Brian's compliments make you leap!
If you’ve been following my blogs this week from The Pulse in New York City, you know this: Brian Friedman is tough, really tough. A compliment from him is enough to make a dancer leap in excitement … which I found out this week when I told Chaz Buzan, one of the 10 guys who is part of the Brian Friedman Intensive, that Brian had singled him out in a conversation with me.
“Really?” Chaz asked me, his eyes widening. “What did he say?”
“He told me you were part of a group of guys who are emerging,” I said.
“Yesss!” Chaz cried. His black hair flopped on his forehead as he jumped in the hotel hallway, landing squarely in front of Kayla Radomski. “Brian said I’m emerging!”
Kayla, who is Chaz’s partner in a featured duet in Friedman’s piece, could appreciate the magnitude of the compliment. Now 17, she met Brian at a dance convention when she was 11. He called her to the front at the end of his class, then visited her studio to teach the next year. Ever since, Brian has choreographed solos for Kayla and had her assist him in his teaching. She just graduated high school a year early and is planning to move to Los Angeles with her mother, Renee, to pursue a full-time entertainment career.
Earlier that day, Kayla, who has been represented by Anastasia Miller first at Bloc and now at Clear Talent Group since age 14, missed Friedman’s rehearsal to audition for Broadway’s West Side Story. She didn’t make the cut in part, the casting people told her, because she had Barbie-doll looks that made her stick out too much in a crowd.
Any rejection is disappointing, but I’m guessing Kayla, who does indeed have sunny blonde hair, can live with this one. She told me her ultimate goal is to be a superstar (put another way: NOT a performer who simply blends in). And Brian, her mentor, has clearly deemed her worthy of standing out. He chose her for that featured duet with Chaz, of course, and he also singled her out as one of his “leading girls.”
“They’re amazing,” he told me. “Every one of them is really the glue that’s holding the number together right now.”
For Kayla, Brian is a key connection that will help her when she makes the big move to Hollywood.
“I'm close with him and can talk to him about things,” she said. “He’s out there and he knows all about everything, so he can help me when I need some advice.”
You can be that advice will be right on point – even if it’s in the form of raw criticism.
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.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
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.