Lauren Adams guest-choreographing at Spotlight Dance Works in Chesterfield, MI (Liz Schmidt)
These days, it’s common for studio owners to hire guest choreographers—often big industry names like Travis Wall and Joey Dowling—to set pieces on their competition dancers. As a dancer, working with a guest choreographer is both exciting (cool new moves from a dance celebrity!) and terrifying (what if she doesn’t see my potential?). But fear not: Lauren Adams, a faculty member at 24 Seven convention and frequent guest choreographer at studios across the country, has the answers to your “I have no idea what to expect from this new person” questions.
I’ve never worked with a guest choreographer before. How should I prepare?
Be open and inviting. It’s intimidating for us to walk into a space filled with dancers, all expecting us to create this great energy.
Researching the choreographer is a great idea—check out his or her website or work on YouTube. Having a sense of the choreographer’s aesthetic will enhance your experience and help you approach the work with confidence.
My teacher always puts me in the front row for our routines. How will the guest choreographer know I’m one of my studio’s top dancers?
Many choreographers hold at least one class with the dancers before they begin choreographing for them. This class works as an audition and an introduction to how we’ll all work together, creatively and energetically. It gives the dancers an opportunity to warm up to us, and it helps us figure out what stylistic direction to pursue.
I also like to observe the dancers while they warm up, when they don’t know I’m watching—that’s the easiest and fastest way for me to assess who they are through my own lens. Then, during class, I’ll choose my cast before we begin the first rehearsal.
How can I stand out?
I value an enthusiastic worker—a dancer who will not only show up on time, but early, ready and warmed up. If I see you working hard to learn the choreography from a section you aren’t in, I may end up pulling you into that section. I want you to get the most out of every rehearsal, so take advantage of the process, learn everything you can and embrace the work.
I also want the dancers I’m working with to look like themselves. I don’t like walking into a studio where the dancers are all wearing slick buns and the same outfit. I only get to work with you for a short time, so I need contrast to tell you apart—and I’m likely to remember the “girl with the long ponytail” or “the one in the red leotard.”
How long will you work with us?
You can expect six to eight hours of work for a group piece and approximately three hours for a solo.
Who picks the music you’ll choreograph to?
I like to pick my own music. I don’t usually connect with music that has been pre-selected for me.
Dancers from Canada’s Elite Danceworx perform one of Adams’ pieces at competition. (Break the Floor Productions)
So you spend a few hours giving us choreography, and then you have to leave. What happens throughout the year?
It’s important to commit to the choreography and develop the character, dynamic and texture of it over the course of the year. If something truly isn’t working, it’s OK for your teacher to make minor changes. Remember, the beauty of the piece lies in how it unfolds over time. Enjoy the process of investigating the work.
Do you ever reuse your work? I’m afraid we’re going to go to Nationals and someone will have our same routine, Bring It On style.
I don’t. Each studio is unique and I design accordingly. But some choreographers might reuse work, so be sure to have your teacher ask that your piece be exclusively yours.
Can guest choreographers say no to certain studios if they don’t want to choreograph for them?
Yes. I only go to studios where the work ethic is strong. I get a weekend to create work that will be presented for a whole season, so I want to be sure I’m working with dancers who are enthusiastic, self-motivated and willing to work as hard as I am. I’m not afraid to say I won’t be a good fit for a dancer if I can’t get a clear vision of how I would design movement for him or her. In that instance, I’ll recommend a friend or colleague who might be a better match.
Do you ever get to see your pieces performed at competition?
Yes, and I love when that happens. It’s a big payoff. It’s sad to put your heart into your work and only get to see the beginning stages of its development.
Have you ever been disappointed in a piece you set on a studio?
Of course. There have been times when I felt the dancers didn’t stretch to their potential through the work, and that makes me sad. I always do the best I can—and sometimes my best for one studio doesn’t hit me as hard as my best for another. I can learn something from every experience, including rejection and disappointment.
If you like us, will you come back?
I absolutely return to studios year after year—that’s my favorite part! The dancers and the choreographer get to grow together. You come on my journey, and I get to go on yours. I care about my students, and I love getting to call them my students. I want to be better each year for them and create different work from what they’ve come to expect. I want to know dancers for the duration of their careers.
It's time to get your pirouette on! From September 5th to September 30th, we're hosting a contest to find out who's the best turner of them all.
Put together your most impressive turning combo. Post a video online. Share your turns with us and thousands of other dancers around the world. And if our editors think you're the top turner, you'll win a fabulous prize.
All of 18-year-old Kaylin Maggard's dreams—from scoring the title of National Senior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals to winning the 2017 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search—are coming true. And to anyone who knows the gorgeous contemporary dancer, that's no surprise.
From the moment the Dance Spirit staff met Kaylin, it was obvious her humility and talent would take her far. Not only did she go full-out during the photo shoot and class at Broadway Dance Center, but she was always cheering on, laughing with, and supporting her fellow CMS contestants Haley Hartsfield and Michelle Quiner. During the voting period, the social media world was abuzz with praise for her work ethic, positive attitude, and generosity.
Since her CMS trip to NYC, Kaylin's moved from her hometown of Columbia, MO, to the Big Apple for her freshman year at Juilliard, and is busy getting acquainted with the city. As for the future? She's taking it one opportunity at a time, but something tells us we'll be seeing this contemporary queen reach new heights every year.
New York City principal Lauren Lovette has become an icon thanks to her emotional maturity and exceptional musicality. The 26-year-old quickly rose through the ranks after joining the company as an apprentice in 2009, reaching principal status in 2015. A Thousand Oaks, CA, native, Lovette started studying ballet seriously at age 11, at the Cary Ballet Conservatory in Cary, NC. After attending two summer courses at the School of American Ballet, she enrolled as a full-time student in 2006. Last year, she made her choreographic debut with For Clara, her first piece for NYCB. Catch her latest work this month during the company's fall season. —Courtney Bowers
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I know I'm not getting good enough dance training from any of my local studios. But I'm not sure I'm ready to move away to study at a big-name school, either. How do you know when you're ready to leave home to pursue your passion?
Instagram star Kylie Shea has built a following of nearly 170,000 with her playful workout videos, which combine traditional fitness activities, like jumping rope or running on the treadmill, with pointe shoes and sassy choreography. Shea's effortless cool-girl-next-door vibe and solid ballet technique make her vids totally irresistible.
Now Shea's using her platform to address the body image issues that tend to plague dancers. In a poignant video, she sheds her clothes and tugs at her skin. The caption explains her relationship with her body and the pressure she feels to maintain a certain aesthetic as a dancer.
Physical discomfort is inevitable when you're spending tons of hours in the studio every day, but some pain shouldn't be suffered through. "Dancing through pain can make an injury worse and lead to more time away from dance," says Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of dance medicine at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, VA. "Failing to rest and recover when you're in serious pain could even lead to the point where you're unable to dance in the future."
That may sound scary, but there's good news: If you take precautions and listen to your body, many injuries can be stopped in their tracks. The first step? Knowing what's normal—and what's not.
Think about it: How often do you see a ballet pas de deux for two women? Almost never, right? Sometimes, choreographers will forgo the traditional danseur-ballerina pas to make a duet for two guys, since they can lift and partner each other easily. But a dance for two ballerinas is a rare thing.
That's part of what makes "Duet," a new video by director Andrew Margetson featuring Royal Ballet beauties Yasmin Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell, so compelling.