Hoofer Jessica Vetrano had already bested about 40 dancers when she approached her final opponent in the D.C. Tap Festival’s Cutting Contest tap battle last year. “Everyone was watching us, but I was confident,” Jessica says. With tap mentor Chloe Arnold clapping a beat, Jessica improvised tough steps: cramp rolls, over-the-tops and shuffle turns. Her signature green tap shoes—a nod to her favorite basketball team, the Boston Celtics—accentuated the flurry of sounds.
After about two minutes, Jessica won the match, taking the contest’s title. Arnold wasn’t surprised. “Jessica’s timing and musicality are unbelievable,” Arnold says. “She’s one of the young women on the rise in our genre.” A loose-torsoed, athletic tapper, Jessica’s following in the footsteps of women like Arnold, Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, who prove that female tappers are just as fierce as men. “I like when other girls see me tap and realize that hoofing is cool and you don’t have to be a guy to do it,” Jessica says.
Not only is this 16-year-old wowing tap idols like Arnold, she has also performed at such prestigious events as A Tribute to the Great Jimmy Slyde in Boston and Ayodele Casel and Sarah Savelli's Tappy Holidays. And as a member of the New England Tap Ensemble, she often dances solo improvisations, her favorite aspect of hoofing. “When I go onstage to improv, I lose it,” she says. “I start dancing, and sometimes I’ll make a mistake that I like, so I’ll riff on that. It’s so exciting!”
Jessica started dancing at just 2 years old at Broadway North in Belmont, NH, where she studied jazz, ballet, hip hop and tap. At 7, she began competing in various styles with the studio’s dance team. A year later, tap teacher Aaron Tolson’s arrival at the school changed everything. He introduced her to the relaxed posture and hard-hitting sounds of hoofing. “With this style, you don’t have to use your arms in a specific way, and I loved the improvisation,” Jessica says.
When she was 14, Jessica followed Tolson to Creative Steps School of Dance in Tilton, NH, where she continued studying tap and hip hop. In 2007, Tolson created the NETE, a group of 16 tappers aged 10 though 35, and Jessica was one of the first dancers he invited to join. “Jessica is free, fearless and has that spark you can’t teach,” Tolson says. “She has an artistry way beyond her years.”
Now, Jessica’s one of the troupe’s leaders and Tolson’s assistant, often helping younger dancers pick up steps with what Tolson describes as a kind and fun approach. Whether in rehearsal or class, Jessica’s own sound is “monstrous,” Tolson says. “She wants China to hear her!” Jessica hopes her hard work and bold moves will get her into a tap company; she dreams of dancing alongside Arnold or Derick Grant. She’d also enjoy performing “tap hop,” a tap and hip-hop fusion, plus she wants to teach and she’s working on creating her own tap clothing line.
For now, though, Jessica’s “confidently putting her stamp on the tap world,” Arnold says. “There are little girls in the Ensemble who told me they want to tap like I do,” Jessica says. “I’m most proud of that.”
Non-dance hobby: Collecting colorful sneakers
Favorite movies: Step Up 2: The Streets, Center Stage, Batman
Busy body: Jessica just joined a new hip-hop company under the direction of Olivia Cotton at Creative Steps School of Dance.
It's time to get your pirouette on! From September 5th to September 30th, we're hosting a contest to find out who's the best turner of them all.
Put together your most impressive turning combo. Post a video online. Share your turns with us and thousands of other dancers around the world. And if our editors think you're the top turner, you'll win a fabulous prize.
All of 18-year-old Kaylin Maggard's dreams—from scoring the title of National Senior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals to winning the 2017 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search—are coming true. And to anyone who knows the gorgeous contemporary dancer, that's no surprise.
From the moment the Dance Spirit staff met Kaylin, it was obvious her humility and talent would take her far. Not only did she go full-out during the photo shoot and class at Broadway Dance Center, but she was always cheering on, laughing with, and supporting her fellow CMS contestants Haley Hartsfield and Michelle Quiner. During the voting period, the social media world was abuzz with praise for her work ethic, positive attitude, and generosity.
Since her CMS trip to NYC, Kaylin's moved from her hometown of Columbia, MO, to the Big Apple for her freshman year at Juilliard, and is busy getting acquainted with the city. As for the future? She's taking it one opportunity at a time, but something tells us we'll be seeing this contemporary queen reach new heights every year.
New York City principal Lauren Lovette has become an icon thanks to her emotional maturity and exceptional musicality. The 26-year-old quickly rose through the ranks after joining the company as an apprentice in 2009, reaching principal status in 2015. A Thousand Oaks, CA, native, Lovette started studying ballet seriously at age 11, at the Cary Ballet Conservatory in Cary, NC. After attending two summer courses at the School of American Ballet, she enrolled as a full-time student in 2006. Last year, she made her choreographic debut with For Clara, her first piece for NYCB. Catch her latest work this month during the company's fall season. —Courtney Bowers
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I know I'm not getting good enough dance training from any of my local studios. But I'm not sure I'm ready to move away to study at a big-name school, either. How do you know when you're ready to leave home to pursue your passion?
Instagram star Kylie Shea has built a following of nearly 170,000 with her playful workout videos, which combine traditional fitness activities, like jumping rope or running on the treadmill, with pointe shoes and sassy choreography. Shea's effortless cool-girl-next-door vibe and solid ballet technique make her vids totally irresistible.
Now Shea's using her platform to address the body image issues that tend to plague dancers. In a poignant video, she sheds her clothes and tugs at her skin. The caption explains her relationship with her body and the pressure she feels to maintain a certain aesthetic as a dancer.
Physical discomfort is inevitable when you're spending tons of hours in the studio every day, but some pain shouldn't be suffered through. "Dancing through pain can make an injury worse and lead to more time away from dance," says Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of dance medicine at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, VA. "Failing to rest and recover when you're in serious pain could even lead to the point where you're unable to dance in the future."
That may sound scary, but there's good news: If you take precautions and listen to your body, many injuries can be stopped in their tracks. The first step? Knowing what's normal—and what's not.
Think about it: How often do you see a ballet pas de deux for two women? Almost never, right? Sometimes, choreographers will forgo the traditional danseur-ballerina pas to make a duet for two guys, since they can lift and partner each other easily. But a dance for two ballerinas is a rare thing.
That's part of what makes "Duet," a new video by director Andrew Margetson featuring Royal Ballet beauties Yasmin Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell, so compelling.