Choreographer's Collage: Al Blackstone
Al Blackstone is one of the fastest-rising choreographers in the industry, creating one successful piece after another. After making his Broadway debut as a dancer in Wicked, Blackstone won the 2011 Capezio A.C.E. Award for Choreographic Excellence, which gave him the opportunity to direct and choreograph a full-length production, Happy We'll Be. For the last three years, he's worked as Sonya Tayeh's associate choreographer, and his work, which often has a musical-theater slant, has also been featured on “So You Think You Can Dance." DS caught up with Blackstone to see what inspires his thoughtful and dynamic choreography.
“Jason Parsons made me want to become a dancer. I left high school in New Jersey early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to go to NYC and take his class at Broadway Dance Center."
Blackstone with Jason Parsons (courtesy Al Blackstone)
“Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake changed my life. I saw it three times. It made me want to be a choreographer, and showed me what was possible in storytelling without dialogue."
Mathew Bourne's "Swan Lake," performed by New Adventurers (Bill Cooper, courtesy Raw PR)
“Just before the A.C.E. Awards, I was performing in Wicked on Broadway. The girls in the dressing room were always talking about online dating—it was starting to get really big around then. My work is usually derived from things happening in my personal life. So when I was creating my A.C.E. Awards piece, I was inspired by the dressing room conversations—and by the fact that I'd just fallen in love."
Ryan Kelly (courtesy Al Blackstone)
“My full-length piece, Happy We'll Be, explores the highs and lows of our universal search for happiness. I used music and dance from lots of different genres, and the stories that unfolded reflected the joy of connection to the world and to each other."
“I knew early on that I wanted the venue for Happy We'll Be to be the Roseland Ballroom in NYC, and was ecstatic when it was presented to me as an option. It has a certain rawness and history—there are ghosts within that space. My parents used to go there all the time. My dad was a ballroom dancer, and I grew up listening to stories about his times at Roseland."
Blackstone's parents at the Roseland Ballroom (courtesy Al
“When creating Happy We'll Be, I had a giant queue of songs I wanted to use during the production. 'Hyperballad' by Björk was one of them. To me, it represented a return to my contemporary roots. And I was set on ending with Louis Armstrong's rendition of 'La Vie en Rose.' I'd also wanted to use 'Chicago' by Sufjan Stevens, but had to cut it because it just didn't fit."
Matthew Murphy (courtesy Al Blackstone)
“'SYTYCD' was a crash course in trusting my instincts. The routines I created for Season 12 were exercises in making quick decisions. Nine times out of 10, your gut is right. For Jaja and Ricky's routine to 'Let's Face the Music and Dance' by Nat King Cole, I knew I wanted Jaja's character to be bold and feminine. She's an amazing actress, so she played the feisty wife of a smooth-talking mobster perfectly."
Jaja and Ricky performing their routine (Mike Yarish/FOX, courtesy Fox)
“I'm really inspired by filmmakers Woody Allen and Wes Anderson, especially Anderson's Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Allen's Everyone Says I Love You and Mighty Aphrodite feature choreography by Graciela Daniele—she uses humor in a way that's really stayed with me."
Woody Allen (Thinkstock)
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.