With his reedy, praying-mantis-like body, Billy Barry isn’t someone you’d pick out on the street as a dancer. But get him onstage and you’ll understand why the 22-year-old Juilliard alum earned a spot in Israel’s prestigious Batsheva Ensemble. Billy has something larger than technique: He’s an intimately arresting, delightfully odd performer who seems to speak his own mysterious language. In other words, he’s an alien—the coolest alien you’ve ever seen.
A native New Yorker, Billy first discovered dance at a local studio near his hometown on Long Island. Serious ballet training at the Eglevsky Ballet soon followed, and as a teen, he enrolled at Manhattan’s Professional Performing Arts School. While at PPAS, he began to hear the siren call of Juilliard. “I just knew it was where I belonged,” he says. The feeling wasn’t immediately mutual: Billy was waitlisted when he applied to Juilliard his senior year. Suddenly unsure of his future, he auditioned for the European tour of West Side Story and was cast as Baby John. But before he could jump on the West Side bandwagon, Juilliard called: He’d made the final cut.
At Juilliard, Billy was a standout from the beginning. “First you notice him because he’s so striking physically—then you see that he has this extraordinary imagination,” says Lawrence Rhodes, director of Juilliard’s Dance Division. And it was at Juilliard that Billy first met Batsheva director Ohad Naharin, who set excerpts from his works MAX and Three on the students during Billy’s sophomore year. In Naharin’s Gaga technique, which emphasizes image-based improvisation, Billy found a home. “Ohad added this extra ingredient to my dancing,” he says. “I stopped obsessing about technique. If you hang on to technique, you may be beautiful to watch, but you won’t be very exciting. And I’d much rather be exciting than beautiful.”
During his senior year at Juilliard, Billy had another dream-come-true moment: Naharin asked him to join the Batsheva Ensemble. Two months after graduation, Billy moved to Tel Aviv to begin working with the company. “It’s amazing—it’s a job that feels nothing like work,” he says. “It’s just playtime.”
Birthday: September 23, 1989
Dance idol: Martha Graham
Three words that describe your dancing: Spastic, off-kilter, quirky
Three words that describe your personality: Flamboyant, loud, chatty
Hidden talent: “I can make this goose-honk noise. The problem is if I cough or laugh really loud, that noise just happens, usually at some inappropriate moment.”
Who would play you in a movie: Dakota Fanning
Advice for DS readers: “See all kinds of dance—even if you’re not familiar with the company performing. I’d never heard of Batsheva before Juilliard!”
Taja Riley's bold, full-out presence and unique ability to mix hard-hitting hip hop with smooth, sensual choreography paved the way for her success in the commercial industry. She's danced with music icons like Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, Ne-Yo, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Pitbull, and Bruno Mars, and has assisted with choreography for Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour, Demi Lovato's Skyscraper tour, and Beyoncé's Mrs. Carter tour. She also appeared in Beyoncé's groundbreaking visual album Lemonade. Raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Riley grew up training at Denise Wall's Dance Energy. Currently, she's on faculty at New York City Dance Alliance, where you can catch her touring the convention circuit. —Courtney Bowers
P!nk, known for her high-flying, acrobatic awards show sets, has literally raised the bar for pop stars everywhere. For her performance at last night's American Music Awards, P!nk decided to break out some flips and tricks ON THE SIDE OF A BUILDING. WHILE FLAWLESSLY SINGING HER FACE OFF. You know, just casually, like you do when you're a full-on goddess.
When you think of a dancer, a double leg amputee may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But Eric Graise, who's one of the stars of the upcoming "Step Up: High Water" YouTube Red series, hopes to change that. Graise, whose legs were amputated as a child due to missing fibula bones, will play a character named King in the new dance series, set to debut early next year.
We all suffer from Nutcracker fatigue sometimes. After a zillion performances, it's hard not to. But there's nothing to restore your little-kid sense of Nutcracker wonder like a look at the sheer scale of a world-class Nut.
New York City Ballet's iconic production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker opens on Friday, and for the past week, the company has been Tweeting out some seriously eye-popping #NutcrackerNumbers. The stats cover everything from the number of jingle bells used on each Candy Cane costume (that'd be 144) to the watts of light used in the show's grand finale (ONE. MILLION. WATTS.).
Oh hey there, Hallmark Channel! The producer of all those sweet, homey movies best watched in your PJs with your mom has a super dance-y film on its holiday lineup this season: A Nutcracker Christmas. And the casting is—to use a very Hallmark-y pun—perfectly on pointe.
A Nutcracker Christmas tells the story of a talented professional dancer, Lilly, whose supportive sister dies just as Lilly is about to perform the role of Clara in The Nutcracker with New York City Ballet. (Nit-picky fact-checking: In New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, she's known as Marie and danced by a child, but OK.) Lilly's boyfriend and dance partner, Mark, keeps her from performing in the show, which makes Lilly declare she'll never dance again. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Lilly's niece, Sadie, is about to dance Clara in a different company's Nutcracker—a company run by, of all people, Mark. And tons of drama ensues.
Yes, it's a whole lot of plot to wrap your head around. But the real story here is that Sadie is played by none other than the phenomenal Sophia Lucia, and the ever-dashing Sascha Radetsky is also involved in the project. (Radetsky's exact role is unclear from the press material, but he seems like a pretty natural fit for Mark, no?) The odds seem good that we'll get the gift of some very high-quality dancing. Merry Christmas to us!
Sophia Lucia showing off those banana feet (via @sophialucia5678)
You can catch A Nutcracker Christmas on December 10 at 8 pm. Get your slippers and hot cocoa ready.
Consistent turns are a must for aspiring professional dancers, but pretty much everyone struggles with pirouettes at some point. Luckily, since we're all beholden to the same rules of physics, there are concrete steps every dancer can take to reach his or her top turning potential. “Three is the new two when it comes to pirouettes, but the secret to turning is technique, not magic," says Bojan Spassoff, president and director of The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia.
Falling out of your doubles? Aspiring to go revolution for revolution with your class's star turner? No matter where you lie on the turning spectrum, our 360-degree guide to pirouettes will help you improve.
One of the most beautiful things social media has brought us is the ability to feel like we're up close and personal behind-the-scenes with all our favorite dancers. And one of our favorite stars to Insta-stalk are actually two casts of 36 scintillatingly synchronized precision dancers. I'm talking, of course, about my mild obsession with the legendary Radio City Rockettes.
Have we mentioned lately how much we love dance dads? Especially ones who show up to their daughter's ballet class sporting a tutu, like Thanh Tran.
You've seen it a million times: A glamorous, toned dancer posts a perfectly styled shot of her colorful smoothie bowl. The caption gushes about how great you'll feel if you eat "clean"—but what does that actually mean? DS asked registered dietitian/nutritionist Rachel Fine and holistic health coach (and founder of The Whole Dancer) Jess Spinner for all of the dirt.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org a chance to be featured!
I'm being bullied by one of the girls at my studio, and it's awful. I've talked to my dance teacher and confronted the bully directly, but it hasn't made a difference. What should I do?