Andrea Parson: Putting the "Grrr..." in Grace
Onstage, Andrea Parson appears trapped in lamplight, like a moth. Rapid-fire spoken words set her pace and for the next 15 minutes, she seems to teeter on the edge of sanity. At one moment, her foot spirals upward, searches above her head, past her ear—then whacks the floor. At another, her arm cuts like a sword into the surrounding darkness.
This on-the-edge-of-your-seat solo Not I was choreographed for 23-year-old Andrea by Sarah Slipper, artistic director of the Northwest Dance Project (NWDP), a company Andrea has been a part of since 2007. Not I showcases Andrea’s technique and her unbelievable artistry. Fittingly, in November, she was honored with the prestigious Princess Grace Award in Dance.
But this budding superstar hasn’t been handed everything on a silver platter. Instead, Andrea has built her career with the qualities she’ll need to become a long-lasting artist in the dance world—strong technique, tenacity and determination—because what matters to her most is not the accolades or the attention, but the work. In fact, because of her stamina and laser-like focus, Slipper nicknamed Andrea, “Terminator.”
Andrea began dancing at age 3 at a competition studio called Oregon Dance Academy (which no longer exists). She took a break at age 9 for a few years, then from ages 12 to 18 did her pre-professional training at the Northwest Conservatory of Dance in Hillsboro, OR. She took classes in classical ballet and jazz, adding modern to her rep in high school. By 18, Andrea had also attended two different Joffrey Ballet programs.
Andrea says her parents were supportive, but it wasn’t easy to get them to pay for as many classes as she wanted. “It got to be expensive,” Andrea says. So she and her mother held fundraisers with family and friends. “I was very strong-willed, but my real challenge was convincing myself that I could become a professional dancer and then showing that to them.”
A turning point for Andrea happened just before she started college, in August 2005, when she saw the Northwest Dance Project (known then as the Northwest Professional Dance Project) perform. At the time, the NWPDP was one of the only groups in the US dancing almost all newly commissioned works from an international roster of choreographers. Andrea was “blown away” by the dancers, who were young, hip and gifted, and the contemporary ballet style she saw on stage.
At Loyola Marymount University in L.A., Andrea continued with her ballet training, but the program emphasized modern dance. Then, in the spring of 2006 (her freshman year), she got the opportunity to audition for NWDP’s affiliated summer training-and-audition project, now called LAUNCH. She didn’t get in. She says she wasn’t familiar enough with contemporary ballet yet and she didn’t perform her best because she felt intimidated. However, she became determined to eventually make it.
In the summer of 2007, Andrea enrolled in San Francisco Conservatory of Dance to learn more about contemporary ballet. For the next year, she also attended extra ballet classes and met often with her professors to discuss how she could improve. Later that year, her audition was successful.
During her first summer at NWDP, Andrea danced a solo in Not Yet by Cayetano Soto and in Inner Shore by Luca Veggetti—the newly appointed resident artistic director of Morphoses for the 2011–12 season. From them she learned you must set aside your own ideas of a choreographer’s work, to be open and “to be fearless.”
These days, NWDP is Andrea’s second home. “It’s another family,” she says. “I feel like a worker. I love it.” As part of NWDP, Andrea rehearses six days a week and teaches. Through NWDP and LAUNCH she has worked with renowned choreographers and directors including Andrea Miller, Aszure Barton, James Canfield, Benoit-Swan Pouffer and many more.
Company dancer Patrick Kilbane says Andrea leads by example. “She challenges all of us,” he says. “There’s an innate focus to her work which forces us to rise to that level of commitment.”
Andrea has the same praise for her colleagues. “Everyone at NWDP is young, vibrant and emerging,” Andrea says. “Sarah Slipper often brings in choreographers who don’t usually work on the West Coast or even in the US. I’m so thankful for that. It’s an education as much as it is a job.”
Now, Andrea’s even getting her own opportunities to choreograph, under the guidance of Slipper and others. As a fledgling dance creator, she already has mantras: “First research and improv. Be patient and let things unfold naturally,” she says. “Andrea Miller told me: ‘Just try anything, even if you have doubts.’ ”
On top of making her own dances, Andrea would also eventually like to work in Europe, with Rachel Tess of Rumpus Room Dance and again with Andrea Miller of Gallim Dance. But for now, she’s happy to take on all she can from the studios of NWDP’s home in Portland, OR.
After the 2010 Princess Grace Award ceremony, Andrea reflected: “The entire night and celebration have been so inspiring to me,“ she says. “I feel I’m at the beginning of a journey in which there are no limits.”
Luca Veggetti, Newly appointed resident artistic director of Morphoses for the 2011-2012 season, on Andrea: “She has a beautiful quality and is extremely focused. The way she approaches work is really an example of how a dancer should behave.”
Andrea Parson on praise: “No, it’s not about recognition or praise. I need to dance. No amount of affirmation will satisfy me because it’s not what I need.”
Andrea Parson on her 2010 Princess Grace Award night: “The gala was incredible—one of the best nights of my life!” Actor Denzel Washington said something that Andrea says will stick with her: “It’s not how much you have, but what you do with what you have.”
“One of my favorite parts of the evening was walking the red carpet outside of the event. For a moment, I felt like I was at the Oscars or the Grammys.”
Birthday: March 11, 1987
Favorite food: Almond butter
Dream vacation spot: Islands of the South Pacific
Favorite place to tour to: Germany
If I were not a dancer... “I’d do post-graduate service, travel, live in a different part of the world, teach, work with kids.”
Most-played song on her iPod: “Silent Shout” by The Knife
Favorite dessert: Cheesecake
Guilty pleasure: “Spending extra time preparing home-cooked meals like sourdough sweet potato pancakes.”
Favorite movie: Sixteen Candles
Favorite choreographer: Andrea Miller, artistic director of Gallim Dance
Advice for Dance Spirit readers: “Don’t set limits for yourself. Just go for it. Stand in front in class—get up there even if you’re scared. It’s OK to feel uncomfortable.”
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.