Bright Young Things
You’ve met Warren and Maud. Here are 10 more young dancers who are sure to rock the ballet, Broadway and commercial scenes
In its first year on Broadway, Billy Elliot raked in 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Actor. Now, two new hotshots have stepped in to join the nightly rotation with David Alvarez and Trent Kowalik. —Alison Feller
Tommy Batchelor, 14
Tommy didn’t choose to become Billy—Billy Elliot chose him. The Palm Beach Gardens, FL, native has trained in tap, ballet, modern and jazz since the age of 3 at the Palm Beach Ballet Center. When he was in third grade, his teacher suggested he see the film version of Billy because she thought he looked like the title character. Then, when Tommy was 12, his teacher entered him in the Youth America Grand Prix competition. Little did he know that Billy Elliot casting director Nora Brennan was in the audience. Brennan recruited Tommy to audition for the lead role. A week later, he was informed he’d got the job and would need to move to NYC for his Broadway debut. After 10 months performing as Billy on the Broadway stage, Tommy will take on the role in the Chicago production starting in March 2010. “The best part of performing is the audience’s reaction,” Tommy says, reflecting on his time on the Great White Way. “I can see them going through the same emotions I am and can hear them clapping, laughing and crying!”
Alex Ko, 13
He’s barely a teenager, but Alex Ko already has two things most kids his age don’t: his name in Playbill and college credits. In his hometown of Iowa City, IA, Alex balanced his time between dance and gymnastics training and a ballet course at the University of Iowa. When Alex earned a 4.0, his dance teacher took him to NYC to study with tap icon Ray Hesselink, who suggested Alex audition for the role of Billy. After successfully singing, dancing and acting, he secured the role and began performing in Billy in October. Now this overachiever has big dreams for the future: “I want to get into movies or do a television series,” Alex says. “After that, maybe I’ll become a surgeon!”
Photo by Carol Rosegg, courtesy The Hartman Group
The School of American Ballet in NYC always turns out impressive ballet dancers, and this year was no exception. At the school’s annual workshop last spring, three students shone especially brightly, tackling some infamously tricky leading roles with the strength and ease of principal dancers twice their age. “Lauren, Jillian and Angelica possess the tremendous dedication, passion and intensity necessary for achieving success as professional dancers,” says Kay Mazzo, co-chairman of faculty at SAB. “It’s clear that all three exhibit the musicality, coordination and talent to excel in any repertoire.” —Margaret Fuhrer
Angelica Generosa, 16
Now in her third year at SAB, Angelica was one of two girls tapped to play Liberty Bell in Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes just days before the workshop performance, after the student originally cast in the role suffered an injury. “It was crazy! We had seven days to rehearse!” Angelica says. But thanks to her lightning-fast footwork and high-wattage stage presence, she pulled off the role without a hitch. “I was nervous, but in the end, showing everyone what I could do was a lot of fun,” says Angelica, who hopes to dance energetic ballets like Balanchine’s Tarantella in the future.
Jillian Harvey, 17
Like classmate Angelica, Jillian also stepped into the part of Liberty Bell at the very last minute. A powerful jumper and turner with a brilliant petit allégro, she found herself well-suited to the super-technical choreography. “It was such an adrenaline rush!” she remembers. Now a high school senior, Jillian is working on her consistency—“We used to have to be able do a double pirouette every time, and now it’s a triple,” she says. Jillian hopes to earn an apprenticeship with the New York City Ballet.
Lauren Lovette, 18
Lauren, a lyrical dancer with an elegant classical line, gave a memorably passionate performance of the dramatic Waltz Girl role in Balanchine’s Serenade at the workshop. “That part was perfect for me,” she says. “I like the way her character develops—she goes in and out of different moods over the course of the ballet.” Currently in her fourth year at SAB, Lauren would love to dance Juliet in Peter Martins’ Romeo + Juliet someday. “Partnering is one of my favorite parts of ballet, and his choreography for the balcony pas de deux is so challenging and intricate,” she says.
Princes of Grace
There’s something thrilling about a man in tights who can pirouette for days. This year, two young men (both Princess Grace Award winners) stood out on the ballet stage.
