Hip-Hop Teen Alyson Stoner
Most hip-hop dancers would jump at the chance to audition for a Missy Elliott video, but not Alyson Stoner—at least not seven years ago. Faced with that opportunity, she had to think about it (and so did her mom). She was only 7 years old, a little breakdancing brunette in pigtails.
“I almost didn’t go to the audition,” she says. “We didn’t know the content of Missy’s music.” But Alyson’s older sisters were all too familiar with the rapper’s work. “Yeah! It’s totally clean,” they assured their mother. Mom learned differently, of course, when Alyson was offered a lead-dancer role in Elliott’s “Work It” video. So an agreement was made with the directors: Put Alyson’s dancing in a clean part of the music, and she’s in. Alyson went on to be featured in three Elliott videos (the others were “I’m Really Hot” and “Gossip Folks”) and in Eminem’s “Just Lose It.” She was even asked to tour with Elliott, Em and 50 Cent, but opted out: “It was no place for a 7-year-old to be,” she explains.
Alyson can afford to be choosy. She began studying tap, jazz and ballet at age 3 in Toledo, OH, then added modeling lessons at 6. A strong showing at the International Modeling and Talent Association convention in NYC in 1999 prompted Alyson and her mom to move to L.A. She began taking hip-hop classes, which led to the video offers and more. She was cast as tough-girl Sarah Baker in 2003’s Cheaper by the Dozen, based in part on the spunk she portrayed in the Elliott videos. Alyson says the filmmakers told her, “You need to be the tomboy with this big attitude.”
Although Cheaper included a dance scene that was eventually cut, many of Alyson’s roles have included choreography that made it to screen. Her supporting role in 2006’s Step Up included a street dance scene. Ironically, in her first lead role (Alice Upside Down, which will be released on DVD this summer), Alyson’s character is a bad dancer.
Now 14, Alyson is building her rep as a triple threat. Along with her long resumé of dance and acting roles (and home-schooling; she’s currently at sophomore level), she writes inspirational music that she calls “soulful pop.” Every Friday night she assists her friend Lindsay Taylor in teaching a kids class at Millennium Dance Complex. She’s also developing “The Alyson Stoner Project.” “It’s a hybrid dance video—something you haven’t seen before,” she says, offering few details. To build interest, she’s blogging about the project at alysonstoner.com and posting short video clips at youtube.com/LThiphop. “There is going to be a lot of great music and dancing,” she says, “and I can’t tell you anything else!"
What's more daunting than getting into your dream college dance program? Figuring out how you'll cover the costs of tuition, room and board, incidental expenses and more. Here's the good news: The right scholarship(s) can bring your dream school well within reach.
Look Around, Look Around
Scholarship applications are due between the fall of senior year and graduation time, so familiarize yourself with funding opportunities during the spring of junior year. And there are a lot of opportunities out there, says Kate Walker, chair of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX. "A lot of school guidance counselors now have software that automatically matches you with scholarships," she says.
Seek out scholarships on your own, too. According to Walker, "a lot of corporations are required to have some community engagement, including offering scholarships, so research corporations in your community." Your parents' employers might offer assistance too, says Doug Long, an academic and college counselor at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, MI. "They might have scholarships you can apply for just because your parent works there."
Other sources of grant money you won't have to pay back (as you would a loan)? The YoungArts Foundation; competitions/conventions, like New York City Dance Alliance; and the university or dance department you're applying to. Even some scholarships aimed at athletes are open to dancers!
A winning scholarship application involves a fair amount of paperwork, especially if the organization requires you to show financial need. In addition, certain scholarships ask for the College Board's CSS/Financial Aid Profile, which gives the awarding organization a more complete picture of your family finances.
Other ingredients of a successful scholarship application include recommendation letters, a dance and/or academic resumé and an essay or statement of purpose. Treat these components just like college applications: Have multiple trusted adults proofread your materials, and ask for recommendation letters or transcripts long before deadlines.
A note for non-dance scholarships: Including objective measures of achievement can only help you. "List national recognitions, like YoungArts or other competitions," says Long. "That shows the scholarship committees that people at high levels have acknowledged you as an artist of quality." And don't forget who your audience is. "Especially in writing samples, make sure you paint a vivid picture for your reader," Walker says. "Don't assume they know about all the things—like barre every day—that we as dancers take for granted."
No award amount is too small to be worth your time and effort. As Walker says, "Don't pooh-pooh a couple hundred dollars in award money, because any scholarship is funding that you didn't have yesterday."
A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "All Aboard the Scholar-ship."
Every ballet dancer knows the time, sweat, and occasional tears the art form demands. But many non-dancers are clueless about just how much work a ballet dancer puts into perfecting his or her dancing. So when the mainstream crowd recognizes our crazy work ethic, we'll accept the round of applause any way it comes—even if it comes via four men in tutus. Yep, we're talking about "The Try Guys Try Ballet" video.
Remember that fabulous old-school clip of dancers tapping in pointe shoes that Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo brought to our attention back in March? As we mentioned then, toe-tap dancing was actually super popular back in the 1920s and 30s—which means there are more videos where that one came from. And because #ToeTapTuesday has a nice ring to it, we thought we'd take this opportunity to introduce you to Dick and Edith Barstow, a toe-tapping brother and sister duo from that era who are nothing short of incredible:
Guess who's back? Back again? The Academy's back! Tell a friend.
After one day at The Academy, the All Stars have successfully taken the Top 100 down to 62. But their work is just getting started: Now they need to keep narrowing the field to a Top 10, ultimately deciding who each will partner with during the live shows.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns is some SERIOUS #goals. Her strength and power onstage borders on superhuman. But what's extra magical about Mearns is that she really puts in the fitness and cross-training work outside of the rehearsal studio. And she's overcome her fair share of injuries. Which is why she was the perfect source for Vogue's latest ballet fitness story.