Dancer to Dancer
Angela Sterling

Bunheads, this one's for you. They say you can tell a Nutcracker by its "Snow" scene—and we fully believe it. There are so many versions with extra goodies—olive branches! Fake snow! Sleds! Choirs! Snow queens!—and each brings a special something to the holiday favorite. But do you know which ballet has what?

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Dancer to Dancer

(Photo courtesy Jacob Guzman)

When Jacob Guzman takes the stage in the latest Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof this month, he’ll be among some pretty strong dancers. That’s because contemporary choreographer Hofesh Shechter, whose work has been performed by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, is reimagining the choreography. (Jerome Robbins set the musical’s original dance numbers in 1964.) But Guzman, a former comp kid who trained at The Gold School in Brockton, MA, isn’t a stranger to dancer-heavy ensembles: He made his Broadway debut in Newsies in 2012. Guzman also appeared in NBC’s “Peter Pan Live!” and has performed at Dancers Responding to AIDS’ Fire Island Dance Festival. Want to know more about Guzman? Read on for The Dirt. —JO

 

 

What’s one food you can’t live without?

Chicken

What’s your favorite dance movie?

Footloose

What’s the most-played song on your playlist?

"The Wilhelm Scream" by James Blake

What’s your most-watched TV show?

"Criminal Minds" on Netflix

Do you have any nicknames?

Jaob. I received fan mail at Newsies and the sender forgot the "c" in Jacob and it stuck.

What’s something you’re most proud of?

Making my Broadway debut with my win brother in Newsies

What’s your advice for young performers?

Always be yourself.

Dance News

You know who throws a really great party? The PULSE on Tour. Last night marked the culmination of The PULSE's 10th anniversary season, after the convention's week-long Summer Intensive in NYC. From celeb appearances to spectacular guest performances (including dancers from Ballet Hispanico), the choreographers, producers, students—everyone!—put on a heck of a show. Dance Spirit was there to soak in all of the standing-ovation action. Here's a quick rundown of what made the evening so special.

1. The wedding themes. Chris Judd used his wedding song (a variation of Amos Lee's "Sweet Pea") as inspiration for his Summer Intensive large group piece. It was jazzy, uplifting and fun to watch. But On the Other Hand, choreographed by Teresa Stone and set to Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," took a slightly darker turn. Stone, who's a brilliant storyteller, created a wedding party gone awry in which the bride and groom are fighting and probably rethinking their nuptials. It made for an uncomfortable viewing experience—but only because the dancers were so committed to the story and movement. I don't think I was the only audience member on the edge of my seat. Here's a previous performance of Stone's On the Other Hand:

2. The 2014–15 Elite Protégé piece, choreographed by Dance Spirit cover star Ian Eastwood. This piece was about feeling like the odd-man out: Superstar Charlize Glass played a dancer who couldn't quite fit in. Then one day, the others notice her talents, and she becomes part of the group. It wasn't the most subtle or compelling plot, but with Eastwood's lightning-fast choreo and the (now former!) Elite Protégés' performance ability, the storyline didn't really matter.

Behind the scenes with Ian Eastwood (center) and the 2014–15 Elite Protégés (via @Ian_Eastwood)

3. Tricia Miranda's CAMP PULSE number. Oh, the littles. Miranda certainly knows what she's doing when it comes to kid-friendly choreography. This time, Miranda costumed the dancers in their jammies and set the stage for a boys vs. girls' slumber party. Anytime there's a cypher with dancers in footie pajamas, you know it's going to be good. And of course, these fabulous young talents (hi, Brooklyn Nets Kids Fiona Krkuti and Alex Rubiano!) delivered. Best. Sleepover. Ever.

4. Getting to see The PULSE faculty dressed to the nines. Sure, these choreographers look super-cool in class attire. (Can anyone else rock a pair of sweats quite like hip-hop teachers? Nope.) But getting to see their out-of-class fashion sense is pure fun.

So fancy! (The PULSE on Tour faculty; photo via @Cjudd)

5. Kyle Hanagami's choreography for the 2014–15 Protégés. I'm not sure how Hanagami created a cohesive piece for 100 students—but he did. Dancers entered and exited the stage so quickly, but there was never a break in the action. That's also a testament to the dancers, who performed Hanagami's intricate choreo flawlessly.

Congrats, dancers, for such truly fantastic performances! And a special shout out to The PULSE's new 2015–16 Elite Protégés:

The PULSE on Tour's Kristen Plant (center) with the new 2015–16 Elite Protégés (via @kc13dance)

Dance News

Can everyone please just stop retiring? This spring alone, we've seen the company departures of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Carla Körbes and American Ballet Theatre's Paloma Herrera and Xiomara Reyes. On Saturday night, Julie Kent will also take her final bow with ABT.

And now comes the news that not one, not two, but three Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater stars will leave the company after this season? I can't. #Allofthefeels.