Alexander Peters, 18
Alexander Peters has reached that exciting moment when his training is nearing conclusion and his professional career is about to begin. Born in Altoona, PA, Alexander currently attends the School of American Ballet in NYC. In 2008, he was one of only two SAB students handpicked to spend a month at the Royal Danish Ballet in Denmark, and he won a Princess Grace Award. “I remember looking at previous recipients and how far they’ve gone with their careers,” Alexander says. “A lot of them are dancers I idolize, so to be thrown into a pool with them was mind-boggling!” So what’s his dream company? He says emphatically: “I’m open to anything that comes my way!” —Kristin Lewis
Joseph Walsh, 20
It’s not Joseph Walsh’s spotless technique, serious air or even princely good looks that captivate Houston Ballet audiences. It’s what he does with them. With an expansive and generous style, Walsh charges through space with an aura of confidence, backed up by a serious attention to detail. He may still be in the corps, but a Princess Grace Award and recent major roles place him in the “new man to watch” seat. “I’m enjoying finding out as I go what it means to be a professional dancer,” Joseph says. “I’ve really stepped it up since I joined the company. I’m learning that growth sometimes happens at a crazy-fast rate in the dance world.” His recent accomplishments include dancing the naïve Des Grieux in Manon, crashing through Twyla Tharp’s relentless contortions with remarkable precision in In the Upper Room and cranking out multiple tours en l’air in Stanton Welch’s Elements. Walsh, who trained at Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts, American Ballet Theatre and Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, is ready for his next challenge: Welch’s new production of La Bayadère. —Nancy Wozny
Commercial Queens (and King)
Making a name for yourself in the competitive L.A. world isn’t easy—but these three dancers are racking up commercial credits on their extensive resumés. —Jen Jones
Karen Chuang, 19
It’s not easy leading a double life, but Karen Chuang manages to do it with panache! On most days, this brainiac is a student at UCLA double-majoring in business/economics and dance. Other days, she’s a professional dancer working with the likes of Britney Spears, Kristinia DeBarge and Korean pop star AVA, as a regular on Nickelodeon’s “Dance on Sunset” or as an assistant for The PULSE on Tour. “Recently, I had to choose between a Lady Gaga audition and taking my mid-term,” Karen laughs. Her master plan: finding a way to merge her business savvy and dance background to become a dance entrepreneur. She’s been doing her homework for a long time—Karen studied at Northern Cal-based Dance Attack (home of Nick Lazzarini) and was a member of Teen Dance Company (alongside Katee Shean) and the Dance Company of San Francisco (with Sonya Tayeh).
Danielle Peig, 25
If Danielle Peig looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen her as a “So You Think You Can Dance” hopeful. This fiery jazz dancer came this close as one of the top 16 girls in Season 5 and was cut during an earlier Vegas round for Season 6, but she’s positive the third time will be the charm: “I see myself on the show next year,” she says. “I’m really stubborn and I’m not going to give up on my dream!” She’s definitely got the right pedigree: Danielle trained at Dance Connections, the Arizona-based studio owned by Brian Friedman’s mom, from the age of 12 and went on to study dance and choreography on scholarship in London and at California Institute of the Arts. She’s also scored coveted gigs with Sonya Tayeh (as a member of Tayeh Dance Company), Brian Friedman (as an assistant at The PULSE on Tour) and Tabitha and Napoleon (on a Nappytabs industrial). We know this girl can dance—let’s hope “SYTYCD” sees it, too!
Jermaine Johnson, 25
Hip hopper Jermaine Johnson has that X factor every dancer desires. Nailing eight of every 10 auditions, Jermaine is well on his way to becoming one of the most in-demand dancers in Hollywood. Since moving to L.A. from Greenville, MS, in 2007, Jermaine has booked jobs ranging from Maxwell House and Dickies commercials, to the Disney flick The Princess and the Frog to music videos for Chris Cornell, Gnarls Barkley and Chris Brown. He’s also making a name for himself on the stage—not only as a member of Invertigo Dance Theatre, but also with featured roles in modern dance guru Donald McKayle’s Return and L.A. sensation Cirque Berzerk. (He’ll be touring with the production throughout 2010.) Pretty amazing
for someone who had no formal dance training until college!
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.
Daphne Lee is a queen, and not just in the "OMG Girl Boss Alert" sense of the word. She's an actual queen—a beauty queen. Crowned Miss Black USA in August, she's been doing double duty as she continues to dance with the Memphis based dance company, Collage Dance Collective. Lee's new title has given her the means to encourage other black girls and boys to pursue their dreams, while also pursuing dreams of her own. The scholarship money awarded with the pageant title will assist her as she earns a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Hollins University.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
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!