If Hollywood has a fairy godmother, she must be working overtime for the film Dreamgirls, as the holiday release boasts an unusual amount of good karma. From a wealth of early Oscar buzz and a cast and crew that gets along famously to dazzling choreography masterminded by Fatima Robinson, the Broadway production-turned-film appears slated for success.
Loosely based on The Supremes’ dramatic rise to fame, Dreamgirls has long been a fixture on the stage circuit. The original show (on Broadway from December 1981 to August 1985) won six Tony Awards and ran for 1,522 performances with its glitzy portrayal of an all-female pop trio in the Motown era. Stepping into roles originated by Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Holliday and Loretta Devine are Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson (“American Idol”) and Tony Award–winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline, Or Change). Joining them are Hollywood heavyweights Jamie Foxx (as the group’s manager), Eddie Murphy (as headliner “Thunder” Early) and Danny Glover (as Early’s agent).
The Dream Team
Landing the choreography gig was no small accomplishment for Robinson (who also dances in the movie), as industry competition was stiff. During summer 2005, hopefuls submitted test tapes for the movie’s biggest dance number, “Steppin’ to the Bad Side.” Rather than accentuate the horns in the song, Robinson (who has never seen the musical) gave the dancers tambourines and incorporated a joyous and lively ambiance into the piece. “They loved the energy and how it morphed into a big, fun number with the dancers reaching to the sky,” she says of the choreography, which is inspired by the moves of the late ’60s and early ’70s and infused with pop.
After signing on, Robinson assembled her choreography team: long-time collaborators Aakomon “AJ” Jones and Eboni Nichols, as well as associate choreographer Joey Pizzi. Jones and Nichols had worked with Robinson on projects for artists like Prince and Nelly, while Pizzi, who danced in and was the associate choreographer of the film version of Chicago, brings a successful movie musical pedigree to the project. Says Nichols, “You dance your whole life waiting for [such] opportunities. This film will be monumental; I’ve had the chance to be part of history.”
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
If you're in need of a piece that's both trendy and sophisticated, look no further than this Só Dança crop top. Featuring elegant long sleeves, a high neckline, and a delicate lace trim, it's both classic and contemporary—perfect for everything from that big audition to a long night in the studio. Enter below for your chance to win it!
Auditioning for summer intensives in person may be the ideal—but for Anna McDowell, a 16-year-old student at Juneau Dance Theatre in Juneau, AK, it's rarely possible. “Living in Alaska, it's difficult to travel to auditions," she says. “It gets way too expensive!" Instead, each year, with help from her teachers and a videographer, she puts together a well-crafted video and submits it to schools around the country. Last year, her high-quality video helped her earn acceptance to nearly every program she applied for. Most summer intensive programs, eager to attract students from far and wide, will accept video auditions from those who can't travel to take class. But major schools look at hundreds of submissions each year, which means video auditioners have just a few minutes—or even seconds—to make a great impression. If you're about to create an audition video, follow these tips from the professionals to put your best digital foot forward.
There are zillions of things to think about when choosing a summer program, but here's one you might not have considered: using an intensive as an opportunity to focus on a new style. Maybe you're a tap dancer who's ready to see where else your rhythm and quick feet can serve you, or a contemporary dancer curious about the more traditional roots of your genre. A summer program can be the perfect place to broaden your horizons, giving you the opportunity to make technical and artistic changes that stick throughout the year.
Happy birthday, George Balanchine! The great choreographer and founder of New York City Ballet would have been 114 years old today. Balanchine revolutionized ballet, especially American ballet—and he also had quite a way with words. To celebrate Mr. B's birthday, we rounded up some of our favorite iconic Balanchine quotes.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.