Hollywood Heavy Hitters
The L.A. dance scene is bursting with talent. Here are 16 movers and shakers you absolutely need to know.
Get to their classes, learn their styles and figure out what they like. These dancemakers are the ones who will be teaching you choreography at auditions and on set.
Jamaica Craft: Jamaica’s choreography—whether it’s for Ciara, Eve or Justin Bieber—is fresh, funky and hard-hitting. She’s got swagger and she knows how to bring it out in the artists she works with.
Jennifer Hamilton: After growing up on the convention circuit, Jennifer Hamilton worked her way up the industry ladder by assisting major dancemakers like Marguerite Derricks. She’s worked on more than 30 films, including the 2009 Fame remake, the Austin Powers franchise and Step Brothers.
Flii Stylz: Everyone knows Chris Brown has stellar dance moves—and he gets his choreography from Flii. The dancemaker also choreographed Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” music video, and has worked with Jennifer Lopez, the Backstreet Boys and Jesse McCartney.
Jeri Slaughter: If you’re a diva-in-the-making, Jeri Slaughter is the guy to call for sassy, take-no-prisoners moves. He’s choreographed performances for Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Cher, Christina Aguilera and Leona Lewis.
Aakomon “AJ” Jones: In addition to choreographing Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet tour and Center Stage: Turn It Up, AJ is also Usher’s main dance man. He was the creative director for Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love,” “OMG” and “Lil’ Freak” music videos.
Michael Rooney: Michael Rooney’s five-page resumé reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood. It boasts such names as Fatboy Slim, Kylie Minogue and Paula Abdul, and it includes 16 choreography award nominations. Plus, Rooney has choreographed more than 80 commercials for companies such as Target, Old Navy, Cadillac, Cover Girl and Starbucks.
Headed for the big screen, small screen or music video land? Make sure these people know your name.
Hype Williams: Has directed videos for Missy Elliott, Kanye West and Jay-Z
Joseph Kahn: Works with Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and U2
Sophie Muller: Want to be a Harajuku girl? Muller is Gwen Stefani’s video go-to.
These dancers are referred to as “bookies” because they’re working hard, auditioning like crazy and booking every job in sight. But don’t think of them as your competition—use them as inspiration. They’re doing something very right.
Nick DeMoura: He’s got Bieber fever! DeMoura is one of the few dancers getting his groove on behind Justin Bieber on tour and in the Never Say Never feature film.
Devin Jamieson: He’s best known for booking a coveted spot on Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour.
Ivan “Flipz” Velez: Name any recent dance movie and it’s likely Flipz is in it. Choreographers are dying to hire him for his versatility and impressive acrobatics.
Jeremy Hudson: This charming, Ken Doll–esque dancer has appeared in the Fame remake and on “Glee.” He’s also landed one of the hottest gigs in Hollywood: dancing backup for Lady Gaga.
Mallauri Esquibel: This fiery redhead was a featured dancer in the 2009 Fame film and in High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Now she’s taking her talents to Broadway, where she’s the dance captain for the Marguerite Derricks–choreographed musical Wonderland.
Shaun Evaristo: He’s using his talents to reach beyond the dance realm and create a short film called Unthinkable.
The big ones for dancers and choreographers are McDonald-Selznick Associates, Clear Talent Group and Bloc.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!
Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.
If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.
Almost a month out, Puerto Rico continues to suffer the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Many of the island's residents still lack power, clean water, and safe housing. Ballet classes? For Puerto Rican dance students, they must feel like an impossible luxury.
But a dance studio in Florida is working to allow a group of young Puerto Ricans to continue their training. And it needs your help.
Yes, I am a dancer, and yes, I am fat.
There's nothing quite as soul-crushing as the reactions I've received when I've told people I dance. They can range from disbelief to confusion to shock. To many people, it's somehow incomprehensible that a plus-size person like myself could grace a stage. While the body-positive movement has been trucking along at full force over the past few years, it hasn't made much progress in the dance community yet. In fact, the words "body positivity" and "dance" are almost never used together in the same sentence.
Despite that fact, dance is what helped me learn to love my larger frame. In honor of National Body Confidence Day, I wanted to talk about my first time in a studio, and about the tremendous progress I've made since.