Catching Up with Emmy-Nominated "SYTYCD" Choreographer Stacey Tookey
DS: What is your favorite number you've choreographed for "So You Think You Can Dance"?
ST: I like different routines for different reasons, whether it's my experience with the dancers or the reaction from the judges when someone is stretched out of their comfort zone. Sometimes the piece just has special meaning to me. I can narrow it down to three: Mad World (Billy and Ade), Heaven is a place on Earth (Kathryn and Robert) and Bang Bang (Eliana and Alex).
DS: All of us at Dance Spirit are super excited you're starting your own company. What made you decide to do it?
ST: I've been thinking about starting my own dance company for a while and finally decided the time is right. I want to push myself as an artist, continue to grow and take beautiful dancers who inspire me along for the journey. L.A. is such a “gig by gig” type of dance industry, where most dancers do a job for a couple days or a week then it’s over. In my professional dance career, it was my experience working in a company situation that stretched and taught me the most. There is something about sweating in a studio together for 8 hours a day over a long period of time that is so rewarding.
DS: What do you look for when hiring dancers?
ST: Fearlessness, openness, passion and good energy.
DS: What genres do you expect your dancers to have a strong technical base in?
ST: Classical ballet! It's the foundation of dance and the base of my movement. You don't have to have perfect ballet technique or the perfect classical body—just be trained and have an understanding of true classical ballet.
Any genres you can be proficient in will help you as a dancer. The more versatility you have, the more hire-able you are and the more you have to offer. My mom (my teacher) had me study ballet, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, modern, tap, hip hop, musical theater, Scottish highland and baton twirling. I have pulled from every genre in my professional career at some point, and I'm thankful for my diverse training.
DS: How do you define contemporary?
ST: Contemporary dance embodies a vast spectrum of movement and expression that can be interpreted in many ways. I feel like it's a genre that's continually reinventing itself and pushing boundaries. It has roots in classical ballet but is truly about conveying an emotion or story—as subtle or obvious as that may be.
DS: What do you think is the key to great contemporary choreography?
ST: I believe great contemporary choreography will make you feel something. Some of my favorite contemporary performances have left me crying, laughing or sitting in complete silence, not being able to move. You feel it so deeply it leaves an imprint on you as a person. I can recall those feelings and images in an instant because they are so memorable.
DS: If you could choreograph a piece on anyone, who would you choose?
ST: There are so many dancers I would love to work with for so many different reasons. But if I have to pick one, it would be Misty Copeland from American Ballet Theatre.
DS: What are you working on next?
ST: My main focus now that "SYTYCD" is nearly over is my dance company, Still Motion. I have so much work to do to premiere our first show, “Moments Defined” on Nov 9-10 in L.A. at the Nate Holden Theatre.
DS: Who are your favorite up-and-coming dancers right now?
ST: Melanie Moore, Kathryn McCormick and Robert Roldan.
DS: Is there a particular choreographer or dancer that inspires you?
ST: I'm continuously inspired by and in awe of my very good friend, dancer and brilliant choreographer Peter Chu. He is a one-of-a-kind artist, with a driving passion and love for the art of dance.
Kalani Hilliker made "Dance Moms" fans sit up a little straighter when she first appeared on "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition" back in 2013. The then–12-year-old ballerina had charisma, she had sass—and, wow, did she have technique! Abby Lee Miller, the show's infamous host, saw Kalani's star potential from the start, saving her from elimination and ultimately inviting her to perform alongside Maddie Ziegler on Season 4 of "Dance Moms." "I was never supposed to be on 'Dance Moms' beyond that one performance," says Kalani, now 16, but she ended up staying on the show for the whole season—and the following three. "It was my first time, but not my last time, causing drama. And it was also the first time I got to meet the other dancers, who have become like sisters."
You may already know Apolla Shocks are able to replace your current footwear and dance shoes because of the durability, aesthetics, and traction, BUT there are many other reasons to ALWAYS keep a pair in your dance bag. BESIDES wearing them in class or onstage:
Move over, Sergei Polunin*: There's a new ballet heartthrob in town.
Well, not "new," exactly: The fabulously talented Isaac Hernández has been a lead principal with the English National Ballet since 2015, and previously danced with Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. (He's also part of a distinguished dance family: You met his brother, SFB corps member Esteban, in our March issue roundup of up-and-coming danseurs.)
But a dreamy new video by filmmaker Ezra Hurwitz—"Despertares" [Wake Up], featuring Hernández dancing in studios and on rooftops all over NYC—makes a strong case for this beautiful dancer becoming your next ballet crush:
You probably already know the dance division at the Boston Conservatory as a top destination for contemporary dancers. But in June 2016, the Conservatory uncovered a new part of its identity when it merged with Berklee College of Music. It's a move that's opening up all kinds of new opportunities for students—especially dancers.
In an audition or onstage, knowing how to use eye contact appropriately is a total game changer. Dancers who aren't afraid to meet the eyes of judges or audience members exude a special confidence that allows them to be seen as capable, talented performers. When dancers look at the floor or around the room, though, they telegraph insecurity. Don't send your critics looking for flaws! Avoid these three no-no's and become a true master of eye contact.
Pretty much every class at L.A.'s Millennium Dance Complex features a combo set to a serious banger of a song. But not every class brings in the ACTUAL POP STAR BEHIND THE SONG to watch dancers take on that combo.
A few days ago, Demi Lovato dropped by Jojo Gomez's class at Millennium to see what Gomez had made of her hit "Sorry Not Sorry." Gomez's 🔥 choreo—and the incredible performances by some of Hollywood's best dancers/most devoted Lovatics, including Kaycee Rice—didn't disappoint.
Is there anything better than a killer dance photoshoot? OF COURSE NOT! Whether you're taking headshots, model shots, or simply images that'll slay on Instagram, dance photography makes the world a prettier place.
To make sure your next dance photoshoot is as 🔥 as you are, we asked photographer Kenneth Edwards for his dos and don'ts. Follow his advice and your dance photography future will be as bright as your "golden hour" lighting.