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!”
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!
Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.
If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.
Almost a month out, Puerto Rico continues to suffer the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Many of the island's residents still lack power, clean water, and safe housing. Ballet classes? For Puerto Rican dance students, they must feel like an impossible luxury.
But a dance studio in Florida is working to allow a group of young Puerto Ricans to continue their training. And it needs your help.
Yes, I am a dancer, and yes, I am fat.
There's nothing quite as soul-crushing as the reactions I've received when I've told people I dance. They can range from disbelief to confusion to shock. To many people, it's somehow incomprehensible that a plus-size person like myself could grace a stage. While the body-positive movement has been trucking along at full force over the past few years, it hasn't made much progress in the dance community yet. In fact, the words "body positivity" and "dance" are almost never used together in the same sentence.
Despite that fact, dance is what helped me learn to love my larger frame. In honor of National Body Confidence Day, I wanted to talk about my first time in a studio, and about the tremendous progress I've made since.