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!"
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!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
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.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.