Jeanine Mason: Why I Chose College
Jeanine with boyfriend Beau Mirchoff at a UCLA football game
Before winning Season 5 of “So You Think You Can Dance,” Jeanine Mason was a regular high school senior looking forward to starting college in the fall. But after the TV show jump-started her career, things suddenly didn’t seem quite as straightforward. Here, she tells DS why she decided to go ahead with her college plans (she’s enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles)—and her dance career.
Ever since I was little, I’ve known I wanted to go to college. My mom and dad say education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you, and they’re right. It’s a sacrifice now and then because I have longer hours and a little bit higher stress level than many people my age, but it’s worth it to me. College is going to enrich my life and make me a better person and artist.
Four days after I graduated high school, I moved to L.A. to start shooting “So You Think You Can Dance.” I’d already been admitted to UCLA. When I made it to the “SYTYCD” Top 10, I was excited, but I also had this quiet realization: “Oh my gosh, the tour schedule means I’m not going to be able to start school on time.” For a second, my heart was broken. I had really looked forward to that freshman nervousness, to starting this new chapter in my life. But once UCLA let me know I could start a semester late, in January 2010, I felt better.
Since then, I haven’t stopped. I enroll full-time when possible, but whenever I’m working on a big project like a film, I go part-time, taking only one or two courses. During the summer, I take online classes, which are amazing because I can bring the work with me on dance projects.
Jeanine at the Teen Vogue Young Hollywood party
In addition to my World Arts and Cultures: Dance major, I’m a film minor, studying the behind-the-camera stuff. It’s always interesting to me how my studies mirror my life. Any time I’m learning new academic material, I find a way to use it in my dance work. And the more material I have to pull from, the richer that work becomes.
As for scheduling, I literally have to take it day by day. I try to plan so my college classes are early in the morning, which leaves the rest of the day free for dance. There are times when I have to pack both lunch and dinner, because I know I’m going to be out and about all day: school, then auditions, then rehearsals, then a performance. But any time I think I’m not going to be able to get through everything, I remind myself how proud I’ll be at the end of the day, lying in bed, knowing I did it.
In 10 years, I hope I’ll have a successful film career. Eventually, I want to have my own production company. For now, I’m just taking each semester as it comes. But I’m looking forward to graduation. It’s going to be such a special day for me and my family. It’s close now—it’s in sight. And I’m more excited than ever.
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.
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
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!
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.