Jayci performing her solo at The 2011 Dance Awards in NYC. (courtesy The Dance Awards)
At just 14 years old, Jayci Kalb is already living the competition dancer’s dream: She’s performed solos choreographed by convention kings Travis Wall and Nick Lazzarini, she regularly walks away from Nationals with a top title and she spends her weekends touring as a demonstrator with JUMP, where she gets to train alongside Stacey Tookey, Katy Spreadbury and Teddy Forance. But Jayci isn’t just a comp kid—she also has a handful of professional jobs under her tiny belt.
It’s no surprise Jayci is excelling. She has enviably archy feet, a wildly bendy back and an onstage maturity that makes it hard to believe she’s a teenager. So how has this humble dancer risen to competition superstardom? “I just love it a lot, and I work really hard,” she says.
Jayci’s mother was a dancer, so enrolling 2-year-old Jayci in classes at The Dance Centre in her hometown of Tuscaloosa, AL, was an easy decision. Jayci took a short-lived dance break when she was 5 to try her hand at gymnastics—and even won a state-level competition. She reenrolled in dance at 6. Now she trains in ballet, jazz, hip hop and acro, and says contemporary is her favorite style. “But ballet is the most important part of my training, so I love it,” she adds.
At 12, Jayci won her first National title: Junior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance. “It was overwhelming,” she says. “There were so many good dancers, and I was nervous. But I learned to go out there and have a good time.” Not long after, she started winning titles at JUMP and performed as Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Most recently, she won Best Junior Dancer at The Dance Awards for her contemporary solo Life of a Flower, choreographed by Wall.
It doesn’t hurt that Jayci has a huge fan in Wall: He hired her to perform in his company Shaping Sound’s (DS May/June 2012) show last December. “In the show, I did my solo in front of all the professional dancers, actors and agents in the audience. I was so nervous,” she says. Afterwards, she was approached by an agency representative, and now she’s signed with Clear Talent Group.
What’s next for Jayci? “I want to become a better dancer, taking in all the corrections from these amazing teachers,” she says. She’ll compete at The Dance Awards this summer as a teen, and she’s looking toward the future: “I want to be on Broadway and on the cover of Dance Spirit!”
Favorite food: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Most-played song on her iPod:
“A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri
Who would play her in a movie? Selena Gomez. “She’s not a dancer, but she’s a good actress and she’s really pretty!”
If she could be a superhero, what would her power be? Super strength. “I would use it in our competition dances. When we have to lift girls, it’s hard for me because I’m so small.”
Dance crush: Nick Lazzarini
Favorite book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Favorite TV show: “Wizards of Waverly Place”
Favorite dancer of all time: Travis Wall
Favorite teacher: Stacey Tookey
Three words that describe her dancing: “Heart, soul, love”
the first thing she does in the morning: Eats a bagel and bacon.
The French dance film that made waves at last year's Venice Film Festival is heading stateside: Polina opens in theaters on July 21. The story follows a young Russian ballerina-in-the-making, played by dancer Anastasia Shevtsova, who's performed with the Mariinsky Ballet.
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽
Guys, we all knew this was coming—"World of Dance" was eventually going to eliminate someone. But man, is it brutal to watch these talented dancers give their all, only to be sent home. It's the name of the game, though, and after last night's episode, only two dancers per division remain. (At least Misty Copeland guest-judging was a silver lining!) Here's what went down last night:
They've impressed the judges, now it's time for the Top 100 dancers to enroll at The Academy—and to impress the All-Stars. Welcome to So You Think You Can Dance Academy!
The 100 dancers who made it through auditions in NYC or L.A. are now at The Academy, which is basically a beautiful building with floor-to-ceiling windows. The show opens with that Mandy Moore-choreographed Academy routine which, even after watching it 12 times and trying to learn all the choreography at home, is still delightful.
This Nationals season, Dance Spirit followed four talented dancers from The Dance Awards, NYCDA, Showstopper, and Starpower for an inside look at everything that goes into the biggest competitions of the year. First up: Isabella Torres from Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts in Baltimore, MD, who competed at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals for the first time this year. (All photos courtesy Shannon Torres.)