You rehearse your group routine to perfection, but when the big performance rolls around, everyone turns into speed demons. It's the runaway-train effect—and it only takes one loud tapper, or zippy turner, to throw the whole group off the music.
While nerves and excitement are partly to blame, the ability to keep to tempo begins in the studio. A well-developed sense of musicality is your best defense against the dreaded speed trap. "When you understand how the steps fit with the music, going too fast won't just feel like rushing," says Jeremy Arnold, lecturer of tap at the University of Texas at Austin. "It'll feel wrong." How can dancers develop that musicality? It all starts with learning to listen.
Safe partner-work demands you put in some time at the gym. Peter Frame—former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and founder of the School of American Ballet's strength training program—says, "Even advanced dancer forget about placement once they're lifting. They're doing the work, but you'll see shoulders and weight distribution out of whack." Want centered, controlled partnering? Grab a mat and dumbbells to try Frame's top three pre-partnering exercises.
Photos by Jonah Rosenberg. Modeled by Samuel Melnikov.
These days, tap dancers can reach huge audiences through social media, where videos from stars like Chloe Arnold and Sarah Reich have gone viral. But in the 1920s and '30s, the best way for tappers to gain a following was to have an act on the vaudeville circuit, which allowed them to perform in theaters across the country. Every tap dancer had their own routine, but there arose a desire for a simple dance that all tappers could know and perform at any time—especially so local dancers at each tour stop could join in. One of those dances became known as the BS Chorus.
There's an iconic moment in Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet when Juliet sits on the edge of her bed, staring into the audience. She's completely still—thinking long and hard about her tragic situation—while the emotion of Sergei Prokofiev's score washes over her. If the dancer does it well, this dance-less scene can speak volumes.
As dancers, we tend to focus on mastering steps and speaking through movement. Yet the way we hold ourselves when we're not moving can also be a powerful way to communicate with an audience.
How can you make the most of those quiet moments onstage—and what happens if your muscles cramp, you have a crazy itch, or your mind starts to wander? We gathered tips from industry professionals to help guide you through.
When Yesenia Ayala started taking Joshua Bergasse's classes at Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center, she had no idea it would eventually lead to her Broadway debut. After a few classes, Bergasse pulled her aside and asked her to send him a resumé and headshot. That soon led to dancing in Bombshell: In Concert, which Bergasse choreographed. After that, Bergasse recognized her when she went to auditions. "The relationship kept getting built on those moments of seeing each other," she says. And that relationship helped her get cast in the off-Broadway production of Sweet Charity, which led to her big break in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway—both choreographed by Bergasse.
Ayala's dream-come-true story proves how important networking can be in building a dance career. Networking might look a bit different depending on whether you're a commercial dancer, a Broadway baby, or a ballerina, but it plays an important role for all types of dancers. And while the term "networking" might make you think of over-the-top self-promotion, it's really about making connections over time. "Networking is one of the most instrumental parts of building a good career," says Doug Baum, a dancer with Complexions Contemporary Ballet. "You never know when someone might have a job for you. The dance world is small."
Yoga has long been a cross-training favorite for dancers, thanks to the mind-body practice's power to increase flexibility, strength, and focus. But with thousands of yoga poses out there, how can you know which postures are the best use of your between-rehearsals time? DS asked Jennifer Brilliant, a Brooklyn, NY–based yoga teacher and yoga therapist, and former dancer with Jennifer Muller/The Works, which poses will serve your dancer body best.
Photos by Erin Baiano. Modeled by Rachel Knuth.
Applying for a college dance program can feel like a guessing game. Should you highlight all your competition titles and awards? How important are your academic grades? And how should you act in the audition? Here's advice from admissions officers from some of the top dance programs in the country about how to make your application stronger.