A Day in the Juilliard Life
Spend one day observing the dance program at The Juilliard School, and it's obvious how hard the dancers have worked to get there. But even in a studio filled with insane talent, 20-year-old Madi Hicks stands out. A former title-winning comp kid (and 2013 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search finalist!), this junior dances 24/7, and packs as many dance composition classes into her schedule as possible. “I love, love, love to choreograph," she says. “I really want to have my own company some day." In the meantime, she's soaking up all that her elite school and NYC have to offer. So what's it like to attend one of the most prestigious conservatories in the nation? We followed Hicks for a day last spring to find out.
“The teachers really care about our futures and invest in us," says Hicks. “I get so much one-on-one help because the Juilliard dance program is so small. I wouldn't get that in a larger program."
Hicks in the Caf for breakfast (Kenneth B. Edwards)
Madi's Typical Tuesday Schedule
• 8–8:30: Wake up, get ready for the day
• 8:30–8:45: Breakfast, walk to class
• 9–10:15: 19th-Century Art class
• 10:40–12:05: Ballet II class
• 12:15–1:40: Classical Partnering class
• 1:40–2:30: Lunch
• 3:30–8:00: Rehearsals
• Evening: Dinner and downtime
“I set my alarm for 8 am and get to Caf, the cafeteria, for breakfast by 8:30, before my 9 am academic class." Her usual morning fuel? “An egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich on a croissant with O.J. and coffee."
Hicks' commute to her first class is a short stroll on the Rose Walk, the elevated pathway that runs between the Juilliard facilities and the Residence Hall the students share with kids from School of American Ballet. “We get along well with the SAB kids. We're really close with some of them."
Catching up on some homework (Kenneth B. Edwards)
During a short break, Hicks snacks on a banana (“I'm addicted") and preps for her 10:40 am ballet class.
Once a week, Hicks takes morning ballet with all 24 students in her class year. Twice a week, ballet is split into men's class and pointe for ladies, and on the remaining two days—like today—students from different years are mixed into various levels. Placement in these classes is based on previous training and which teacher the faculty thinks students will benefit most from. “If someone really needs to work on their hip alignment, they put them with a teacher like Alexandra Wells, who's really good with that," Hicks says. “I have Jeff Edwards on Mondays and Tuesdays. I love him. He really focuses on everyone. Though the class gets hard toward the end, I don't feel overwhelmed because he paces it well."
The faculty believes that no two tracks are the same, like no two people are the same," Hicks says. “Everyone's an individual." Though Hicks plans to lead her own troupe some day, she hopes to have a performing career first. Her interests fall between ballet and modern: “The contemporary route seems right for me—something along the lines of Nederlands Dans Theater," she says.
Hicks in Jeff Edwards' ballet class (Kenneth B. Edwards)
Following ballet, Hicks would normally take another dance class, like classical partnering or Graham technique. But today, she heads to a doctor's appointment downtown to take care of a chronic foot injury. “I've had several sprains and my heel bone structurally doesn't sit right, which has caused damage to my tendons," she says. “It's been a persistent problem for years, but the faculty is super-good about accommodating injuries." Juilliard also has physical therapists on staff.
For lunch, Hicks heads back to the Caf for her usual meal: a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, SunChips and another banana. Though most of Hicks' “homework" is rehearsing in the studio, she sometimes uses her lunch break to squeeze in an occasional essay assignment. Juilliard has plenty of quiet nooks with huge windows and comfy chairs to cozy up in. Unsurprisingly, Hicks is equally at home on the floor.
From 3:30–4:30, Hicks rehearses a jazz number with classmate Paige Borowski for an upcoming student workshop. “I was originally choreographing a solo on Paige—it was going to be super-dark, about fears and phobias. But then I found the song 'Shipwrecked,' by To Be Forgotten, and the second I heard it, I knew it was no longer going to be a serious solo." Hicks is one of six students chosen for the competitive “Choreographers and Composers" class next year.
