner-esque ballet fiasco. And here's why.
P!nk's intense, addictive new single "What About Us" is an anthem worthy of blasting during a killer cross-training sesh, scream-singing out the car window, and inspiring some truly incredible movement.