Back in April, it was announced that husbands Kirven and Antonio Douthit-Boyd would be heading to St. Louis, MO, to direct the Center of Creative Arts, where Antonio trained growing up. They'll take their last bows with AAADT this July in Paris.

These two, amirite? (From left: Antonio and Kirven Douthit-Boyd; photo by Andrew Eccles, courtesy AAADT)

And we just heard that on Sunday night, the goddess that is Alicia Graf Mack will say farewell to AAADT, too, dancing in Alvin Ailey's Revelations at NYC's Lincoln Center.

We'll miss those legs. And feet. And everything. (Photo by Richard Calmes, courtesy AAADT)

I know what you're thinking: How can Graf Mack be retiring right now?? Especially since she just returned from a leave of absence, which she took to recover from an injury and give birth to her adorable son. But there's a silver lining here: Like the Douthit-Boyds, Graf Mack isn't truly leaving the dance world behind. In addition to leading one-day intensives with her sister Diasha and the D(n)A Arts Collective, she's joining the faculties of both Webster University and Washington University in St. Louis.

We'll miss you Antonio, Kirven and Alicia!

Please don't ever leave us (again), Jamar! (From left: Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Alicia Graf Mack, Jamar Roberts, and Kirven Douthit-Boyd; photo by Andrew Eccles, courtesy AAADT)

Dance News

If you're a "Dance Moms" fanatic, you might be feeling a little blue today. The Season 5 midseason finale aired last night, and although there'll be more mom madness to come, you'll have to wait a little while for the rest. Luckily though, the true stars of the shows—the dancers—are seemingly everywhere these days. Chloe Lukasiak recently teamed up with dance video maven Kyle Hanagami and singer Jess Godwin. And just last night, Maddie Ziegler performed on "Dancing with the Stars," augmenting Josh Groban's sweet yet snoozy rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

For those of you on Team Nia Sioux Frazier, the teen recently debuted her first single, "Star in Your Own Life," complete with a pretty fab music video choreographed by Mikey Minden. I caught up with Nia Sioux to ask about the show and her burgeoning singing career.

Nia Sioux Frazier, age 13 going on 14 (on June 20!) going on 26 (Photo by David Hofmann, aka @sharkcookie)

Dance Spirit: With more than 1.6 million Instagram followers, and hundreds of thousands on Twitter, you're becoming quite the celebrity.

Nia Sioux Frazier: Well, I don't really think of myself as a celebrity—I think it's just being well-known. But that's been my dream since I was little, and it's incredible how my dream is coming true.

DS: Who are your favorite people to follow on social media?

NSF: Beyoncé and Zendaya, all of my friends from school and my dad. He posts funny things about my family.

DS: What's the best part about being on "Dance Moms"?

NSF: Getting to perform as much as we do. And also having so many fans. It's amazing to think about how many people are out there supporting me.

DS: What's been challenging?

NSF: Not getting to see my family that much. Since I'm in L.A. now, I'm away from my dad, my brothers and my dogs. I miss my friends back at home, too. But we try to keep in touch with Skype and FaceTime.

DS: What do you love about singing?

NSF: It makes me feel good. I love hearing something on the radio and singing along—it makes me feel like I can just be me. I love when the music gets in me and I can just flow with it. It's similar to the feeling I get when I'm dancing.

Headed for pop-star stardom (a still from "Star in Your Own Life")

DS: Is there a message behind "Star in Your Own Life"?

NSF: It's about self-confidence. You're already a star, and no one can take that away from you. Know your own worth and be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

DS: What are your goals for the future?

NSF: To be myself and to keep inspiring others to be who they are. I'd love to be on Broadway, in movies or on Disney or Nick. I'd love to have my own reality show. But my dream job is just to perform. That's what I love.

Watch Nia Sioux's "Star in Your Own Life" below, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram to get all her latest news.

Choreography

Kyle Abraham is on fire. In the past few years, he’s been named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and honored by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and the Ford Foundation. College dance departments across the country can’t get enough of the young choreographer—and neither can major dance companies: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Martha Graham Dance Company and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago have all commissioned work from Abraham. He was even the resident commissioned artist at New York Live Arts, NYC’s postmodern dance hub. Dance Spirit caught up with Abraham to find out what drives his historically  and emotionally charged work. —Jenny Dalzell

“Many of my works have some sort of Pittsburgh influence in them, since that’s where I’m from.”

(Photo by Steven Schreiber, courtesy Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion)

The Radio Show was initially inspired by two things: the one urban radio station in Pittsburgh going off the air, and my father, who had Alzheimer’s and aphasia. I was thinking about what happens when a community loses its voice, as well as my memories of the songs I grew up listening to. The radio station had both AM and FM feeds—the AM station played old soul music, by artists like The Shirelles, and the FM station played music by Jay-Z and Kanye West. So my work was broken in two parts, using music from both stations.”