With Paige Borowski rehearsing their jazz number for an upcoming student workshop (Kenneth B. Edwards)
Composition Class 101
All 24 freshman dance students are required to take Dance Composition I. In sophomore year, the number of spots for Dance Composition II is halved to 12, with students being accepted upon faculty recommendation. From this group, the faculty selects only six students, based on their previous work and Comp II projects, for “Choreographers and Composers." In this junior-year class, also known as ChoreoComp, dance majors collaborate with students from the music department to create original work.
Madi and Paige are BFFs! They even went to the Bahamas together for spring break. Some impromptu improvisation on the beach trip helped inspire the workshop piece.
With Paige Borowski rehearsing their jazz number for an upcoming student workshop (Kenneth B. Edwards)
Student Performance Opps 101
Performing opportunities abound at Juilliard. In the fall, there's the New Dances series, in which guest choreographers come in to create work on the students; in the spring, the faculty and/or guest repetiteurs stage repertory, like Cunningham or Graham works, for the Juilliard Dances Repertory series. The ChoreoComp show happens in the fall, and Senior Production rounds out the spring performance schedule. Additionally, there are two student composition workshops per semester. These are informal, mostly for the experience, but can be used by aspiring ChoreoComp students as a selection process. Hicks has created a piece for every single workshop so far.
Dance majors don't get a lot of downtime. Hicks' hectic schedule keeps her in the Lincoln Center neighborhood most days, but on the rare evening she isn't rehearsing, she likes to get out and about in the city. “I've been all over Central Park," she says, and the High Line in Chelsea is another favorite strolling ground. She also sees dance shows with discounted tickets offered to Juilliard students: “Everything from Broadway to Martha Graham to American Ballet Theatre. It's hard since I'm so busy, but I try to go as much as possible. I'm seeing the Martha Graham Dance Company next week." Hicks' most frequent excursion? “Pizza. I'm obsessed."
Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.
OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.
Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.
Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:
You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School was far tougher.
Everyone loves a good viral video, especially when there's dancing involved. And though many viral videos are contrived and created for the soul purpose of instafame, the story behind the latest video catching the eyes of millions—including Rihanna, super model Naomi Campbell, and Diddy—is even more unique because it features children who don't even know who those celebrities are.
A dance troupe in Nigeria has become the next internet sensation, thanks to their exuberant dancing and passion with which they perform. Their enthusiasm for dance is evident in every step and it's hard not to smile as you see these children (who range from ages 6 to 15) express pure joy in something as simple as dance. These nine kids are part of The Dream Catchers, an organization started by 26-year-old Seyi Oluyole, that gives impoverished children a place to live while teaching them how to dance.
For 16-year-old Amanda*, dance is everything: her passion, her escape from the daily grind, and her career goal. Her parents see things differently. "I have siblings who are active in sports," Amanda says, "and my parents would rather I play soccer or basketball. They don't see dance as something I can earn a stable living from in the future. They often tell me I should just quit."
Some parents aren't able to, don't know how to, or choose not to give you the kind of support you need to thrive in the studio. And when your parents are adding stress to your life, rather than alleviating it, there's a lot at stake. "Dancers who don't have the support of their parents might struggle with self-doubt," says Dr. Linda Hamilton, a former dancer with New York City Ballet and a clinical psychologist specializing in the performing arts, "while those whose parents are too involved can crack under the pressure." Whether your parents aren't there when you need them or they're always there, practically smothering you, try these tips to improve your situation.
On Friday night, the iconic RuPaul made history as the first drag queen ever to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And it didn't take long for the world's most fabulous RuPaul fan/one of our favorite human beings, Mark Kanemura, to commemorate his idol's accomplishment with—naturally—a WALK to end all walks.
What do you get when a hoard of dancers collaborate to the catchy tune of "Love Somebody," by the band Frenship? The most epic dance party ever, of course! Said dance party was directed by the talented Michael Riccio, who's choreography has appeared in "La La Land" and "Dancing with the Stars."
They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.
Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.
These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.