Dancing with My Double
Six sets of identical twins share the joys and challenges of taking on the dance world two at a time.
Leigh-Ann (left) and Sara Esty backstage during The Nutcracker (courtesy Sara Esty)
Sara, soloist, & Leigh-Ann Esty, corps de ballet, Miami City Ballet
Do you have the same strengths in the studio?
Leigh-Ann: Sara is a quick mover, and I’m more of a lyrical mover. Our ballet mistresses have given us opportunities according to our strengths. But they also challenge us to do some of the same roles.
Has having a twin worked to your advantage?
Sara: In Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, we danced as the “bomb squad” girls, two dancers in red pointe shoes who do fast sequences across the floor in complete unison. We did one show in Chicago on tour, and afterward, our director said, ‘OK, that was just scary,’ because we were completely in sync with each other, doing the same exact little things with our heads and feet. It happens a lot when we get to dance next to each other, but this time it was extra creepy.
Samantha (left) and Jenelle Figgins (by Jefry Andres Wright)
Jenelle, Dance Theatre of Harlem, & Samantha Figgins, Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Did you always want to be in different companies?
Jenelle: We do want to dance with some of the same companies—we just don’t necessarily want to be there at the same time. We each want to maintain our individuality, and if we were in the same company at the same time, that might be difficult. We have different things to offer a company.
How are you different as dancers?
Samantha: I’ve always been a really good turner, and Jenelle is a beautiful jumper. I think she’s more striking and I have a smoother quality.
Do you stand next to each other in class?
Jenelle: Not at the barre, but we tend to dance together in grand allégro or waltz.
Samantha: It’s never a competition, but we push each other.
Do you share dance clothes?
Samantha: We live together in NYC, and sometimes I’ll sneak into her room when she’s at work. She does the same thing. I was looking at a video of her with DTH online, and I was like, “That leotard looks really familiar.”
Travis (left) and Tyler Atwood (by Darlene Froberg)
Travis & Tyler Atwood, competition dancers
How can people tell you apart?
Tyler: Travis has a mole on the right side of his nose. That’s really it. But once you get to know us, we’re definitely different, even our dancing. In hip hop, Travis is more contemporary, while I have an edgier style. Plus, Travis is a lefty, and I’m a righty.
How do you handle competition with each other?
Tyler: When Travis wins something, sometimes I get a little jealous.
Travis: In the end, we know it will benefit both of us. In 2011, I won National Mini Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance, but we both got to travel during the following season and spend time with the faculty.
Do people ever confuse the two of you?
Travis: Sometimes when we’re at conventions, one of us will get called up onstage and the teacher will see the other brother dancing on the floor and get really confused.
15-year-old Kenzie (left) and Kierra (by Levi Walker)
Kenzie & Kierra Fischer, competition dancers
How can people tell you apart?
Kierra: Only our closest friends and family can tell us apart. Some people think they can, but they really can’t. We don’t always tell them when they’re wrong. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m totally Kenzie!”
Kenzie: Even our dad can’t tell us apart all the time.
Do you ever intentionally switch places?
Kierra: One time, Kenzie had a solo she didn’t feel comfortable with yet, and she was begging not to go to rehearsal. I went and pretended to be her, and the choreographer totally bought it. Later I taught Kenzie the part I’d learned.
Do you always get along?
Kierra: We get along, but we also annoy each other. I get second-hand embarrassed easily. If Kenzie does something embarrassing, it feels like it was me—because people may not know it wasn’t.
Do you share dance clothes?
Kenzie: Yeah, we share everything. I keep all the dance clothes in my room, and she keeps all the dresses in hers.
Kierra: But we’ve come downstairs in the same outfit many times. Sometimes we’ll go with it, but there are those days when we fight about who had it on first and who has to go upstairs to change.
Kellie (left) and Katie Cockrell at the premiere of Jack and Jill (by Byron Purvis/AdMedia)
Katie & Kellie Cockrell, commercial dancers
What’s it like auditioning with your twin?
Katie: Most of the time, when people audition, they don’t have someone in the room who is family and loves them no matter what.
Kellie: At auditions with Katie, I feel more confident. There are actually a lot of “twin auditions,” too. We see the same sets of twins at every one, so we’ve made friends with a lot of them.
Has being a twin worked to your advantage?
Kellie: We’ve booked a lot of jobs because we’re twins, like our very first gig, which was a Disney Channel movie when we were 17. And we had small parts in the recent Star Trek movie. They wanted girls who looked alike, and being twins helped us stand out from the other auditioners.
How do you handle the competition when they’re only hiring one dancer?
Katie: Luckily, it usually happens that when one of us gets something, the other will book a job the next time. But it’s difficult—it’s your sister, your best friend, but you’re like, ‘Well, why did you pick her?’ It’s a delicate balance.
Kellie: It comes down to perspective and realizing that ultimately we’re family first. Having Katie as my twin is more important than booking a job.
David (left) and Jacob Guzman (by Heidi Gutman)
Jacob & David Guzman, Newsies on Broadway
Do your castmates confuse the two of you?
Jacob: Once people get to know us, they know the difference. They don’t even have to think, Oh, he has a freckle, so he’s Jacob. They can just tell by how we walk and talk and respond to things.
David: Jacob’s more outgoing. I’m more reserved.
Do you always get along?
David: We’re both competitive people. Whether it’s a video game or a physical sport, sometimes we’ll get so into it that we’ll get mad at each other. But then two seconds later we’ll say, “What-ever, it’s just a game.” We’re best friends.
How have you handled competing against each other?
Jacob: In 2009, we competed for America’s Teen Male Dancer of the Year at the American Dance Awards. David got first runner-up, and I won. In my speech the next year when I gave up my title, I said, “It was so hard to rejoice when I won when my brother had just fallen short of the prize.” Then, that year, David won the title! I’d rather be onstage competing with him than competing against him. I’m strong by myself, but we’re stronger as a team.
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