"David Dorfman, whose company I danced with, always said to live in the uncomfortable and divorce the familiar when improvising or choreographing. Sometimes choreographic block hits—and when nothing is coming, you can’t force it. You just have to be patient. That can be frustrating when you’re paying for studio space, but patience can also be really rewarding in the long run."

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion dancers in Pavement (Photo by Steven Schreiber, courtesy Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion)

Pavement evolved from looking at the 1991 film Boyz N the Hood; reading W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk; and thinking about my experience in Pittsburgh in 1991, which was my freshman year of high school. I wanted to create a work that explored the time period between the film and the book, as well as the history of Pittsburgh’s black community.”

Wendy Whelan and Abraham in Restless Creature (Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion)

“I’m a big fan of mythology, and I’ve been a history geek since elementary school. The piece I created for Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature, ‘The Serpent and the Smoke,’ came from a myth I thought I’d heard: A snake becomes enchanted with smoke and thinks it’s seeing another snake. As it turns out, this myth doesn’t actually exist—I made it up.”

“I love working with Chalvar Monteiro, who was in my company for a little over four years, and with one of my current dancers, Tamisha Guy. I love their versatility: They’re trained in Cunningham and Graham techniques, and they’ve worked with Kevin Wynn, who’s a huge influence on my work. They’re great movement generators, too.”

Abraham (center) rehearsing Another Night with AAADT's Jamar Roberts and Jacqueline Green (photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy courtesy Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion)

“I created Another Night for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater while I was making Pavement. It all stemmed from the same ideas. But Another Night was much lighter. It addressed the vitality and the community of an earlier era—the time when jazz artists like Art Blakey and Billy Strayhorn were performing in Pittsburgh.”

“I was initially inspired to dance by Joffrey Ballet’s Billboards, with music by Prince. I was a huge Prince fan, and I identified with the music first—that’s what pulled me in to dance. I’d never experienced that before, and it stuck with me."

When the Wolves Came In (photo by Ian Douglas courtesy Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion)

“The repertory program When the Wolves Came In and the evening-length The Watershed were both inspired by Max Roach’s album We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite. The subject matter—the civil-rights movement, the Emancipation Proclamation and apartheid in South Africa—was tricky. I didn’t want to tap into all of that too literally. Instead, I wanted to create work that nodded to the album.”

 

 

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Dance News

OK, guys. We're at T-minus 148 days until Summer 2015, the unofficial premiere date for "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 12!

Yes, it's a long way off. Luckily, though, the fine folks at FOX have been generous with the teasers, releasing little bits of news to keep us all happy. For instance, you already know this season will operate a little differently—separating the dancers into two camps, "street" and "stage," for the preliminary rounds. And you already know that the auditions for Season 12 kick off today in NYC (come say hi—we'll be there!). But late last week, "SYT" producers announced some news:

The judges for Season 12 will include Nigel Lythgoe (natch), Paula Abdul (!!!) and Jason Derulo:

Introducing the new judging panel for "SYTYCD" Season 12! Photoshop is a wondrous invention, amirite? (both images: Adam Rose/FOX) Photoshop is a wondrous invention, amirite? (original images: Adam Rose/FOX)

Abdul is a clear replacement for Mary Murphy. (We'll miss you, Hot Tamale Train conductor!) Abdul was first a guest judge on "SYTYCD" Season 10, and has since been the lead judge on "So You Think You Can Dance Australia." But more than that, she's a dancer, through and through. From her days as a L.A. Laker Girl to choreographing for artists like Janet Jackson to starring in her own classic videos, Abdul has the background it takes to recognize star power in the next generation of dancers.

Abdul (left) showing Janet Jackson a thing or two (via thatgrapejuice.net)

Derulo comes from an entirely different world: songwriting. He's crafted lyrics for lots of artists, including Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Diddy and Sean Kingston. He's also racked up some impressive accolades himself: "Wiggle,” featuring Snoop Dogg, is Derulo's eighth song to reach the Top 10 on the Top 40 list, and he's been nominated for numerous MTV Music Video Awards and Teen Choice Awards. You might remember Derulo's appearance on "SYTYCD" Season 11 as a guest judge and musical guest—he and Snoop performed "Wiggle."

Derulo performing "Wiggle" on "SYT" Season 11 (Adam Rose/Fox)

Apparently Derulo's joke-filled guest-judging stint made a big impression on Lythgoe, who in a press release said, "Jason’s insight, humor and creativity will add a new perspective to the panel that we haven’t had before.” And while we can't argue with that, truth be told, we're a little sad the third permanent judging spot didn't go to Jesse Tyler Ferguson, aka The World's Best Guest Judge. Here's hoping JTF drops in for an episode or two.

What do you think about the new judges? Let us know in the comments.

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