Christina Dooling, 22, is living most dancers’ dream. In 2006, while in her third year at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Christina was handpicked by COMPLEXIONS Contemporary Ballet director Dwight Rhoden to join the company—before she’d even graduated. “Dwight offered me a contract right away,” she says. “The dean of the school was really happy for me. He said, ‘Whenever you’re ready to come back, we’re happy to have you.’”
Now in her second year with COMPLEXIONS, Christina is already garnering soloist roles. A pint-sized powerhouse (she’s just shy of 5'3"), she dances with attack, precision and confidence. She’s equally at home doing Rhoden’s challenging off-center pointework and strutting across the stage in stilettos, as she does in the opening of tHe hArDeSt bUtToN to bUtToN, a hard-rocking contemporary solo choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson.
Christina started dancing at 3 in her hometown of Hamilton, NJ. She went on to study tap, ballet, jazz, acro, pointe and—her favorite style as a teen—lyrical. A successful comp kid, Christina walked away with Petite, Junior and Teen Miss Dance of America at Dance Masters of America.
After high school, Tisch seemed like a great next step. “The curriculum was really challenging. I knew I would have a lot of hurdles, and I absolutely did, but the teachers were amazing,” Christina explains. “Also, I’d never done any modern, so that interested me.” As she tackled this new genre, as well as supplemental courses in anatomy, “things started to click,” she says. “It was a different way to move, but I found my center.” Her modern training has come in handy when performing Rhoden’s signature frenetic, disjointed style, in which classical ballet positions are distorted by popped hips, flexed feet and funky ports de bras.
Even though she’s already gone pro, Christina plans to return to Tisch to complete her degree. “I feel like I’ve changed a lot dancing professionally, and I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned back with me,” she says. “But I’m also trying not to get too far ahead of myself. I’m really happy where I am. I’m in my dream company right now.”
On Her iPod: Hot Hot Heat
Guilty Pleasure: Pinkberry
Must-See TV: “Gossip Girl”
Christina in Three Words: “Outgoing, prepared…and FUN!”
Fave Food: Mangoes
Reading: Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead
Hobbies: “I used to be a swimmer, so occasionally I’ll jump in the pool. Besides that, I’m usually either reading, working or watching Disney movies.”
Advice for Young Dancers: “There’s definitely a place for each and every one of you. If you’re dedicated and you love this profession, there are so many companies to explore to find where you fit in. Keep searching and persevere.”
Photo: Stefan Plegar
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.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.