Highlights of the 2013 New York City Dance Alliance Gala
On Saturday evening, Dance Spirit editor-in-chief Alison Feller and I attended one of our favorite summer dance events: The New York City Dance Alliance closing-night gala. It's always jam-packed with dance celebs (Oh hey, Jakob Karr!) and is never lacking for awe-inspiring talent.
Here are a few highlights from the night:
- The Rockettes opened the show with an instrumental version of Shine (one of my favorite numbers from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular!). They wore gorgeous silver dresses that had the NYC skyline across the bust—I was in love. And the crowd went nuts when they showed off their perfect kickline.
- The NYCDA Foundation and multiple colleges and universities from across the country awarded high school juniors and seniors 3.4 million dollars in college scholarships. That's right, folks—3.4 MILLION! Lives were changed.
- Kolton Krouse, the 2012 National Teen Male Outstanding Dancer, and Alexia Meyer, the 2012 National Senior Female Outstanding Dancer, danced two of the best solos (their farewells) I've ever seen. I'm not kidding—as soon as they finished the entire audience jumped to its feet in applause. I can't wait to see what they do next.
- Three of the Top 5 senior female dancers were former/present DS Cover Model Search finalists! Last year's CMS winner Megan Skalla was fourth runner-up, 2013 CMS finalist Madi Hicks was third runner-up and 2012 CMS finalist Alyssa Ness was crowned the 2013 National Female Outstanding Dancer! We couldn't have been more proud of all three.
Here are the big winners from the night:
Teen Female Outstanding Dancer: Jayci Kalb
Teen Male Outstanding Dancer: Jake Tribus
Senior Female Outstanding Dancer: Alyssa Ness
Senior Male Outstanding Dancer: Alex Soulliere
Teen Critics' Choice: Wings from The Dance Club in Orem, UT
Senior Critics' Choice: From the East from The Dance Club in Orem, UT and Solitude from Inspire Dance Company in Las Vegas, NV (For the first time in 19 years, there was an exact tie!)
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!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
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.